I stumbled upon the anti-inflammatory diet in 2012 through a close friend who was fighting cancer. His doctors had recommended this diet to him. To support him I changed to this diet as well. We studied Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Eating Plan and created meals based on the foods recommended on this plan. Soon I noticed how these foods also helped keep my moods and mental health in a balance.
Since then, many studies have linked symptoms and signs of chronic inflammation to severe mental illness and that following an anti-inflammatory diet can reduce symptoms of depression and schizophrenia.
How bad is inflammation?
It is important to know, that inflammation is not all bad. In fact, inflammation plays an important role in keeping you healthy. Inflammation is the body’s way of protecting itself from harmful bacteria, viruses, and injury. When anything starts to cause damage to your cells, the first thing your body does is to release chemicals, which trigger your immune system to respond. Without inflammation, infections would become deadly. However, if the inflammation process goes on for a long time and turns into a chronic inflammation or if it occurs in places of the body where it is not needed, it ends up becoming problematic.
Certain foods and food groups help promote inflammation in your body, and others reduce inflammation.
How can you use this knowledge?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to convince you to eliminate your favorite foods entirely or think of foods you “cannot” or “should” eat. That would be stressful for your mental health as well.
It is important to be aware of the different effect foods can have on your body and mental health. Look at how many foods you normally eat that promote inflammation and slowly, piece by piece, try to exchange these foods to ones that reduce inflammation. Check the ingredients of all the foods you buy, many processed foods add inflammatory ingredients that can be left out or exchanged for anti-inflammatory ingredients when you cook these products yourself.
After you’ve done this, see if you can feel a positive difference in your physical or mental state.
The more foods you eat that REDUCE INFLAMMATION in your body the better, such as:
- Turmeric (Curcumin)
- Water, or drinks like tea that are mostly water (for tea a matcha green tea or any green tea is best)
- Colorful Organic fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, onions, and berries
- FISH: Wild salmon, wild fatty fish
- Whole grains (lower gluten), such as spelt, barley, and rye
- Whole grains (no-gluten), such as quinoa and millet
- Whole nuts or as milk and oils
- Whole seeds or as milk and oils, such as chia, hemp, flax, sesame
- OILS: Olive, walnut, grapeseed, safflower, and canola
- Chili Peppers
- Organic soybeans in the form of tofu or whole beans (edamame)
- Dark chocolate
These are the foods that PROMOTE INFLAMMATION in your body:
- Saturated fats: most meats, eggs, cheese and other animal products, fried foods
- OILS: Soy, corn, and sunflower
- FISH: Farmed salmon and other farmed fish
- High gluten wheat (modern conventional wheat) including commercial baked goods, crackers and white bread
- Carbohydrates that are high glycemic
- Any food containing artificial flavor, or other chemical ingredients
- Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin
- Beverages with sugar or sugar substitutes
- Instant rice & oatmeal
- Processed and fried vegetables, such as onion rings and potatoes chips
- Canned fruit preserved in corn syrup or sugar
If you’d like to learn more, Kayla Perry created a great PowerPoint presentation I recommend watching:
Another fun YouTube clip I found is with Bobby Parrish who walks through a supermarket and helps you find anti-inflammatory foods:
If you are a numbers person like I am, you might enjoy looking at The Inflammation Factor. (I bought her detailed list and noticed that there are a couple of minor differences to what Dr. Weil and other people claim. It’s only with very few things. I contacted her and Dr. Weil to see where they get their numbers. Both have not responded yet.)
For further reading:
Shasta Press (2013): The Inflammation Diet for Beginners: 100 Essential Anti-Inflammatory Diet Recipes (at a library)
Cheryl Barnhart (2015): Anti Inflammatory Diet: Know everything About Inflammation & Ways To Control it (at a library)
The research mentioned above:
Byrd, D., et. Al (2020): Development and Validation of Novel Dietary and Lifestyle Inflammation Scores
Müller, N. et Al. (2015): The role of inflammation in schizophrenia