What is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
From left to right: onion, ginger, garlic, fresh turmeric
Anti-inflammatory foods are often discussed by people with chronic inflammatory diseases.
What foods are helpful?
What studies are behind these claims?
How can you cook with these foods?
Inflammation is a response of the immune system – sometimes to invaders (infection) and sometimes to the person’s own cells (autoimmune diseases). And sometimes inflammation can be damaging even if one’s own cells weren’t the original target of the immune system, as in the lung disease component of cystic fibrosis.
“Cystic fibrosis (CF) lung disease is characterized by a self-perpetuating cycle of airway obstruction, chronic bacterial infection, and vigorous inflammation that results in structural damage to the airway. CF patients have a predilection for infection with a limited spectrum of distinctive bacteria that initiate a vigorous inflammatory response which is more harmful than protective.”
People take medications to reduce inflammation when it harms the body. Medications like corticosteroids (inhaled or oral), NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin and more), and even chemotherapy medications (Methotrexate) are powerful tools to limit inflammation.
These medications have risks as well as benefits, so looking for changes in lifestyle and diet that might assist in controlling inflammation can be beneficial. This is not to suggest changing a treatment regimen, but rather to explore the possibility that eating certain foods might improve a person’s inflammatory condition.
Foods that may Reduce Inflammation
Nuts (especially walnuts, almonds), flax seeds
Fruit (strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries)
Tomatoes, Green Beans, Eggplant, Cucumber, Zucchini
Quick FYI : Cumin ≠ Turmeric
Curcumin is the active ingredient of the spice Turmeric. Cumin is a spice made from the dried seed of a plant that is a member of the parsley family. Cumin is also believed to be beneficial — for digestion, diabetes prevention, and heart health.
Red Pepper (Capsaicin)
Please take a look at the infographics below for additional foods. You may want to keep these handy for meal planning and grocery shopping. The links below the images will take you to printable versions.
Buying and Cooking Anti-inflammatory Foods
As you saw in the picture at the top of this article, a few small additions to a meal can make it have anti-inflammatory potential.
Those ingredients went into a mini-chop and then a quick stir fry.
Mini-chop with ingredients from cutting board pictured at top (onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric). Also, coconut oil for low-to-medium temperature stir-frying, green beans, sliced pork. Plus soy sauce and sweet chili sauce (with red pepper flakes) to your taste.
The meat and vegetable in this stir fry can be changed to your preference. For example, here is the finished product, using chicken and broccoflower.
Broccoflower – a mathematically beautiful vegetable (fractals).
Of note – I buy fresh turmeric at an Asian grocery store, but if this option isn’t available to you, powdered turmeric is sold at major grocery chains, and I’ve also had success buying food online.
Here is another anti-inflammatory meal I like to make:
Ingredients: Olive oil, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, bag of frozen spinach or two bags of fresh baby spinach, pepperoni and sliced or shredded cheese of your choice (I suggest mozzarella or provolone).
Sauté olive oil, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and frozen or fresh spinach. Add more or less salt depending on your use of pepperoni and cheese.
Roll out pizza dough (no need to let it rise, just make sure it’s defrosted in fridge for 24 hrs if you buy it frozen). Place on greased cookie sheet, and layer on cheese and pepperoni (not pictured above) and the spinach stir-fry.
Wrap it closed, brush the top with oil, and bake at 350’ until golden brown.