Researchers at the University of South Carolina, including James Hebert, ScD, and Philip Cavicchia, PhD, scored foods and food components thought to positively or negatively affect levels of inflammation, based on a review of peer-reviewed studies relating to diet and inflammation that were published between 1950 and 2007. Since then, new research is bringing the index closer to "prime time"--ready to be used in epidemiological and clinical studies.
While each plan has its own twist, all are based on the general concept that constant or out-of-control inflammation in the body leads to ill health, and that eating to avoid constant inflammation promotes better health and can ward off disease, says Russell Greenfield, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"It's very clear that inflammation plays a role much more than we thought with respect to certain maladies," Greenfield stated.
"We always thought anything with an "itis" at the end involved inflammation," he says, such as arthritis or appendicitis. But even the illnesses without an "itis" at the end, such as cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, even Alzheimer's disease, may be triggered in part by inflammation, he says.
It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation may be at the root cause of many serious illnesses.
Carbohydrates, fat and cholesterol are among the food components most likely to encourage inflammation, while magnesium, beta-carotene, vitamins A, B-6, C, D and E, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, turmeric and tea were the strongest anti-inflammatories.
24 Highest Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is not a diet in the popular sense - it is not intended as a weight-loss program (although people can and do lose weight on it), nor is it an eating plan to stay on for a limited period of time. Rather, it is way of selecting and preparing foods based on scientific knowledge of how they can help your body maintain optimum health. Along with influencing inflammation, this diet will provide steady energy and ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids dietary fiber, and protective phytonutrients.
To get maximum natural protection against age-related diseases (including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease) as well as against environmental toxicity, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and mushrooms.
Choose fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum, especially berries, tomatoes, orange and yellow fruits, and dark leafy greens.
Choose organic produce whenever possible. Learn which conventionally grown crops are most likely to carry pesticide residues and avoid them.
Drink tea instead of coffee, especially good quality white, green or oolong tea.
If you drink alcohol, use red wine preferentially.
Enjoy plain dark chocolate in moderation (with a minimum cocoa content of 70 percent).
Overall, incorporating the foods listed above into your dietary strategy can help you overcome many health obstacles. Don't focus so much on how many of each you eat, but rather eat them all in moderation. Let your body be your teacher and you'll find yourself being drawn to these foods as you learn to enjoy them while satisfying your daily energy requirements.
Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.