What is an anti-inflammatory diet, and why you should try it

It’s a simple, healthy way of eating with *a lot* of nutritional perks. Our dietitian Melissa Meier breaks down everything you need to know about the anti-inflammatory diet. 

There are *a lot* of diets out there that I roll my eyes at, but the anti-inflammatory diet is not one of them. It’s not a diet in the strict sense of the word, but instead, a way of eating that’s guided by a few grounding principles – all of which I’m totally on board with.

Of course, there are particular medical applications where this diet could really come in handy (think: rheumatoid arthritis), but all in all, the anti-inflammatory diet is simply a healthy way of eating with a lot of nutritional perks.

What is the anti-inflammatory diet?

It incorporates lots of plants – vegetables, fruit, legumes, wholegrains, nuts, seeds

These foods contain a raft of disease-fighting antioxidants and loads of fibre to support a healthy digestive system.

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Using legumes (think: beans, chickpeas and lentils) and other plant-based proteins instead of animal-based ones (most of the time) is a key component of anti-inflammatory eating.

It’s high in herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are some of the most antioxidant-dense foods on the planet. Certain herbs and spices like turmeric (thanks to its curcumin content) are particularly anti-inflammatory. Another bonus is that they’re a wonderful way to add flavour without the salt shaker.

It’s full of healthy fats

A special type of fat called omega-3 has anti-inflammatory properties. You’ll find these fats in oily fish like salmon, walnuts and linseed. Note that omega-3 from marine sources is different to that of plant-sources, so it’s important you include both.

It’s low in processed foods

Highly processed foods contain omega-6s, a different type of fat that promotes inflammation. These foods are also usually energy-dense and can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess – and that in itself can increase inflammation.

It’s low in booze

Surprise, surprise… another reason to cut back on your favourite tipple. Not only does alcohol promote inflammation, but it is also linked to many negative health outcomes, like mental ill-health and heart disease. Ditto for the weight loss point above, too.

Is the anti-inflammatory diet for you?

Yes, it has a trendy label, but I’d simply class ‘the anti-inflammatory diet’ as a healthy way of eating. Anything that encourages you to eat more wholefoods and less highly processed ones gets a big tick in my books because your diet will improve exponentially in terms of nutritional quality.

Plus, focusing on plants but not being overly restrictive in terms of animal foods will make it far more manageable and sustainable for most people than, say, a strict vegan diet.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.