Inflammatory diet

#1 Way to Eat to Fight Chronic Inflammation, Say RDs

Inflammation is a process that can drive certain conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, liver disease, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and more (1, 2, 3, 4).

Chronic inflammation can arise from stress, obesity, smoking, and even some dietary sources (5,6).

Eating foods that tamp down inflammation may help improve the symptoms associated with these health conditions.

An anti-inflammatory diet relies on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean protein, herbs, and spices.

These foods may help fight inflammation.

What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Inflammatory foods

Some foods we eat can make inflammation worse.

Processed foods, refined foods, sugar, and oils that are repeatedly heated and cooled all may trigger inflammation. 

There are no specific anti-inflammatory diets, but the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet are examples of diets that are anti-inflammatory. 

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is anti-inflammatory.

This is due to the antioxidants found in them. Antioxidants work to relieve inflammation in the body.

The Mediterranean diet promotes a diet pattern rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil, nuts, and limits red meat and refined grains and flours.

The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers, like CPR and IL-6 (7, 8, 9).

Vegetarian diets have been linked to a reduction in inflammation (10).

And, as many low-carb diets promote a high intake of fruits and vegetables, they have also been found to reduce inflammation, especially for those who have metabolic syndrome or are obese (11, 12, 13).

These diets also feature healthy fats that are rich in polyunsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids, which also help to ease inflammation. 

What Causes Inflammation? 

Free radicals damage our cells, which increases inflammation and has been linked to several diseases.

These free radicals can be caused by natural processes in the body, but are also caused by stress, smoking, pollution, and other sources.

Antioxidants found in food help to remove these free radicals from the body. 

Lifestyle factors like smoking, consuming high levels of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, transfer and refined grains like white bread, can lead to inflammation.

It can also promote insulin sensitivity, diabetes, and obesity (14, 15, 16, 17, 18).

Trans fats have also been linked to increased inflammation in the body.

Artificial trans fats, such as hydrogenated vegetable oils, have been effectively banned from the US food supply (19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24).

Vegetable oils that are used in processed foods may also promote inflammation, by increasing the amount of omega-6 fatty acids, as compared to omega-3 fatty acids (25, 26, 27).

Processed meats like sausage, bacon, and luncheon meat, as well as heavy alcohol intake, can cause inflammation in the body. These have also been linked to certain kinds of cancer (28, 29, 30).

A sedentary, inactive lifestyle can promote inflammation in the body (31).

Avoiding foods that are high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, refined flours, processed foods, and processed red meats may help to reduce free radicals and fight inflammation.

Benefits of Anti-Inflammatory Diets

Because an anti-inflammatory diet can help improve inflammation, health conditions that are marked by chronic inflammation may be improved by consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats, and fatty fish. 

Some conditions that are marked by inflammation are:

  • Psoriasis
  • Asthma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Colitis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Lupus
  • Eosinophilic esophagitis

It’s important to note that many of the conditions listed have not been studied on an anti-inflammatory diet and so there is not a lot of evidence that this diet improves these conditions.

That said, there are several personal accounts from individuals saying that their symptoms improved when following this eating pattern. 

The anti-inflammatory diet is also an otherwise healthy dietary pattern that promotes nutrient-rich foods.

The DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet are both anti-inflammatory diets that have been widely studied and linked to a variety of health benefits. 

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

The following foods are anti-inflammatory. They contain antioxidants and a host of nutrients that can fight free radicals and reduce inflammation.

  • Fruits and berries (apples, grapes, olives, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and cherries)
  • Veggies ( bell peppers, leafy greens, chili peppers, spinach, kale, and broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds (pecans and almonds)
  • Whole grains ( brown rice, oats, oatmeal)
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Oily fish (such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines)
  • Healthy oils (avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, safflower oils)
  • Lean Protein
  • Dark chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Red wine
  • Spices (curcumin, turmeric, garlic, and ginger)
  • Fiber

Anti-Inflammatory Diet Foods to Avoid

The following foods may promote inflammation in the body, and should be limited or avoided:

  • Processed foods 
  • Processed red meat
  • Fast food including chips
  • Desserts with added sugar 
  • Alcohol
  • Trans fats
  • Fried foods such as French fries and fried chicken
  • Soybean
  • Refined grains, like white flour, bread, pasta
  • Ice cream
  • Vegetable oil
  • margarine
  • Soda
  • Cookies
  • Hot dogs
  • Potatoes

It’s worth noting, that there are some foods that may cause inflammation, but more research is needed.

Some people experience an inflammatory reaction when they consume gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye.

A gluten-free diet can be restrictive, and it is not suitable for everyone.

However, if a person suspects that gluten is triggering symptoms, they may want to consider eliminating gluten for a while to see if their symptoms improve.

Additionally, nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant) seem to be somewhat of grey area for diets that reduce inflammation.

There are several personal testimonies that eliminating nightshades improves the symptoms of inflammatory conditions like psoriasis and arthritis.

Though some claim they impact inflammation and add to a list of foods to avoid, more research is needed.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet may help to reduce inflammation markers in the body and improve certain health problems mentioned above.

Weight loss often results from this anti-inflammatory diet, though it’s not particularly designed to be a weight loss program in itself.

Prevention of weight gain and better weight management are benefits that arise from making food choices in accordance with the guidelines set here.

Sample Anti Inflammatory Diet Plan


  • Omelet with Sautéed Spinach & Red Bell Pepper
  • 1/4 avocado 
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup of Green Tea


  • Baked Salmon on Bed of Spring Greens with Fresh Vegetables, Herbed Vinaigrette
  • Whole-Wheat Oat Muffin
  • 1 cup fresh cantaloupe cubes
  • Water


  • Black Beans with Sautéed Onions, Tomatoes, Mushrooms
  • Quinoa Pilaf with Toasted Walnuts
  • Water


An anti-inflammatory diet features whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins (especially fish), and healthy fats while limiting sweets, fried foods, processed foods, and refined grains.

This may help tamp down inflammation in the body that has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, GI disorders, psoriasis, and arthritis.

While this diet will not cure these conditions, it may help improve some of the symptoms associated with them.


  1. T;, Kolb H;Mandrup-Poulsen. “The Global Diabetes Epidemic as a Consequence of Lifestyle-Induced Low-Grade Inflammation.” Diabetologia, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  2. Pearson T, et al. “Markers of Inflammation and Cardiovascular Disease.” Circulation. 2003;107:499–511.
  3. AR;, Tilg H;Moschen. “Evolution of Inflammation in Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: The Multiple Parallel Hits Hypothesis.” Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.), U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  4. Coussens, Lisa M., and Zena Werb. “Inflammation and Cancer.” Nature, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  5. GS;, Gregor MF;Hotamisligil. “Inflammatory Mechanisms in Obesity.” Annual Review of Immunology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2011,
  6. MR;, Slavich GM;Irwin. “From Stress to Inflammation and Major Depressive Disorder: A Social Signal Transduction Theory of Depression.” Psychological Bulletin, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2014,
  7. Casas R;Sacanella E;Urpí-Sardà M;Chiva-Blanch G;Ros E;Martínez-González MA;Covas MI; ;Salas-Salvadó J;Fiol M;Arós F;Estruch R; “The Effects of the Mediterranean Diet on Biomarkers of Vascular Wall Inflammation and Plaque Vulnerability in Subjects With High Risk for Cardiovascular Disease. A Randomized Trial.” PloS One, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2014,
  8. Koloverou E;Panagiotakos DB;Pitsavos C;Chrysohoou C;Georgousopoulou EN;Grekas A;Christou A;Chatzigeorgiou M;Skoumas I;Tousoulis D;Stefanadis C; ; “Adherence to Mediterranean Diet and 10-Year Incidence (2002-2012) of Diabetes: Correlations With Inflammatory and Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in the ATTICA Cohort Study.” Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016,
  9. Koloverou E;Panagiotakos DB;Pitsavos C;Chrysohoou C;Georgousopoulou EN;Grekas A;Christou A;Chatzigeorgiou M;Skoumas I;Tousoulis D;Stefanadis C; ; “Adherence to Mediterranean Diet and 10-Year Incidence (2002-2012) of Diabetes: Correlations With Inflammatory and Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in the ATTICA Cohort Study.” Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016,
  10. IF;, Szeto YT;Kwok TC;Benzie. “Effects of a Long-Term Vegetarian Diet on Biomarkers of Antioxidant Status and Cardiovascular Disease Risk.” Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2004,
  11. Gu Y;Zhao A;Huang F;Zhang Y;Liu J;Wang C;Jia W;Xie G;Jia W; “Very Low Carbohydrate Diet Significantly Alters the Serum Metabolic Profiles in Obese Subjects.” Journal of Proteome Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  12. Ballard KD;Quann EE;Kupchak BR;Volk BM;Kawiecki DM;Fernandez ML;Seip RL;Maresh CM;Kraemer WJ;Volek JS; “Dietary Carbohydrate Restriction Improves Insulin Sensitivity, Blood Pressure, Microvascular Function, and Cellular Adhesion Markers in Individuals Taking Statins.” Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.), U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  13. Rajaie S;Azadbakht L;Saneei P;Khazaei M;Esmaillzadeh A; “Comparative Effects of Carbohydrate Versus Fat Restriction on Serum Levels of Adipocytokines, Markers of Inflammation, and Endothelial Function Among Women With the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Cross-Over Clinical Trial.” Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  14. De Stefanis D;Mastrocola R;Nigro D;Costelli P;Aragno M; “Effects of Chronic Sugar Consumption on Lipid Accumulation and Autophagy in the Skeletal Muscle.” European Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  15. Stanhope, Kimber L, and Peter J Havel. “Fructose Consumption: Considerations for Future Research on Its Effects on Adipose Distribution, Lipid Metabolism, and Insulin Sensitivity in Humans.” The Journal of Nutrition, American Society for Nutrition, June 2009,
  16. BM;, Bray GA;Nielsen SJ;Popkin. “Consumption of High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Beverages May Play a Role in the Epidemic of Obesity.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  17. MJ;, Raatz SK;Johnson LK;Picklo. “Consumption of Honey, Sucrose, and High-Fructose Corn Syrup Produces Similar Metabolic Effects in Glucose-Tolerant and -Intolerant Individuals.” The Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  18. López-Alarcón M;Perichart-Perera O;Flores-Huerta S;Inda-Icaza P;Rodríguez-Cruz M;Armenta-Álvarez A;Bram-Falcón MT;Mayorga-Ochoa M; “Excessive Refined Carbohydrates and Scarce Micronutrients Intakes Increase Inflammatory Mediators and Insulin Resistance in Prepubertal and Pubertal Obese Children Independently of Obesity.” Mediators of Inflammation, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  19. Nestel P. “Trans Fatty Acids: Are Its Cardiovascular Risks Fully Appreciated?”Clinical Therapeutics, Vol 36, 3; pg 315-321. 2014.
  20. Iwata NG;Pham M;Rizzo NO;Cheng AM;Maloney E;Kim F; “Trans Fatty Acids Induce Vascular Inflammation and Reduce Vascular Nitric Oxide Production in Endothelial Cells.” PloS One, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  21. Mozaffarian D;Pischon T;Hankinson SE;Rifai N;Joshipura K;Willett WC;Rimm EB; “Dietary Intake of Trans Fatty Acids and Systemic Inflammation in Women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  22. Esther, et al. “Consumption of Trans Fatty Acids Is Related to Plasma Biomarkers of Inflammation and Endothelial Dysfunction.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Mar. 2005,
  23. Bendsen NT;Stender S;Szecsi PB;Pedersen SB;Basu S;Hellgren LI;Newman JW;Larsen TM;Haugaard SB;Astrup A; “Effect of Industrially Produced Trans Fat on Markers of Systemic Inflammation: Evidence From a Randomized Trial in Women.” Journal of Lipid Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  24. RP;, Baer DJ;Judd JT;Clevidence BA;Tracy. “Dietary Fatty Acids Affect Plasma Markers of Inflammation in Healthy Men Fed Controlled Diets: A Randomized Crossover Study.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  25. Yang LG;Song ZX;Yin H;Wang YY;Shu GF;Lu HX;Wang SK;Sun GJ; “Low n-6/n-3 PUFA Ratio Improves Lipid Metabolism, Inflammation, Oxidative Stress and Endothelial Function in Rats Using Plant Oils as n-3 Fatty Acid Source.” Lipids, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  26. Tamma SM;Shorter B;Toh KL;Moldwin R;Gordon B; “Influence of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Urologic Inflammation.” International Urology and Nephrology, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  27. GL;, Russo. “Dietary n-6 and n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: From Biochemistry to Clinical Implications in Cardiovascular Prevention.” Biochemical Pharmacology, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  28. C;, Oliveira A;Rodríguez-Artalejo F;Lopes. “Alcohol Intake and Systemic Markers of Inflammation–Shape of the Association According to Sex and Body Mass Index.” Alcohol and Alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire), U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  29. Uribarri J;Woodruff S;Goodman S;Cai W;Chen X;Pyzik R;Yong A;Striker GE;Vlassara H; “Advanced Glycation End Products in Foods and a Practical Guide to Their Reduction in the Diet.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  30. Hammerling U;Bergman Laurila J;Grafström R;Ilbäck NG; “Consumption of Red/Processed Meat and Colorectal Carcinoma: Possible Mechanisms Underlying the Significant Association.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine,
  31. Yates T;Khunti K;Wilmot EG;Brady E;Webb D;Srinivasan B;Henson J;Talbot D;Davies MJ; “Self-Reported Sitting Time and Markers of Inflammation, Insulin Resistance, and Adiposity.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 

About the Author

Similar Posts