You’re no stranger to health trends. You know the importance of self-care and can spot the difference between vinyasa and Bikram. You know exactly which foods will wreak havoc on a good night’s sleep. Heck, you’ve even made your own turmeric latte (only once, but it still counts). But lately, you’ve seen the words “anti-inflammatory diet” popping up everywhere and you’re not exactly sure what the deal is. Here, all your questions answered.
WHAT IS THE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET?
So, here’s the thing: There’s actually no one, set anti-inflammatory eating plan. Even more confusing? What you’re allowed to eat and how much is pretty flexible. Instead of exact guidelines (we're looking at you, keto), those following an anti-inflammatory diet are advised to consume more inflammation-fighting foods and less inflammation-causing ones (more on that below). This means that many diets—like Mediterranean and Whole30—technically fall under the umbrella of anti-inflammatory, even though they may differ from one another. (Get the full lowdown on an anti-inflammatory diet here.)
SO WHAT CAN I EAT?
Lots of really delicious and nutritious food. An anti-inflammatory diet means loading up on whole grains, lean protein, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and healthy fats. You might start your day with whole grain avocado toast for an inflammation-fighting breakfast, followed by a veggie-packed Buddha bowl for lunch. Then for an anti-inflammatory dinner, enjoy a plate of roasted salmon with a side salad. Oh, and don’t worry—there are plenty of anti-inflammatory dessert recipes you can tuck into. In fact, dark chocolate is one of the best inflammation-fighting foods around.
AND WHAT CAN’T I EAT?
Avoid or reduce your intake of foods that cause inflammation, such as processed and fried foods, excess sugar, high-glycemic index foods (like white bread and pasta made from white flour) and red meat. For some people, nightshades (like eggplant and tomatoes) and gluten can also lead to inflammation, but your doctor can help determine which foods are an issue for you. Exactly how much you want to cut back on these foods is up to you (although some people avoid them completely).
SHOULD I TRY AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET?
If you suffer from chronic inflammation (like psoriasis or rheumatoid arthritis), then an anti-inflammatory diet might help manage your symptoms, says Katharine Kissane, RD. Will it cure your health woes? Not necessarily. But even if you don't have a particular condition, there are some pretty cool anti-inflammatory diet benefits that you might want to take advantage of like more energy, weight loss and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Always talk to your doctor or nutritionist before trying a new diet—they’ll be happy to recommend a specific eating plan that works best for you. Don’t try the anti-inflammatory diet if you’re pregnant, nursing or diabetic.