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How to Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet (and Why It’s a Wise Idea)

Here’s how you can start to eat an anti-inflammatory diet and what will happen when you do. A video is also included below.

An anti-inflammatory diet is designed to reduce chronic inflammation in the body and extend the human health span.

Healthspan refers to the length of time a person lives in good health, free from chronic diseases and disabilities.

“Healthspan” is often used as a measure of overall well-being, as opposed to just lifespan, which is simply the total number of years a person lives.

Most wellness programs aim to increase people’s healthspan so they can enjoy a high quality of life for as long as possible.

This involves promoting healthy lifestyle habits, such as cross-training exercise, an anti-inflammatory diet, stress reduction, better sleep, regular medical check-ups, and avoiding exposure to environmental toxins.

A welcomed side effect of these positive habits is that – not only does physical health improve – one’s appearance tends to improve significantly.

Though acute inflammation is a natural and healthy immune response to problems that require your body’s intervention, chronic inflammation is not a good thing.

Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is a wise idea because it reduces chronic inflammation, sometimes quite dramatically.

Acute Inflammation VS Chronic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is a type of low-grade inflammation that persists for a long time in the body:

  • It’s different from acute inflammation, which is a normal response of the body’s immune system to injury or infection and is usually of short duration.
  • Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can last for weeks, months, or even years.
healthy man eating an anti-inflammatory diet

Chronic inflammation is believed to contribute to the development of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

In these conditions, the immune system becomes activated and produces an ongoing inflammatory response, even in the absence of injury or infection.

This sustained immune response can cause damage to tissues, joints, and organs over time, leading to the development of disease. But even in less dramatic scenarios, it can impact one’s vitality and the appearance of skin.

The Impetus for the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

I solve a big problem for people.

Modern humans are often not as healthy as they could be, so I help them become healthier.

But here’s the thing: how that problem gets solved is what surprises people.

For example, many people over 50 would like to have a trim waistline again or even to see the definition of their abdominal muscles.

But that problem gets solved mostly in the kitchen, not at the gym.

A properly designed anti-inflammatory diet can improve your appearance and fitness more than many other self-care protocols.

mature athlete over fifty during sprints workout
Dane has a master’s degree in Depth Counseling and has spent decades as a professional fitness and Pilates trainer. Today, Dane is a Healthy Lifestyle Advocate who curates the popular Quality of Life Newsletter – a free weekly update for creative types who want to increase their daily joy.

Many people still don’t understand that reducing inflammation positively impacts one’s overall health and appearance.

My mission is to help people extend the number of healthy years in their lifespan so they can experience more relevance, joy, and opportunities to make a positive impact in the world.

When you’re 90 years old, I want you to be able to do two things:

Do you want that for yourself as well?

The Basics of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

An anti-inflammatory diet is a dietary eating pattern designed to help reduce chronic low-grade inflammation in the body.

This type of diet is based on the concept that certain foods and nutrients can either promote or reduce inflammation, and that eating a diet that is rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce brain fog, improve mood, and promote overall physical health.

What can you eat on an anti-inflammatory diet?

Basically, you eat a lot of vegetables, some quality meats, a little fruit, and some fermented foods.

Here are the core principles of an anti-inflammatory diet, which means eating more of some foods and less of others.

More of These Foods:

Consuming a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, as they are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds such as antioxidants and phytochemicals.

This part is absolutely key. On an anti-inflammatory diet, you can eat up to 9 cups of vegetables a day (measuring loose and raw vegetables, not measuring vegetables after they’ve been cooked or packed tightly).

This means a full rainbow of vegetables including dark, leafy greens and cruciferous.


Also encouraged on an anti-inflammatory diet is the eating of healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocado, and nuts, which can help reduce inflammation. However, you still have to stay within your daily caloric requirement, so resist the temptation to go overboard on fats.

Including more anti-inflammatory spices is encouraged, such as turmeric, ginger, and garlic.

Organ meats are a part of the anti-inflammatory diet because they are unusually high in micronutrients.

Fermented foods are key because they help improve gut health. Good gut health is a vital part of the anti-inflammatory strategy.

Gut health refers to the optimal functioning of your digestive system, including the stomach, intestines, and colon.

Your digestive system plays a crucial role in breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. Microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, and viruses) within the gut can impact overall health.

It’s a delicate balance.

A healthy gut typically contains a diverse population of beneficial microbiota that help with digestion, boost the immune system, and protect against harmful pathogens. On the other hand, an imbalance of gut bacteria – known as gut dysbiosis – leads to problems.

Consuming fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and can help reduce inflammation.

Eating the right amount of fiber for your body is extremely helpful. Consume foods that provide both soluble and insoluble fibers.

Less of These Foods:

Limiting the intake of processed and refined foods is part of the anti-inflammatory diet. This means avoiding most added sugars or too many grains, which can promote inflammation.

Also crucial is to avoid too many high-lectin foods or foods your body finds irritating, based on your unique genetics and your body’s responses (subtle or overt) to those foods.

Research Behind the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

One study demonstrating the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet is “A dietary intervention for chronic inflammation” published in the journal Nutrients in 2017.

In this randomized controlled trial, researchers enrolled 68 participants with elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, and assigned them to either a Mediterranean-style diet or a low-fat control diet for 12 weeks.

The Mediterranean-style diet included increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and olive oil, as well as moderate amounts of fish and limited amounts of red meat, processed meats, and added sugars.

The results showed that participants in the Mediterranean-style diet group had significantly lower levels of CRP compared to the control group, indicating reduced inflammation. This study is just one example of the numerous studies that have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory effects of a more primal diet.

Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine and researcher who has been studying the impact of diet on autoimmune disorders. Her research has focused on the benefits of a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet in managing various disease symptoms.

Among her discoveries:

  • The importance of consuming a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, such as leafy greens, colorful vegetables, and grass-fed meats, is to support optimal health.
  • Eating a diet rich in naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants helps reduce chronic inflammation in the body.
  • Vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can play a role in supporting healthy immune function.
  • Eliminating certain foods, such as gluten, dairy, and processed foods, can help reduce chronic inflammation.
anti-inflammatory diet for longevity

One interesting study conducted by Dr. Wahls was published in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” in 2011.

In this study, Dr. Wahls and her colleagues investigated the impact of a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet on patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).

The study involved participants with MS randomly assigned to either follow a conventional multiple sclerosis diet or a modified diet that was higher in nutrients and low in inflammatory foods:

  • The results of the study showed participants who followed the modified diet experienced significant improvements in several key measures, including quality of life, fatigue, and cognitive function.
  • Additionally, the study found that the modified diet was associated with a reduction in inflammation, as measured by decreased levels of inflammatory markers in the blood.

This study provides important evidence for the potential benefits of a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet and highlights the importance of diet and lifestyle factors in the management of autoimmune disorders, and supports the idea that dietary interventions can play an important role in wellness.

Green Smoothies Make Hitting Your Daily Vegetable Goal Easier

To become even healthier than you are now, you’ll probably have to increase your daily intake of vegetables. There is perhaps no easier way to do that than by having a freshly made green smoothie.

An authentic green smoothie contains fresh vegetables, nuts, seeds, superfoods, a liquid base, a little fruit, and ice.

Green smoothies are freshly made shakes that potentially hold the nutritional power to improve health.

A properly made green smoothie contains the correct ratios of quality protein, healthy fats, and energizing complex carbohydrates – together with fiber, antioxidants, and minerals.

I’ve been making homemade green smoothies for over a decade, and here is what I’ve learned:

  • An anti-inflammatory diet can take years off the appearance of your face and body.
  • When made correctly, fresh green smoothies can be a strategic and delicious part of an anti-inflammatory diet
  • Among those who drink a properly made, fresh green smoothie each morning, many report an eventual reduction in body fat, an increase in lean muscle, and more sustained energy through a typical day.
learning to love green smoothies for an anti-inflammatory diet

Upon hearing about green smoothies for the first time, few people are eager to try them.

I’ve been at this a long time, and over the years I’ve been able to identify five stages of learning to appreciate freshly made green smoothies.

Most people have an inaccurate idea of what green smoothies are and how they will taste.

Green smoothies are not something you buy from a package, can, or envelope at the grocery store. They are freshly made from mostly raw ingredients such as green vegetables, nuts, seeds, ice, and fruit.

“When made correctly, green smoothies taste fantastic. More importantly, green smoothies give you a sustained, alkalinizing energy that help you to feel ten years younger…”

Eventually, many people come to love green smoothies – especially as they see their appearance improve and come to feel better than they ever have before – but in the beginning, they’re a bit weary.

Awkward Silence

The most striking feature of green smoothies is that they are laden with fresh vegetables and for this reason, their color is often a vibrant green.

Many people find the thought of “drinking green” to be peculiar, if not off-putting, and or this reason, many believe – at first – that green smoothies are not for them.

“…not only have you long since grown out of your skinny jeans (that pair of jeans you haven’t worn in ages but refuse to toss because you hope that one day you can fit into them again) but one morning even your “chubby jeans” feel uncomfortably snug. That’s the exact point at which many people decide that getting more vegetables into their daily diet might be a good idea after all.”

green smoothie enthusiasm
The path to understanding green smoothies happens in 5 stages.

Fleeting Glances

After hearing about green smoothies a second or third time, many people’s interest is re-piqued.

As off-putting as drinking something green may have sounded at first, what’s even more off-putting is feeling tired and bloated all the time.

Getting to Know You

You hear about another friend or relative having a significant health challenge. They’re going to be okay (thank goodness they were diagnosed early), but this is the third friend this year that’s been surprised by a health setback. What’s more, your annual physical is coming up, and last year your doctor told you that you needed to change your daily diet and exercise habits or there would be complications in the near future. So you browse a couple of articles and recipes online.

First Kiss

Your friend – the one with amazing skin, bright eyes, and who laughs easily – made you one of their green smoothies, and you tasted it. Hmm: you’re not sure. It certainly doesn’t taste as scrumptious as the caramel-whipped iced coffee blended that you order from the corner cafe, but it’s also not as bad as you thought.

You admit to yourself that your taste buds have become accustomed to the standard modern diet of high salt, high sugar, and those artificial flavors that they slip into everything – and you decide that you like the green smoothie enough to possibly try it again one day.

You glance over at your fit friend and try to remember what it was like – how it felt – the last time you lunged out of bed each morning with enthusiasm. What would it be like to have a strong, flexible body again, you wonder?

Eternal Love!

Who’d ever have thought you’d be into green smoothies?  You’re the type of person who is supposed to roll the eyes at such things, but now, you are enjoying them!

You started out having one or two a week. Your first few batches didn’t turn out very well. But you stuck with it, and now they’re tasting much better, and you even got a new, better blender so that you can pulverize anything!

You’re having at least one green smoothie a day now, and you’re already starting to look and feel better. For the time being, your green smoothies have more fruit than vegetables, but you’re hopeful that as your taste buds evolve, one day you’ll be able to transition to more veg than fruit.

You’re excited about the possibilities of how much better you could look and feel six months from now.

Psychological Resistance to Adopting an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Changing nutritional habits can be challenging!

Sometimes, another person will give us advice, but we can’t really “hear” it with our whole being.

Our intellect may understand the advice, but the rest of our psyche needs more time and experience before fully appreciating it.

This is what medical doctors, nutritionists, therapists, and naturopaths have to contend with in their daily work:

  • how much do they reveal to their patients?
  • is the patient ready to hear it, or will hearing it only increase their resistance?

We need clean air, water, food, shelter, and love to thrive in our daily lives. After those five fundamental needs, things start to get a bit …optional.

If there’s something that we can’t imagine living without, that often is a sign that we might be addicted to it.

Just because we can’t imagine ourselves living without something (coffee, pasta, hamburgers, beer, cookies) doesn’t mean we couldn’t live and be happy without it. It’s just that we can’t imagine it because that particular thing has become so habitual in our weekly lives.

It has become a dependable comfort. But to think that we can’t be happy without it is an illusion.

I’m intrigued by the timing of the intervention: when is the best time to tell someone that their very life may depend on changing a particular pattern?

We can explore the possibilities of gradual changes to our daily menu choices so that those healthy choices don’t feel like a “quit-cold-turkey” diet or a fast.

I’ve found that when people are asked to radically change their diets overnight, they’re less likely to be able to sustain the healthy changes – than when they make changes more gradually.

How to Lose Weight on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

You can make improvements and changes to your daily lifestyle habits that are a bit faster than what is completely comfortable but still gradual enough that you won’t go into psychological resistance and undermine your efforts.

By knowing exactly how much fat is on your body, you’ll then determine what weight loss techniques are working for you and which are not moving the needle. Knowing this will better assist you in reaching a healthy weight.

Personally, the best way I’ve found to keep track is by using a soft tape measure around the widest part of my waistline, after waking in the morning and after using the bathroom.

Additionally, you can easily discover what your DNA says about how well you’re aging by monitoring the vitality of your cells. A simple genetic test – collected at home – can reveal your cellular age.

A lower-carbohydrate, higher-protein diet harks back to a time before processed, simple carbohydrates were easily available and allows for the consumption of healthy fats.

Data reveals that the average person will put on at least 6 pounds at the end of this year.

If you begin counting the holiday season on October 31st, statistically, it will likely be more than six added pounds.

If a person takes a vacation during the final quarter of the year (one week or more off from work), that usually means more than 6 pounds will be gained.

I’d like to ask you to consider going in the opposite direction as everyone else:

  • What would it be like if next January arrived and you were in better shape, not worse?

The typical modern menu contains a plethora of dietary irritants that trigger your body’s need to pad vital organs with layers of visceral fat to protect them from further irritation.

Body composition is a result of, yes, calories-in versus calories-out. However, it’s also true that when your overall health improves, your body’s systems – including metabolism – tend to run more efficiently.

An individual dietary intervention might make only a 1% positive difference. However, when you stack many nutritional upgrades at once, these little improvements add up to one big impact – and this can give your body the foothold it needs to pull its health and appearance up to the next level.

The “skinny-fat” condition refers to someone who might look trim in clothes but, in reality, lacks enough healthy muscle tone.

Adding muscle increases your energy expenditure.

If a skinny-fat person added 10 pounds of muscle – evenly distributed among the major muscle groups of their body – it would not look like “weight” but rather would look trim and healthy.

You can get leaner without losing muscle tone if you’re willing to stretch out the fat loss over a period of time – usually at a pace of 1 pound (or 0.45 kilogram) per week.

Losing at this pace has the added benefit of preventing metabolic adaptation – a process that causes your body to think you’re experiencing a famine mistakenly – and preserving adipose cells as nature’s way of compensating for a perceived lack of food.

The more muscle you have, the harder it is to gain fat.

This is because muscle cells are efficient glycogen storage tanks (your body will fill up those glycogen tanks before converting carbs to fat)! That translates to:

  • 10 pounds of muscle means you can probably have a 1,400-calorie cheat meal each week. (Fun!)
  • 10 pounds of muscle also means your body can store up to 200 grams of glycogen in your muscles, which means a larger ratio of your daily calories can go toward carbs. (More fun!)

Finally, I leave you with these two friendly reminders:

There’s more to adding healthy muscle than just eating enough protein. Case in point: many bodybuilders I know are highly inflamed. They have a lot of muscle, but their faces are puffy, their stomachs are bloated, and they’re often gassy.

Putting muscle aside, the biggest benefit of an anti-inflammatory diet is an extended, healthy lifespan.

You might think now you don’t care about living a longer life, but when you’re in your 70s with a strong and flexible body, I assure you that you’ll be grateful for all the healthy choices you made along the way.

Final Tips about Eating an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

For exponential results, you can combine an anti-inflammatory diet with consistent exercise.

In the beginning, you remove all grains from your weekly menu (no beans, rice, oatmeal) to see how your body responds.

You’re not trying to go full-on keto – which would be 25 grams of carbs a day, which is intensely low – but you are trying to dance on the edge of keto (at approximately 100 grams of carbs a day, mostly from vegetables).

The idea is to see if this reduces inflammation (it probably will).

Once you reach your target weight, you can always add back in a once-a-week cheat day when you enjoy your favorite grains and foods (in moderation) to see how that makes your body feel.

Remember, you might drop a lot of water weight in the beginning, so stay hydrated with electrolytes (so you don’t get “keto flu” symptoms).

When, one day, you begin to experiment with grains again, you might consider using an InstantPot to make them, as pressure-cooking is effective at removing some of the lectins (irritants) from grains.

By eating this way, you will improve muscle tone, get lean strength and a tight waistline, and your joints will feel better – even brain fog dissipates.

Again, for profound results obtained more quickly – to improve not only your appearance but your overall health – then combine regular workouts with an anti-inflammatory diet.

Many factors contribute to chronic inflammation, including poor diet, lack of physical activity, stress, exposure to environmental toxins, and certain infections.

Treating and preventing chronic inflammation often involves making lifestyle changes, such as eating an anti-inflammatory diet.

It’s important to emphasize again that an anti-inflammatory diet is not a single, specific diet, but rather a general pattern of eating that can be tailored to meet individual needs and preferences.

In some cases, medication may also be prescribed to help control inflammation. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about chronic inflammation and about how you can be even healthier than you are right now.

Some individuals may have specific gut-related health issues, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or food intolerance, and should work with their healthcare provider to develop a personalized plan for optimal gut health.

Relentless, chronic inflammation in the human body can quickly lead to ill health, so anti-inflammatory eating is designed for disease reduction. Phytochemicals are the compounds found in plant-based foods – such as green vegetables – that are understood to reduce inflammation.