Full Anti-Inflammatory Diet Food List PDF: What to Eat and Avoid
Following an anti-inflammatory diet is easier when you use the this full food list.
Some foods are notorious for raising inflammation.
Chronic inflammation is a cause of serious health problems, like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and obesity.
Conversely, an anti-inflammatory diet suppresses inflammation and protects against numerous illnesses. Study after study shows it’s effective in easing PCOS symptoms, lowering, oxidative stress, preventing Alzheimer’s disease, and reducing heart disease.
An anti-inflammatory diet is based on foods that reduce inflammation in the body and promote overall health. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Many of these foods contain antioxidants, which help to reduce cell damage caused by free radicals in the body. Eating a variety of foods is key for getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals your body needs.
But even if you want to start this diet, adopting a new eating style is always tricky. Having a complete anti-inflammatory diet food list makes it far easier to sustain this eating plan in the long term.
If you’re ready to embrace an anti-inflammatory diet, use this guide to learn which foods to eat and which you should avoid. Download the full anti-inflammatory diet food list PDF here.
What foods are best for an anti-inflammatory diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet emphasizes foods that are high in antioxidants and healthy fats while avoiding processed and refined foods. According to a paper published in the 2020 Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications journal, an anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole foods.
More specifically, the most important dietary components of an anti-inflammatory diet include:
- Healthy fats: These include omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts, and seeds; monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and avocados. Eating a variety of these healthy fats helps to reduce inflammation in the body.
- Whole grains: Whole grains contain beneficial fiber, vitamins, and minerals that have an anti-inflammatory effect. Examples include brown rice, quinoa, oats, bulgur, and barley.
- Vegetables: Eating plenty of dark, leafy greens is essential for an anti-inflammatory diet. Other nutrient-rich vegetables to include are broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.
- Fruit: Rich in antioxidants, fruits like apples, berries, and bananas are known for their health benefits.
If you're following an anti-inflammatory diet, you'll also consume lots of oily fish, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Before we jump into the detailed food lists, here’s a disclaimer: I’m not a nutritional expert. I cannot know what specific foods will work for you. What I do know is this: I have polycystic ovary syndrome and diet has had a tremendous effect on my health. Research suggests many people with PCOS have high levels of inflammation.
In my efforts to improve my symptoms, I’m constantly researching and experimenting. I’ve seen first-hand the power of an anti-inflammatory diet. Whenever I eat more processed foods, my PCOS worsens.
Rather than just creating a food list, I find it helpful to understand why specific foods work to reduce inflammation.
If chronic inflammation is a concern for you, seelk medical advice and check in with your doctor before you make major changes.
Anti-inflammatory food list
Below, you’ll find a list of anti-inflammatory foods you can use to plan your shopping trips and weekly meals.
You'll see fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices, and fatty fish feature prominently. As mentioned, these anti-inflammatory foods contain compounds that have been proven to fight inflammation.
Vegetables offer several inflammation-fighting nutrients and compounds, including phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are found in plant foods, so they also occur naturally in fruits and nuts. A large body of research suggests phytochemicals lower inflammation.
- Brussels sprouts
- Sweet potato
- Bell peppers
Fruits are an excellent source of anti-inflammatory properties. Specifically, they’re packed with antioxidants and flavonoids.
Antioxidants occur naturally, but they’re also commercially produced. They’re known for preventing cell damage, reports the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. A lower risk of heart disease and cancer are other health benefits, reports research.
Flavonoids are also natural substances typically derived from plant, fruit, and vegetable sources. These compounds may reduce inflammation and cardiovascular disease notes Web MB.
Here’s a list of the best anti-inflammatory fruits:
- Stone fruit
Fats and oils
The right fats and oils are an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 are polyunsaturated fatty acids. A review of the research shows omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids are associated with a lower risk of inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other illness
- Monounsaturated fatty acids: Monounsaturated fatty acids are healthy fats. Studies suggest a diet high in monounsaturated fats may reduce inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory fats and oils include olive oil, seed oils, and nut oils.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are filled with healthy fats. Both are loaded with antioxidants, and they’re linked to lower inflammation, reports the Arthritis Foundation.
By adding a variety of nuts and seeds to your diet, you can reap tons of health benefits.
- Almond nuts
Herbs and spices
Several studies show spices can fight inflammation, according to the Journal of Translational Medicine. Spices such as ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon are known to reduce inflammation and may help treat chronic conditions.
Additionally, some spices can improve digestion. For instance, cumin is said to reduce bloating, while fennel can help improve your digestive system's ability to absorb nutrients. What's more if several spices contain antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Cloves, oregano, and parsley are all excellent sources of antioxidants.
Finally, spices can be beneficial to your heart health. Cayenne pepper, for example, has been linked to reducing cholesterol levels and can help prevent the buildup of plaque in your arteries. .
- Bay leaf
Certain beverages have an anti-inflammatory effect. For example, green tea has been shown to protect against inflammation, heart disease, and several types of cancers, according to this research review.
- Green tea
- Unsweetened black tea
Oily fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation in the body and provide a wide range of other health benefits. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of oily fish per week to maximize their potential health benefits. Eating a variety of healthy oils is important for overall nutrition, so it's best to vary your choices when selecting oily fish.
These are just some of the oily fish that feature in an anti-inflammatory diet. Look for wild-caught varieties whenever possible.
Legumes contain anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants, according to this paper. Eating legumes regularly can also reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
If you suffer from digestive issues, consider easier to digest legumes, like chickpeas.
A one-day sample anti inflammatory eating plan for inspiration
Once you have the staples, you can get started on your health journey. Don’t worry - you don’t need to be an expert chef to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. My cooking skills are limited, so I’ve focused on a few healthy foods I can prepare easily.
Here’s an example of what I might eat in a day when I’m following an anti-inflammatory diet:
- Breakfast: overnight oats with chia seeds
- Lunch: Cherry smoothie
- Dinner: Chicken breast with sides: salad, sweet potatoes, and broccoli
I’ll snack on apples, nut butter, and nuts. Throughout the day, I’d drink tea, mainly green tea, mint tea, and rooibos tea.
Full disclosure: I go through periods when I’m less intentional about what I put in my body. This sample eating plan looks different and way less healthy on those days. I usually pay for that deviation in some form: breakouts, bloating, or menstrual irregularities.
Eating Well’s pulled together a set of simple anti-inflammatory meal plans here.
What are the 10 most inflammatory foods?
Refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, and processed foods can trigger inflammation. Trans fats, found in many processed and fried foods, are also inflammatory. Red meat and full-fat dairy products can contribute to inflammation as well, according to research published in the Biomedicines journal. Other common pro-inflammatory foods include alcohol, refined vegetable oils, and artificially sweetened drinks.
Another research paper adds gluten to the list of anti-inflammatory foods.
The most inflammatory foods you can eat include:
- French fries
- Fried chicken
- White bread
- Whole milk
It is important to note that some of these foods may not be inherently bad for you. Instead, it's the way they're prepared or consumed that affects your body’s response. For example, if you choose organic, grass-fed red meat, it may not cause inflammation. That being said, eating too much of any type of red meat, even if it is organic, can lead to inflammation. Similarly, drinking alcohol in moderation may not have negative effects on the body, but drinking too much will contribute to inflammation.
What is the easiest anti-inflammatory diet?
The easiest anti-inflammatory diets include the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Both diets are well-studied and consistently rank as the best overall diets for safety, known health benefits, and ease.
Broadly, an anti-inflammatory eating pattern incorporates foods with proven anti-inflammatory ingredients and eliminates proinflammatory foods. A paper published in the Nutrition in Clinical Practice journal gets to the crux of an anti-inflammatory diet plan:
“...the plan models a pattern of eating that (1) focuses on eating whole, plant-based foods that are rich in healthy fats and phytonutrients and (2) maintains a stable glycemic response.”
In designing an anti-inflammatory diet to manage arthritis, researchers made the following recommendations:
- Eat foods with omega-3 polyunsaturated fats: chia seeds, flaxseeds, fatty fish
- Increase monounsaturated fats: avocado, sesame, nuts
- Boost prebiotics intake: daily green leafy vegetables
- Use anti-inflammatory spices: ginger, turmeric, black pepper
- Eat vegetables containing phytochemicals: garlic, onion, zucchini, leafy green vegetables, carrots, pumpkins
- Eat enzymatic fruits: papaya, mango, pineapple
- Consume anti-inflammatory drinks: Drink green tea daily
Here are examples of anti-inflammatory diets.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the most well-known researched diets. One study, published in the Endocrine journal, found the diet was associated with reduced risk of inflammation and diabetes.
It’s an eating style high in whole grains, fish, lean meat, olive oil, and vegetables. Eating these foods provides a source of high-quality fats, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and vitamins, according to a Nutrients research article. It’s also rich in polyphenols, a type of plant compound with antioxidant effects.
Here is an overview of the Mediterranean diet.
First designed to reduce blood pressure, the DASH diet has been shown to combat inflammation.
A review of randomized controlled trials, published in Clinical Nutrition, found:
“Adherence to DASH diet is effective in improving circulating serum inflammatory biomarkers in adults, compared with usual diet; therefore, it could be a valuable strategy to suppress inflammation process.:
Per the University of Wisconsin Integrative Health, the DASH diet emphasizes:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Lean protein, mainly from fish and poultry
Read more about the DASH diet here.
The MIND Diet, Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a diet aimed at reducing the risk of Alzheimer's and the overall effects of brain aging.
As Becky Kerkenbush, RD, a clinical dietitian, explains in an Everyday Health article: "...research suggests it may reduce the risk of developing dementia or slow the decline in brain health".
Harvard Medical Health lists the following recommended foods, which includes:
- Leafy green vegetables: at least 6 servings per week
- Nuts: 5 servings per week
- Berries: 2-3 servings per week
- Whole grains: 3-4 servings per week
- Fish: at least 1 serving per week
- Poultry: 2 servings per week
- Olive oil: as the main source of fat
- Wine: up to 1 glass per day
- Red meat and processed meats: limited to no more than 4 servings per week
- Cheese: limited to no more than 1 serving per week
In addition to eating these foods, the MIND Diet recommends avoiding trans fats, fried food, and fast food.
Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet
Developed by integrative medicine doctor Dr. Andrew Weil, the anti-inflammatory diet is a version of the Mediterranean diet. The goal of the diet is to lower inflammation and illnesses associated with inflammation.
Like the Mediterranean diet, the anti-inflammatory diet pyramid recommends daily servings of fruit, vegetables, legumes, and healthy fats.
Per Dr.Weil’s website:
“(The Anti-Inflammatory Diet) is a way of selecting and preparing anti-inflammatory foods based on scientific knowledge of how they can help your body maintain optimum health. Along with influencing inflammation, this natural anti-inflammatory diet will provide steady energy and ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids dietary fiber, and protective phytonutrients.”
The U.S. News & World Report's Best Diets of 2023 rates it in the top ten for the best diets overall.
“Most people will likely benefit (from) following this plan because it focuses on increasing a variety of healthy, unprocessed foods, such as whole grains; lean proteins, especially fish and seafood; omega-3 fats; and antioxidant/phytochemical-rich foods, fruits and vegetables – all of which have anti-inflammatory properties,” explains Diane Javelli, a clinical dietitian
Like the Mediterranean diet, the Nordic diet focuses on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and lean meat.
Initially developed to deal with obesity, the Nordic diet isn't as widely adopted as the Mediterranean diet. Still, it may have an anti-inflammatory effect, note researchers.
The Japanese diet is high in fish and low in animal fat, and meat, according to this research paper.
“The use of umami to enhance their recipes palatability avoids the consumption of refined sugar and salt. Steaming, boiling, and stewing are the main cooking methods in this diet, and therefore, their dishes are rich in water and low in fat, and subsequently have low-calorie density. The portion sizes usually are small, and seasonally available vegetables are typically used.”
The study found it may lower inflammation.
Autoimmune Protocol diet (AIP diet)
The Autoimmune Protocol diet (AIP diet) is part of a programme aimed at improving the symptoms of autoimmune diseases, hormonal imbalances, and gut issues. It focuses on cutting out certain foods and adding nutrient-dense foods, like vegetables, fish, and olive oil.
In addition to diet, the AIP diet also focuses on improving sleep and stress management.
One study found the AIP diet decreased inflammation among women who had Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Additional research found the AIP diet improved inflammatory bowel disease, increasing the frequency of bowel movements.
As Angie Alt, a certified health coach and co-founder of Autoimmune Wellness, explains the AIP diet consists of three stages:
- Elimination: During this phase, you’ll cut out grains, nuts, processed foods, refined sugars, fruit, alcohol, and other foods
- Maintenance: Keep restricting the foods for at least 30 days and up to 90 days
- Staged reintroduction: Reintroduce foods one at a time to check how your body responds
During the elimination period, you’ll also add healthy fats like olive oil, fish, and colourful vegetables.
Get started with an anti-inflammatory diet today
If you're hoping to treat chronic inflammation, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best things you can do. One way to think of making the switch is to see it as less of a diet and more of a lifestyle.
In addition to eating an anti-inflammatory diet, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine is also important. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body and improve overall health. Exercise can also help to increase energy levels, manage stress, and improve mood.
It is important to remember that an anti-inflammatory lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and commitment to make lasting changes. To get started, begin by cutting back on processed and sugary foods. Make a conscious effort to include more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet.
Use this anti-inflammatory food list to follow – and stick with – this eating style.
Featured image credit: Photo by Andres Ayrton