Best anti-inflammatory foods to include in your nutrition client’s meal plan
Creating a meal plan filled with anti-inflammatory foods is a great way to boost your nutrition client’s overall health and reduce their risk of chronic disease. From avocados to turmeric, here are some of the best foods to reduce inflammation.
These days, it seems that inflammation has become a popular buzzword, and, like it or not, it’s here to stay. The media has long been touting supplement routines and fad diets to combat inflammation, but this begs the question: is it really that harmful to overall health?
Research says yes, as it's been shown that chronic inflammation has detrimental effects throughout the entire body, and negatively impacts the organs, tissues, and gut/brain health. Poor lifestyle and dietary choices all affect inflammation, which is why we are exploring some ways that you, as a dietitian, can improve your nutrition client’s inflammatory markers through dietary recommendations. But before diving headfirst into the best anti-inflammatory foods to include in your client’s meal plan, let’s break down what inflammation is and why it’s harmful to health.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is defined as your body’s natural response to injury or infection and plays an important role in healing . There are two types –acute and chronic – but not all inflammation is bad for you. The former happens when you burn your finger, skin your knee, or catch a cold; whereas chronic inflammation happens when the response lingers and leaves your body in a constant state of stress . This can be harmful to the body and has been shown to drive many chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer [1,2].
Learn more about how inflammation affects gut health.
Causes of inflammation
Common causes of chronic inflammation include smoking, chronic stress, and being overweight/obese [3,4]. Additionally, studies have shown that a lack of physical activity can generally lead to visceral fat accumulation, decreased heart health, insulin resistance, and increased fatigue, all of which negatively impact inflammation [5,6].
Having a poor diet also contributes to increased inflammatory markers. Here are some foods associated with inflammation:
- Refined carbohydrates. Studies show that refined carbohydrates may encourage the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria that can increase the risk of weight gain, insulin resistance, and inflammatory bowel disease [7,8]. Foods such as candy, white bread, cookies, cakes, and pasta are some examples of refined carbohydrates.
- Sugar and high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is a common added sugar, and has been found to increase inflammatory markers [9,10]. Similarly, added sugar is linked to inflammation and other health issues. Foods high in added sugar include candy, soft drinks, doughnuts, pastries, certain cereals, soda, sweet tea, sports drinks, and other processed foods .
- Trans fats. Trans fats are a contributing factor to inflammation and heart disease and are often found in fried foods and processed baked goods such as cakes, crackers, cookies, and margarines [11,14].
- Certain oils. Some research suggests that certain vegetable oils (such as soybean) have an excessively high omega-6 fatty acid content, which may promote inflammation 
- Alcohol. While the occasional drink may not be cause for concern, consuming large amounts of alcohol on a consistent basis has been found to increase inflammation and puts excess strain on the liver. As such, it can lead to inflammatory bowel disease, immunity issues, bloating, and a higher incidence of cancer .
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Anti-inflammatory foods to include in your client’s meal plan
Encouraging your clients to eat more anti-inflammatory foods will go a long way when it comes to improving their overall health, which is why creating a nutrient-dense, plant-filled meal plan is important. Here are some key anti-inflammatory foods to incorporate into your client’s meal plan.
Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and prevent disease [16,17]. Some great sources of omega-3’s include fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies.
This superfood contains carotenoids and tocopherols, two compounds which have been shown to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing chronic health issues . They are also packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients (such as potassium, magnesium, fiber, and healthy fats), all of which provide additional health benefits. You can include avocados in your client’s meal plan by adding it to smoothies, eggs, and desserts.
Peppers are filled with vitamin C and antioxidants, both of which have anti-inflammatory properties, and have been shown to be beneficial in reducing chronic disease [19,20]. Types of peppers include chili peppers and bell peppers, which can be added to a variety of entrees, morning meals, and snacks.
These colorful gems contain powerful antioxidants that have been shown to reduce the risk of disease and lower inflammation in the body . Science continues to affirm this, as it’s been found that people who regularly consume berries have lower inflammatory markers compared to those who don’t eat them [22, 23]. Whether it’s strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or raspberries, you can include berries in a variety of ways within a client’s meal plan; just add them to snacks, smoothies, cereals, desserts, and more.
This spice offers a plethora of anti-aging benefits due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties . Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which is shown to help maintain brain, heart, and lung health, while also protecting against other age-related conditions and diseases . To help your clients incorporate turmeric into their diet, try adding it to rice, soups, smoothies, and tea.
Consuming a wide variety of anti-inflammatory foods provides numerous health benefits and helps stave off chronic disease. As a nutrition professional, you can include anti-inflammatory foods (such as peppers, berries, and turmeric) in your client’s meal plan to boost overall health and improve inflammatory markers.
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