While highly popular across the Internet and in consumer publications, the concept of an anti-inflammatory diet is actually quite new. In fact, many of the research studies in this area have focused not on specific testing of an "anti-inflammatory diet," but on evaluation of pre-existing and long-standing approaches to food—for example, the Mediterranean Diet—in an effort to determine if these eating approaches provide ample amounts of anti-inflammatory nutrients. There is an important difference here, and from our perspective at WHFoods, it makes more sense at this point in time to approach the question of an "anti-inflammatory diet" not as a diet plan per se, but as the ability of any diet to offer plentiful amounts of anti-inflammatory nutrients within an overall meal plan providing balanced nutrition and high-quality food intake. In other words, instead of trying to design or adopt an anti-inflammatory diet per se, it makes more sense to refine and improve your meal plan in such a way that it features the three components listed above: balanced nutrition, high-quality food intake, and a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients.
In sharp contrast with research on anti-inflammatory diets per se, there is extensive health research on anti-inflammatory nutrients provided by food. Phytonutrients like flavonoids and carotenoids often rise to the top of the anti-inflammatory nutrient list, along with omega-3 fats. Intake of antioxidant nutrients like vitamins C and E can also help to regulate inflammatory events in the body, even though these nutrients would not necessarily be directly classified as anti-inflammatory. This same type of description would hold true for dietary fiber as well, especially with respect to inflammation in the digestive tract.
You are not going to find a food group better able to increase your intake of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in food than the vegetable group. We hate to sound like a broken record here, but this food group is absolutely amazing in terms of its anti-inflammatory nutrient richness! In order to receive the unique anti-inflammatory benefits from this food group, however, you will need to purchase fresh, high-quality vegetables and avoid overcooking them or storing them improperly. All 38 of our vegetable profiles provide specific guidelines for selecting, storing, and cooking each individual vegetable.
Over the past 15 years, an every-increasing number of chronic health problems has been associated with persistent, low-level, whole body inflammation, sometimes referred to as "metainflammation." For example, our risk of obesity, diabetes, and many forms of heart disease is known to be increased by the presence of metainflammation. In addition, our risk of many common health problems—including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and peptic ulcer—is increased by ongoing, low grade inflammation. And we can lower our risk of all the problems above through increased intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients, especially within an overall diet plan that is balanced and focused on whole, minimally processed foods.
Along with ample intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients, you'll get anti-inflammatory benefits from a meal plan that avoids unwanted contaminants. Many of the potentially toxic residues found in food can trigger inflammatory events in our body. At WHFoods, we recommend purchase of certified organic foods to help minimize exposure to unwanted contaminants. While far from perfect, organic regulations can greatly lower your exposure to many contaminants since their use is disallowed in organic food production.
At WHFoods, no food group is more important to us than vegetables. And we place special emphasis on the best selection, storage, and cooking methods for each of our 38 vegetables in order to provide you with outstanding anti-inflammatory phytonutrient intake. In addition, we carefully analyze all of our recipes and menu plans (including our Healthiest Way of Eating Plan) for their omega-3 fat content, which we always try and maximize. Our goal in these plans is to provide you with an average of 2.5 grams of omega-3s per day. But in addition to these two key anti-inflammatory steps, our Healthiest Way of Eating Plan also provides you with well-balanced overall nutrition based on whole, minimally processed foods. Both of these factors lower your risk of unwanted inflammation. Finally, we encourage you to purchase certified organic foods, which will lower your exposure to contaminants that can trigger inflammation. In combination, these features of the Healthiest Way of Eating Plan provide you with a meal plan that highlights anti-inflammatory nutrient intake and anti-inflammatory benefits.