In nutrition and health, one of the terms that is most often popping up in media or social conversations is- an anti-inflammatory diet. Does anyone know what it is? Can it help with the joints? Keep reading to know what experts say about inflammation and the role of foods in causing or reducing inflammation.
Inflammation is the natural response of the body in protecting us from any harm. It can be short-lived (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute inflammation happens inside the body when a group of white blood cells leaps into action to heal an injury or infection. When healing is over (usually within a few hours or days), inflammation subsides, and the body comes back to its normal state. On the other side, chronic inflammation occurs within the body for long periods, often not associated with noticeable symptoms. It can be caused due to various factors including prolonged acute inflammation, long-term exposure to irritants, an autoimmune disorder, chronic stress, or excessive smoking and alcohol consumption. Unlike acute inflammation, chronic, low-grade inflammation does not help in healing; rather, it potentially turns into a silent killer that contributes to arthritis, cancers, periodontitis, cardiovascular disease, and more. [1, 2]
What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet includes food items that can help switch off the complex process of inflammation (usually chronic), thereby protecting the body from harm. The favored foods are nutrient-dense containing nutrients like magnesium, Vitamin E, dietary fibers, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants like polyphenols that provide flavor and color to fruits and vegetables. The most popular anti-inflammatory diets include the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet. However, one must be clear that by transitioning to an anti-inflammatory diet, conditions like arthritis can’t be cured but may be prevented or managed.
Depending upon the biology of the person, an anti-inflammatory diet may vary. Evidence suggests that anti-inflammatory diets are not one-size-fits-all. It is considered to be a lifestyle change that one must continue to follow to stay healthy and not a short-term solution to inflammation. Its full effects may take several days or even weeks to work. People are advised to track changes in inflammation as the effects may be hard to notice as they are gradual. With routine exercises, one can enhance the health benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet. Those who have planned to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet may plan and pick up a start time to ensure great results. They must begin after a vacation, a holiday, an event, or a party where they may get tempted to have heavy foods and desserts. Once, an anti-inflammatory diet firmly becomes the new eating pattern, it will be easier to resist such temptations to have unhealthy foods that may worsen or cause inflammation. [1, 2, 3]
How Could Certain Foods Suppress Joints Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation can be the root of most types of arthritic pain. Furthermore, as people age, their bodies become more prone to inflammation because of changes in metabolism due to certain factors, even when they are not ill or injured. It has been found that certain foods are known to facilitate or exacerbate unnecessary inflammation while some can suppress it.
Chronic inflammation can be caused by the consumption of certain foods containing free radicals (the reactive oxygen species). These free radicals are negatively charged atoms or molecules capable of bonding with positively charged atoms or molecules. Naturally, the body processes and neutralizes some of the free radicals but too many of them can result in an imbalance called oxidative stress in the body. This further results in inflammation and over time could lead to degenerative diseases like arthritis in people and mostly affected old age people but some time young adults too. An anti-inflammatory diet discourages the consumption of foods that could lead to oxidative stress and rather have foods rich in antioxidants. A diet rich in antioxidants can help by trapping or neutralizing free radicals and protect from the oxidative stress. 
Foods that are Typically Recommended in an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The foods that are central to an anti-inflammatory diet are:
- Certain oils like olive and flaxseed oils
- Spices like ginger, curcumin, and turmeric
- Cold water fish including mackerel, salmon, tuna, anchovies, sardines, and bass
- Vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, celery, and deep green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collards, swiss chard, and broccoli
- Nuts such as walnuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds
- Fresh or additive-free frozen fruits including bananas, apples, grapes, berries, apricots, cantaloupe, papaya, kiwi fruit, avocadoes, oranges, and pineapple
- Green tea
- Mineral water
- Whole grains such as barley, wheat, rice, bulgur wheat, buckwheat, quinoa, millets, oats, and spelt
- Tofu, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. [1, 2]
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
Nutritionists and health experts have found certain foods that seem to encourage inflammation and should be avoided. These includes:
- Red meat
- Refined grain products like white pasta and white bread
- Deep fried foods
- Dry, roasted nuts and beer nuts
- Certain oils including soy, safflower, corn, and peanut oils
- Processed foods including many pre-packaged meals and commercial baked goods and bars
- Refined sugars and refined sugar-containing products like soda and candy. 
Controversial Foods in an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Three food items are normally a part of a healthy diet but may sometimes cause inflammation in some people. These include-
- Dairy Products- Researchers have found that dairy products like cheese, milk, and low-fat yogurt help in delaying the progression of osteoarthritis in women and reduce the risk of gout in men. However, certain cases have been reported of joint inflammation after the consumption of dairy products.
- Nightshade Plants- Some people believe that nightshade plants such as eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes can promote arthritis inflammation because of a chemical called solanine present in them.
- Wheat Gluten- Whole wheat products are a part of most healthy diets. However, in certain individuals, it is known to cause joint inflammation and pain because of a protein called gluten present in the wheat. 
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