Foods to control inflammation

Can the food you eat control inflammation in your body? Learn more about which foods to include in your diet and which foods to avoid.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is your immune system’s response to injury or infection [1]. It can be completely healthy and comes in the form of heat, pain, redness, swelling, fever, or fatigue.

Inflammation is a biological response to remove something harmful or aggravating to a part of the body. This process causes levels of certain proteins in the blood to rise, which can be measured to assess the extent and cause of inflammation.

There are two main types of inflammation:

1. Acute inflammation

Acute inflammation is the body's immediate response to injury or infection. It starts rapidly and can be present for just a few days or several weeks [2]. You may recognise acute inflammation as the redness, swelling, or bruising around joints immediately after injury.

Causes of acute inflammation:

  • Acute bronchitis
  • A sore throat
  • A scratch or cut
  • High-intensity exercise
  • Tonsillitis

2. Chronic inflammation

Chronic inflammation is long-term inflammation that can last for several months (and in some cases years) [3].

Causes of chronic inflammation include:

  • Autoimmune disorders – a health condition whereby your body attacks normal healthy tissue.
  • Exposure to a low-level irritant over an extended period.
  • The result of a failure to remove the cause of acute inflammation.

Although inflammation is important in the body’s self-defence mechanism and healing process, chronic inflammation can be a key risk factor for several diseases and conditions.

Diseases chronic inflammation increases the risk of include [4]:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

If you are experiencing inflammation in the body, it is important to find the cause. Your GP may recommend medication such as anti-inflammatories (like ibuprofen) or to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.

An advanced wellness test, like our Advanced Well Man Blood Test or Advanced Well Woman Blood Test, looks at your overall wellbeing, including markers for inflammation and white blood cell count.

What is an anti-inflammatory diet?

While medication and other treatments are important in the improvement and management of inflammatory conditions, following a diet that focuses on anti-inflammatory foods can help further decrease the occurrence of flare-ups and pain.

We aren’t saying that an anti-inflammatory diet will cure your condition, however, it can help to make it more manageable and improve other health markers.

The anti-inflammatory diet focuses on replacing sugary, refined foods with more whole foods to increase antioxidants in the body that aid in the reduction of free radicals (molecules that may damage cells and increase the risk of several diseases).

Foods to eat on an anti-inflammatory diet:

1. Fruit and vegetables

By including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, you can increase your antioxidant levels and up your daily fibre intake, which is shown to prevent diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.

Foods that are high in fibre include:

  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli

2. Whole grains

Whole-grain foods and unrefined grains are high in fibre and can help reduce inflammation [5].

Wholegrain foods include:

  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Whole-wheat bread

Similarly, beans and lentils are high in fibre and contain the same benefits as whole grains.

3. Nuts

Nuts can help to reduce inflammation due to the healthy fats they contain [6].

Nuts that can help reduce inflammation include:

  • Walnuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pine nuts
  • Pecans
  • Almonds

However, it is important to be aware that nuts are a low-volume, high-calorie food group meaning that just a small handful can add up to at least 300 calories.

Therefore, it is best to keep an eye on your intake to ensure you are eating within a healthy range of calories and fat for your goals.

4. Fish

Fish containing omega-3 fatty acids are the best to help fight inflammation [7].

Fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines

It is recommended to include these oily fish at least once or twice a week to see the associated health benefits. If you eat a diet that doesn’t include fish, consider taking a vegan omega-3 supplement.

5. Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are a great and easy way to add antioxidants and flavour to your food. Turmeric, found in curry powder, has a strong substance called curcumin which has many beneficial properties [8].

Suggested benefits of turmeric:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Aid heart health
  • Aid brain function
  • Promote overall wellness and anti-ageing

Foods to avoid on an anti-inflammatory diet:

The main foods that people with inflammatory conditions should avoid are processed foods.

Processed and ultra-processed foods include:

  • Sugary drinks
  • Desserts
  • Excess alcohol
  • Fried foods
  • Butter
  • Whole milk
  • Cheese
  • Refined carbohydrates such as white bread

5 tips for transitioning to an anti-inflammatory diet

Anti-inflammatory diets can be a big adjustment if you are used to eating a variety of foods. To help make the transition easier, we’ve put together five tips to help you on your way.

1. Fill at least a third of your plate with fruit and vegetables

Sometimes, making sure you have enough fruit and vegetables can be tricky. If you follow the rule of always having a third of your plate as fruit or vegetables, it can make it much easier. Having a different variety of fruit and vegetables can make it more exciting.

You could try:

  • Roasting your vegetables in a low-fat sweet chilli sauce instead of steaming them
  • Baking your apples instead of eating them cold
  • Making a fresh smoothie every morning - adding spinach to a fruit smoothie may not look appetising, but it tastes great and will help reduce inflammation

2. Reduce processed foods in your diet

Ultra-processed foods are something you should avoid when trying to avoid inflammation. Processed foods and foods high in sugar can upset the bacteria in the gut and cause inflammation in the body.

If you crave something sweet, try making a fruit smoothie – you could even add a fermented product such as kefir or natural yoghurt to help boost your good gut bacteria.

3. Meal plan, ahead of time

Time can be our biggest enemy when it comes to healthy eating. Modern-day lives consist of busy lives where working jobs and social lives can take precedence over cooking healthy meals.

Meal planning and meal preparation can be key to helping you transition to an anti-inflammatory diet. If you know what you are eating that day and evening, you can have it prepared, planned, and less likely to reach for something that may cause gut inflammation.

If you’re struggling for time, try blocking out a few hours on a weekend to prepare meals for the freezer, or look at investing in a slow cooker.

4. Consider supplements (omega-3 and turmeric)

There are many anti-inflammatory supplements available at pharmacies or health stores that you could consider taking to help improve your gut. Ingredients such as turmeric and omega-3 fish oils have been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Another kind of supplement to consider would be a prebiotic or probiotic shot. There are different kinds available, and it is best to research which would be best for you but you can buy plenty of gut health shots to reduce inflammation in the body.

Checking your omega 3 and 6 levels is the perfect way of finding out whether you need to supplement or not. You can do this simply with our Omega 3 and 6 (Essential Fatty Acids) Blood Test from the comfort of your own home.

5. Take care of yourself

Eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising regularly, and sleeping well can all help reduce inflammation in the body.

While dietary solutions alone do not hold the key to controlling inflammation, they can help prime the immune system to react in a measured way.

An anti-inflammatory diet can help to reduce the occurrence of flare-ups and pain. It may also help avoid some of the potential health problems that chronic inflammation can cause and decrease the need for medication.

If you’re not getting regular, quality sleep then have a look at our tips on getting a good night’s sleep.

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  1. uk. 2021. Vasculitis. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 29 December 2021].
  2. Hannoodee S, Nasuruddin DN. Acute Inflammatory Response. 2020 Nov 26. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 32310543.
  3. Pahwa R, Goyal A, Bansal P, Jialal I. Chronic Inflammation. 2021 Sep 28. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–. PMID: 29630225.
  4. Furman, D., Campisi, J., Verdin, E., Carrera-Bastos, P., Targ, S., Franceschi, C., Ferrucci, L., Gilroy, D., Fasano, A., Miller, G., Miller, A., Mantovani, A., Weyand, C., Barzilai, N., Goronzy, J., Rando, T., Effros, R., Lucia, A., Kleinstreuer, N. and Slavich, G., 2019. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span. Nature Medicine, 25(12), pp.1822-1832.
  5. Xu, Y., Wan, Q., Feng, J., Du, L., Li, K. and Zhou, Y., 2018. Whole grain diet reduces systemic inflammation. Medicine, 97(43), p.e12995.
  6. Ros, E., 2010. Health Benefits of Nut Consumption. Nutrients, 2(7), pp.652-682.
  7. Calder, P., 2010. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Processes. Nutrients, 2(3), pp.355-374.

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