The buzz surrounding inflammation and its connection to chronic diseases and health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, obesity, gut issues and heart disease may leave you wondering "What is an anti-inflammatory diet?" and "Should I be following it?" An anti-inflammatory diet is all about eating more of the foods that help to squash inflammation in the body, while limiting the foods that tend to increase inflammation, thus helping to combat inflammatory conditions. The diet emphasizes lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, high-fiber legumes and whole grains, healthy fats (like those found in salmon, nuts and olive oil) and antioxidant-rich herbs, spices and tea, while limiting processed foods made with unhealthy trans fats, refined carbohydrates (like white flour and added sugar) and too much sodium. In this healthy 1,200-calorie meal plan, we pull together the principles of anti-inflammatory eating to deliver a week of delicious, wholesome meals and snacks, plus meal-prep tips to set you up for a successful week ahead.
Because inflammation can be caused by plenty of other factors besides food, like low activity levels, stress and lack of sleep, incorporating healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine can also help prevent inflammation. To get the most anti-inflammatory benefits, pair this healthy meal plan with regular physical activity (aim for 2 1/2 hours of moderate activity per week), stress-relieving practices (like yoga, meditation or whatever works best for you), and a good night's sleep every night (at least 7 hours per night). Whether you're working to actively decrease inflammation or are simply looking for a wholesome eating plan, this 7-day anti-inflammatory meal plan can help.
Don't Miss: Anti-Inflammatory Diet Recipes
A little meal prep at the beginning of the week will set you up for healthy-eating success.
Anti-Inflammatory Bonus: Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines and albacore tuna, have been shown to decrease inflammation levels. Aim to include at least two 3-ounce servings of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids each week.
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Anti-Inflammatory Bonus: Vitamin C, an antioxidant, has anti-inflammatory benefits because it helps decrease harmful free radical cells that may trigger inflammation. Studies show that people who have diets high in vitamin C have lower levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein as well as lower risk of inflammatory disease, like gout and heart disease. Today's Raspberry-Kefir Power Smoothie provides 45 percent of the recommended daily value for Vitamin C!
Top salad with tuna.
Anti-Inflammatory Bonus: Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidant compounds found in dark blue, red and purple fruits and vegetables, as well as red wine. Research shows that anthocyanins play a role in decreasing inflammation markers, which can reduce risk of cancer and heart disease. Keep frozen berries on hand for an anti-inflammatory boost to your morning smoothies or oatmeal so you can get the benefits even when they are not in season.
Top yogurt with walnuts and blueberries.
Anti-Inflammatory Bonus: Eating dark chocolate and cocoa in moderation may reduce inflammation markers and improve heart health. Cocoa is rich in the flavonol quercetin, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects our cells and the reason dark chocolate is an important component in the anti-inflammatory diet. Incorporate one 1-ounce square a day of the darkest chocolate you can find to maximize benefits.
Anti-Inflammatory Bonus: Probiotics, like those found in kimchi, yogurt, kefir and kombucha, help support a healthy gut. Research shows a healthy gut improves our immune systems, helps maintain a healthy weight and reduces inflammation. Also, be sure to also include prebiotics, which are indigestible plant fibers found in foods like garlic, onions and whole grains that help provide fuel to good bacteria to optimize our gut health.
Anti-Inflammatory Bonus: More than 20 percent of U.S. adults are affected by some form of arthritis, which is an inflammatory disease of the joints, which is often treated with a combination of an anti-inflammatory diet and prescription medication. The best anti-inflammatory diet for arthritis includes plenty of magnesium—research shows that it decreases inflammation and helps maintain joint cartilage . Most Americans do not get enough magnesium, so be sure to include plenty of legumes, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and seeds to ensure adequate intake.
Meal-Prep Tip: Cook and reserve extra chicken to have with lunch tomorrow. You'll need 2 cups chopped cooked chicken.
Anti-Inflammatory Bonus: A diet high in fiber will have a lower glycemic index, which is a measure of how foods impact our blood sugars. Fiber is digested slowly, which keeps us full and improves blood sugar control. An added bonus—eating foods lower on the glycemic index may help reduce levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker for inflammation. This healthy anti-inflammatory plan provides at least 28 grams of fiber every day.