PCOS. Endometriosis. Cancer. Heart disease. Infertility. Alzheimer’s.
All can be associated with inflammation.
Over half of deaths worldwide are estimated to be attributed to chronic inflammatory diseases (1).
People are increasingly turning to anti-inflammatory foods to help prevent inflammatory conditions and relieve symptoms associated with inflammation (2).
If you’re ready to add more anti-inflammatory foods to your diet and are looking for a printable anti-inflammatory foods list, you’re in the right place.
This article will cover types of inflammation, conditions associated with inflammation, inflammatory foods to avoid, and provide you with a free anti-inflammatory foods list PDF that you can save and print out.
Let’s get started!
What Is Inflammation?
Inflammation is an immune system response, and it isn’t always bad.
There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic.
Acute inflammation is a natural response to fight off infections and heal wounds. For example, if you cut yourself, you’ll experience an inflammatory response at the site of the injury. Pain, swelling, heat, and redness are all typical signs of acute inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is long-term inflammation when an immune response is generated despite there being no threat. The immune system ends up mistakenly fighting your body’s own cells.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation can vary but may include things like gastric distress, joint pain, skin problems, and unexplained fatigue, among other symptoms.
Some conditions that may be associated with chronic inflammation include:
- Heart disease
- Certain cancers
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- IBD (Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis)
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet (foods list PDF is below)
If you do an internet search for “anti-inflammatory diet,” you’ll find various explanations and claims.
An anti-inflammatory diet is is intended to help reduce inflammation in the body. There is a list of anti-inflammatory foods to include as well as a list of pro-inflammatory foods to avoid, or at least limit.
But, it’s important to note that there is no one specific anti-inflammatory diet the way that there is a Mediterranean diet, low FODMAP diet, or DASH diet.
The research is still emerging though we are seeing commonalities between studies as to which foods are “anti-inflammatory” and which foods are “inflammatory.”
- Vitamin A is found in leafy greens, tomatoes, and yellow and orange vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes (13).
- Vitamin C can be found in broccoli, tomatoes, and citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, and kiwis (14).
- Vitamin E is in wheat germ, hazelnuts, almonds, mango, and sunflower seeds (15).
- Polyphenols including flavonoids (such as anthocyanin, catechins, etc.), lignans, resveratrol, capsaicinoids, and more can be found in foods like berries, red cabbage, black/green/oolong tea, onions, red wine, dark chocolate, chili peppers, flax seeds, oats, turmeric, apples (16).
- Omega 3 fatty acids are in chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring (17).
On the flip side, both the anti-inflammatory diet and the Mediterranean diet discourage the consumption of saturated fat, red meat, refined grains, and added salt and sugar.
Anti-Inflammatory Foods List (PDF Below)
These are the foods that can be eaten on an anti-inflammatory diet (printable list of anti-inflammatory foods is below):
- Star fruit
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage (both red and green)
- Collard greens
- Orange bell pepper
- Red bell pepper
- Spaghetti squash
- Sweet potato
- Turnip greens
- Yellow bell pepper
- Brown rice
- Oats (steel cut or whole)
- Wheat germ
Protein Sources (Legumes, Nuts, Seeds, and Fish)
- Black beans
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Kidney beans
- Lima beans
- Soybeans (including tofu)
- Sunflower seeds
- Avocado oil
- Dark chocolate
- Flaxseed oil
- Green tea
- Olive oil
- Walnut oil
Note: You can also eat skinless turkey and chicken as well as low fat dairy products as part of an anti-inflammatory diet. These foods, however, don’t have anti-inflammatory properties themselves.
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
These foods promote inflammation. They should be limited when following an anti-inflammatory diet plan. Even though research is still emerging on their exact role in inflammation, these are not considered the healthiest choices in any diet. Try your best to generally avoid these foods.
- Red meat (18)
- Processed meat (like bologna/other luncheon meats, bacon, hot dogs, salami, etc.) (18, 25)
- Foods high in added sugars (like cookies, cakes, ice cream, candy, sugar-sweetened beverages, syrup, jelly, etc.) (19, 20, 21, 25)
- Trans fats (found in commercial baked goods, margarine, and nondairy creamers) (22, 23, 25)
- Fried foods (chips, French fries, fried chicken, donuts, etc.) (24, 25)
- Refined carbohydrates, which are generally made from white flour (like pasta, white bread, crackers, pancakes, waffles, etc) and white rice (25)
- Ultra-processed foods (such as TV dinners, snack foods like chips, refined cereals, etc.) (25)
<< Looking for a meal plan? Check out this 6 day Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan which comes with a shopping list and recipes for 3 meals and 2 snacks each day!>>
Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Habits
Food isn’t the only consideration for reducing inflammation. Research shows that certain lifestyle habits have anti-inflammatory benefits.
Inflammation occurs when your immune system fights off outside threats such as infection.
But, inflammation sometimes happens when there is no danger present.
Chronic inflammation is considered to be associated with a number of conditions, from certain types of cancer to PCOS and infertility.
There is a lot of research on the anti-inflammatory effects of food but there is no single agreed-upon anti-inflammatory diet as research continues to emerge.
That being said, research suggests that an anti-inflammatory diet encourages the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and olive oil. Like the Mediterranean diet, an anti-inflammatory diet is loaded with antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids.
Saturated fat, red meat, refined carbohydrates, ultra-processed foods, and added sugar and salt are scant in the anti-inflammatory diet.
Reducing stress, avoiding smoking, getting plenty of sleep each night, and exercising regularly also have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Don’t forget to download this free anti-inflammatory foods list PDF. Be sure to take it with you the next time you head to the supermarket – it makes a great shopping list!
Meredith Mishan is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with over 12 years of experience working with nutrition clients from around the world. She has a Master of Science degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University and is credentialed as a dietitian in both the United States and Israel.