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  • Writer's pictureValerie Smith, APRN

Beginner’s Guide to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Oftentimes, we are asked, “What food can I eat that will help reduce my inflammation and pain from RA?”

First, let’s talk about inflammation.

Inflammation is a normal response in the body. When you get hurt and have a scrape or bruise, redness and swelling will surround the area and cause acute inflammation. This is your body’s way of notifying your white blood cells to populate the area so it can heal. It’s a good thing that your body reacts this way.

But when you have an auto-immune disorder, your body will abnormally react and attack your own joints and tissues. As a result, you feel inflammation and pain caused by your auto-immune disease.

But there is good news! You can help reduce the pain and inflammation caused by your disease by incorporating certain types of food into your diet. This diet is called an “anti-inflammatory diet” or a “Mediterranean diet.”

Before we go over these foods, just know it’s not a fix-all for every person. Different foods will affect people differently. You can help make an educated decision on the right foods to eat for your body by keeping a journal of what you eat (include everything, even condiments!) and comparing your list to your symptoms each day. Do certain foods cause flares? Do you feel more pain or inflammation after eating specific foods? Take note and talk to us about this the next time you schedule an appointment with your healthcare team at Paducah Rheumatology.

What is an anti-inflammatory diet? This type of diet consists of primarily eating fresh fruit and vegetables. It is also recommended to eat certain types of fish, nuts and whole grains for an anti-inflammatory diet.

Here are 5 anti-inflammatory foods we recommend adding to your diet:

#1 Vegetables with lots of variety and color

Vegetables not only look beautiful but they will help you feel great, too! We recommend eating an array of colors when it comes to vegetables. By doing this, you ensure you are eating plenty of phytonutrients, the natural chemicals found in plants, that have lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s important to know that certain vegetables have more phytonutrients than others. Click here to see a complete list of vegetables with high phytonutrient content from Healthline.

#2 Fruit with lots of variety and color

Similar to vegetables, fruit also has phytonutrients and antioxidants as well as fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are great for fighting against inflammation. We recommend eating a variety of different fruits with lots of different colors. Berries in particular are very good to eat on an anti-inflammatory diet.

#3 Nuts

Nuts are known to be a great source of protein but did you know they are also helpful in reducing inflammation? Even better, all nuts have anti-inflammatory properties so you can choose to eat the ones you enjoy most. Eat the nuts raw or include them in a meal by finely chopping them and sprinkling them on salad, fish, chicken, vegetables and even fruit.

#4 Fish

Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which help block the formation of compounds that cause inflammation in our bodies. We recommend including fish into your anti-inflammatory diet by eating 3-ounce to 6-ounce servings of fatty fish (such as salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines) at least 2x per week.

Not much of a fish eater? Here’s a helpful tip: soak the fish in milk prior to cooking to help reduce the “fishy” taste of the meat.

#5 Whole Grains

If you choose to eat grains in your anti-inflammatory diet, make sure you choose whole grains. Anti-inflammatory compounds are found in whole grains and can help reduce flares and pain caused by inflammation. Studies have shown that people who ate more whole grains had lower levels of inflammatory compounds, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Try to make eating according to your new anti-inflammatory diet fun and enjoyable. Mix up what you eat by trying different fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and whole grains. Try different recipes and see which ones you enjoy most. Just remember: Keeping a log of the foods you eat and how you feel throughout the day is helpful in understanding which anti-inflammatory foods are best for you. Bring this log with you to your next appointment to discuss with your healthcare team at Paducah Rheumatology.

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