functional nutrition

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Alyssa Simpson RD, CDE, CLT
Alyssa Simpson

(602) 422-9800

Sibo Doctor Approved
certified gastrointestinal nutritionist
Sibo Doctor Approved
certified gastrointestinal nutritionist

Anti-inflammatory Foods List pdf: Your Complete Guide to Taming the Flames

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Did you know inflammation is like the common cold of chronic illnesses? It’s involved in about 70% of chronic health issues, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and digestive issues like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and accounts for more than 50% of all deaths.

Inflammation operates much like a controlled burn in a forest, where skilled firefighters manage the flames to clear out debris and promote new growth, similar to the body’s regulation of inflammation to clear out pathogens and repair damaged tissues.

However, just as a wildfire can spiral out of control, chronic or excessive inflammation can lead to harmful consequences if left unchecked.

The good news is that minor adjustments to the diet to make it more anti-inflammatory can go a long way in supporting overall health and well-being.

Download your anti-inflammatory food list pdf

Inflammation and Its Impact on Health

Inflammation operates much like your body’s natural defense system against injury or invading threats, akin to firefighters rushing to the scene to protect and repair damaged tissue, ensuring your body’s health and integrity.

However, chronic inflammation, where this defense mechanism persists over time without resolution, can be likened to a forest fire raging out of control, damaging our own tissues like friendly fire.

It’s as if the fire continues to burn even after the threat has passed, causing collateral damage to our body’s cells and tissues.

Consuming lots of processed foods, saturated fats, sugar, and refined carbs often fuels the flames of chronic inflammation in our bodies, akin to pouring gasoline on the fire.

But making the switch to an anti-inflammatory diet can act as the water to douse those flames, reducing inflammation and enhancing our overall health.

What Causes Inflammation?

  • Injuries: When you get hurt—like from a cut, burn, or another injury—your body kicks into gear to address the situation. This can cause inflammation as your body rushes to repair and heal the affected area.
  • Infections: Bugs such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi can activate the immune system, leading to an inflammatory response.
  • The food you eat: Eating too many processed foods, sugary treats, refined carbs, and unhealthy fats can spark inflammation. Not getting enough fruits, veggies, whole grains, and good fats also plays a role.
  • Food allergies and sensitivities: Some people react poorly to certain foods like gluten, dairy, or certain additives, triggering an inflammatory response.
  • Toxins: Exposure to environmental toxins, pollutants, or chemicals can stimulate inflammation as the body attempts to neutralize or eliminate these harmful substances.
  • Autoimmune disorders: Conditions where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, can cause chronic inflammation.
  • Carrying extra weight: Having excess fat, especially around the belly, churns out inflammatory substances. That’s why obesity often goes hand in hand with higher levels of chronic inflammation.
  • Sitting too much: Inactivity can increase inflammation markers. On the other hand, regular exercise helps dial down inflammation.
  • Feeling stressed often: Dealing with chronic stress floods your system with stress hormones like cortisol, which can ignite inflammation.
  • Not enough sleep: Inadequate sleep can dial up inflammation levels. Quality sleep is necessary for your body’s repair processes and keeping your immune system in check.

Who Benefits from an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Anti-inflammatory foods act as a powerful defense, slowing down aging and warding off chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues. It’s like fortifying your body’s defenses against potential threats.

For those with inflammatory conditions, they serve as a soothing balm, offering relief and aiding healing for illnesses rooted in inflammation, like arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, asthma, and even depression. It’s akin to calming the flames of inflammation that may be ravaging the body.

Conditions that can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet include:

Obesity and Metabolic Conditions: Foods that are high in fiber and healthy fats can promote satiety, support beneficial gut microbes, and help regulate metabolism, which in turn reduces inflammation associated with obesity.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Research indicates that an anti-inflammatory diet may help manage some symptoms, stay in remission, prevent disease flare-ups, and improve the quality of life for individuals with IBD.

Mental Health: There is evidence suggesting that an anti-inflammatory diet can improve mental health outcomes. Inflammation is linked to depression and other mental health disorders, and reducing inflammation through diet can lead to improved mood and cognitive function.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: By reducing swelling, improving mobility, and easing body tenderness, an anti-inflammatory diet may decrease disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Neurological Disorders: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Schizophrenia, Depression, and Multiple Sclerosis may all benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of this diet.

Cardiovascular Diseases: This diet can be a lifeline for heart disease and high blood pressure sufferers, helping lower cholesterol, reduce plaque buildup in arteries, and dousing the flames of cardiovascular inflammation.

Cancer Prevention: Some studies have found that an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, such as berries, nuts, and green leafy vegetables, can protect cells from damage and reduce cancer risk.

“Alyssa helped me to find a natural way to improve daily pain in my hands related to rheumatoid arthritis.”
I came to see Alyssa because I was looking for natural ways to manage daily pain in my hands related to rheumatoid arthritis.  Over time the discomfort escalated to extreme pain which resulted in lack of sleep, weight gain, and lack of motivation to participate in daily activities. I had seen a number of doctors, including rheumatologists and acupuncturists.
Alyssa helped me to create a personalized anti-inflammatory eating plan. By week three and four I started to notice less hand discomfort, and clearer focus. My quality of life has improved tremendously.  I am eager to get up in the morning and start my day.  I now focus on and look forward to fun activities and know that I can do them.
Having lost hope in ever feeling better, I am so happy that I met Alyssa because she has changed my life – naturally, with simple nutrition, her expertise, and her belief that I would feel better.  Thank you Alyssa!

How Diet Affects Inflammation

So, how exactly do these foods help? Let’s look at the various ways in which diet and anti-inflammatory foods work to soothe inflammation and maintain our health.

Fighting Inflammation at the Source

Anti-inflammatory foods contain special compounds that can interfere with the body’s inflammatory signals.

For instance, certain plant-based compounds such as curcumin, quercetin, resveratrol, and fatty acids work by blocking specific signals in our body that trigger inflammation.

Boosting Immune Function

Some nutrients in anti-inflammatory foods, such as vitamins and minerals, are vital for a healthy immune system.

By getting enough of these nutrients, we support our immune system’s ability to keep inflammation in check.

Protecting Against Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress, which happens when there’s an imbalance of harmful free radicals and protective antioxidants in the body, is closely linked to inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory foods are chock-full of antioxidants, which mop up those harmful free radicals and prevent them from causing damage.

Nourishing Good Gut Bacteria

Many anti-inflammatory foods, like those packed with fiber and healthy starches, feed the good bacteria in our gut.

These bacteria produce helpful substances called short-chain fatty acids, which help keep our gut lining strong while calming inflammation.

Influencing Genes

Research suggests that what we eat can actually affect how our genes behave, including those involved in inflammation.

Some nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts, can decrease the activity of genes that promote inflammation while enhancing the expression of genes that calm it down.

What is an Anti-inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet works to extinguish inflammation, prioritizing foods abundant in antioxidants, fiber, and essential nutrients.

These dietary choices also help to strengthen gut health and stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing the spread of inflammatory “friendly fire.”

Download your anti-inflammatory food list pdf

Anti inflammatory foods to include in your diet

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Load up on 7-9 servings daily, including a colorful array.
  • Whole Grains: Fortify your diet with options like quinoa, brown rice, and oats.
  • Healthy Fats: Introduce nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and oils like olive and avocado oil into your diet.
  • Legumes: Including Beans and lentils.
  • Herbs and Spices: Spice up your meals for flavor and anti-inflammatory firepower.

Anti inflammatory diet tips

  • Prioritize fresh, unprocessed foods over their processed and fast counterparts.
  • Whenever possible, opt for organic selections to minimize exposure to inflammatory triggers.
  • Aim to meet your daily fiber intake goals of 25-30 grams.
  • Include fatty fish in your diet at least twice a week to provide a sustained assault on inflammation.
  • Season your meals liberally with herbs and spices to enhance flavor while unleashing their full anti-inflammatory potential.

When Enrique first came to me, he was struggling with chronic knee pain that made it difficult to exercise and lose weight, and he experienced fatigue that interfered with his daily activities. He had been on various medications with limited success and was eager to explore dietary changes.
We started by eliminating processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats from his diet, replacing them with whole, nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens, berries, fatty fish, and nuts. We also incorporated turmeric and ginger into his meals for their anti-inflammatory properties.
Within just a few weeks, Enrique noticed a significant reduction in his knee pain and an increase in his energy. He also became more attuned to his body, realizing that when he consumed something inflammatory, he would feel it in his hand almost immediately. This newfound awareness helped him make better food choices consistently.
Now, Enrique’s knee pain is no longer an issue, allowing him to meet his exercise goals and break through the weight loss plateau he had been stuck at for so long. The last time I spoke with Enrique, he was continuing to lose weight and was excited about his new anti-inflammatory, healthy lifestyle.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Meal Ideas: Delicious Ways to Incorporate Healing Foods

Feeling overwhelmed about adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet? Don’t worry! Here are some practical tips:

  • Smoothie: Add spinach, kale, or berries to your morning smoothie, along with chia seeds and a dash of turmeric or ginger.
  • Stuffed Bell Peppers: Fill bell peppers with quinoa, black beans, diced tomatoes, and spices like cumin.
  • Turmeric Rice: Cook rice with turmeric and black pepper.
  • Salmon Salad: Top greens with grilled salmon, avocado, and hemp seeds.
  • Golden Milk Latte: Simmer coconut milk with turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon.
  • Chia Seed Pudding: Mix chia seeds with almond milk and sweeteners.
  • Roasted Vegetable Medley: Roast colorful veggies with olive oil and herbs.
  • Tofu Stir-Fry: Stir-fry tofu with veggies seasoned with garlic, ginger, rice vinegar, honey, dried peppers, five spice powder, citrus juice, fresh herbs, and black pepper.
  • Quinoa Salad: Mix quinoa with veggies and a lemon vinaigrette.
  • Dark Chocolate Bark: Melt dark chocolate and top with nuts and dried fruits.

Inflammatory Foods List to Avoid

While I typically prefer to highlight the positives rather than dwell on the negatives, it’s important to recognize the inflammatory foods that can act as kindling for the fire within our bodies.

Just as a firefighter must identify and extinguish potential sparks to prevent a blaze, we too must reduce our consumption of these inflammatory triggers to maintain our body’s equilibrium.

  • Processed meats like sausages, cold cuts, ham, and salami: These meats often contain additives and preservatives that may contribute to inflammation when consumed regularly.
  • Refined sugars found in soft drinks, cookies, cakes, candies, ice cream, and certain breakfast cereals: High intake of refined sugars can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and promote inflammation throughout the body.
  • Trans fats present in deep-fried foods, fast foods, and commercially baked goods: Trans fats are known to increase inflammation and raise the risk of heart disease and other health issues.
  • Processed snack foods such as chips and crackers: These snacks often contain refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, and additives that can trigger inflammation when consumed in excess.
  • Seed oils including soybean oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and corn oil:These oils are often high in omega-6 fatty acids, which, especially when consumed in large quantities compared to omega-3 fats, can contribute to inflammation in the body.
  • Excessive alcohol: Consuming alcohol in excess can lead to inflammation in the liver and other organs, as well as contribute to other health issues over time.

Beyond Diet: Lifestyle Factors for Lowering Inflammation

Just as tending to a flame requires more than just the right fuel, managing inflammation involves more than just dietary choices. In this section, we’ll explore additional lifestyle factors that act as the wind, either fanning or calming the flames of inflammation within us.

  • Regular Exercise: Regular exercise is a powerful way to reduce inflammation in your body. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Whether it’s walking briskly, jogging, cycling, or practicing yoga, choose activities you enjoy and make them a consistent part of your routine.
  • Stress Management: Long-term stress can worsen inflammation, so it’s important to find healthy ways to deal with it. Try relaxation methods like deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, or simply spending time outdoors. Make time for activities that make you happy and help you relax.
  • Adequate Sleep: Getting good sleep is important for controlling inflammation and staying healthy overall. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Create a calming bedtime routine, cut down on screen time before bed, and set up a cozy sleep environment to help you get the rest you need.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Carrying extra weight, especially around your belly, can lead to more inflammation in your body. Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can help you reach and stay at a healthy weight, which can reduce inflammation and lower your chances of getting long-term health problems.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can worsen inflammation and negatively impact our health. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Cut back on sugary drinks and too much caffeine, as they can make inflammation worse.
  • Limit Alcohol and Tobacco Use: Drinking too much alcohol and smoking can cause inflammation and raise the chances of different health issues. If you drink alcohol, keep it moderate, and if you smoke, think about quitting or getting help to quit.
  • Prioritize Mental Health: Your mental and emotional health are tied to inflammation and how healthy you are overall. Take time for self-care, reach out to friends and family for support, and think about therapy or counseling if you need it. Looking after your mental health is just as vital as taking care of your body.


By incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your meals and embracing lifestyle practices that support your health, you’re not just extinguishing inflammation but also fueling a vibrant, balanced life.

To begin your path to better health, I encourage you to grab our FREE Anti-Inflammatory Food List PDF. It’s packed with tasty and healing foods to guide you. With this resource, you’ll have everything you need to make smart choices and give your body the nourishment it needs to flourish!

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