Many of us talk about inflammation like it’s akin to bloat or an upset tummy, but the reality is that inflammation is an underlying driver of many chronic illnesses plaguing Americans today, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cancer, dementia, and arthritis.
One key way to keep inflammation in check is to regulate your diet and ensure that you’re consuming foods that are not only healthy, but also anti-inflammatory. When looking at anti-inflammatory diets, health span is vitally important to consider, notes Suzanne Dixon, a registered dietitian with The Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com. “In essence, who cares if you live to [be] 100, if you’re miserably sick for the last 25 years of your life?” she says. “Clearly, living longer isn’t the only goal—living healthier for longer is the ultimate goal.”
This is why a myriad of anti-inflammatory diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, including the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, the Mediterranean diet, Okinawa (Japanese) diet, and the Seventh Day Adventist diet. “There are other plant-based diets from around the world, which are associated with anti-inflammation, incredible longevity, and health, too,” says Dixon. “This includes the diets of Ikaria (Greece), Sardinia (Italy), and Nicoya (Costa Rica).”
Perhaps the best thing about an anti-inflammatory diet is that it’s great for everyone because it’s plain healthy. “[Anti-inflammatory diets] include mainly plant foods, healthy fats such as avocados and olive oil, and lean proteins such as poultry,” says Mary Opfer, MS, RDN, CDN, in Westchester County, New York. “Specifically, this diet is ideal for those who are overweight, have diabetic cardiovascular disease, or any chronic condition.”
If you’re hoping to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet into your Aaptiv workout regimen, here are some tried-and-true ways to do so, according to nutrition experts.
Cut out inflammatory foods
When it comes to figuring out which foods are inflammatory versus anti-inflammatory, consider which are naturally occurring and which are not. Added sugars (not naturally occurring ones in fruits, vegetables, and dairy), refined carbohydrates, saturated fat, and trans fat are all inflammatory foods, explains Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN and author of Eating in Color. Highly processed foods, greasy foods, hot dogs, or high sugar foods—like cake, cookies, and soda—are also on the inflammatory list. “These foods are not nutrient-dense and contribute to the body releasing inflammatory messengers called cytokines,” adds Opfer.
Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods
In addition to limiting the amount of inflammatory foods you consume, you’ll want to bulk up on the ones known to reduce inflammation. Foods including olives and olive oil, grapes, broccoli, chia seeds, blueberries (regular and wild), cherries, red onions, garlic, salmon and other fatty fish, ginger, and turmeric are inflammation-fighting stars. Largeman-Roth recommends incorporating them regularly into your meals and snacks. “Basically, the more plant-based, colorful foods in your diet, the more anti-inflammatory power your meals will have,” she says.
Salt isn’t the worst thing for you when you consume it in moderation. If you’re following an anti-inflammatory diet, you should limit your sodium intake to the recommended 2,300 mg per day. This also helps avoid hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, which is linked to inflammation and can lead to more severe health conditions.
Reduce processed food
Processed foods, such as chips, crackers, snack foods, and baked goods, turn up inflammation in the body, which then drives pain, discomfort, and tissue damage, explains Dixon. “Think of it this way: If normal cell-to-cell communication is like two neighbors chatting over the back fence about the weather and the kids, inflamed cell-to-cell communication is like two neighbors screaming at each other about a property line dispute,” she says. “If we have pain, inflammation makes it more intense.” As a resolution, she recommends cooking the majority of your food to avoid these processed, inflammatory foods.
Have a support system
Having people at home or at work join you in following the diet can help with staying on track, notes Opfer. “It’s important to have support as you make any dietary changes. Keeping a food journal can keep us accountable to ourselves,” she says. “Tracking food intake can be beneficial for making sure we are eating the right foods, as well as eating the right amount.”
The more workouts you rank up on your Aaptiv app, the more encouraged you will be to eat healthier. Think back to your last sweat session—were you more keen to order a burger and fries or a hearty salad post-workout? Exercise also releases feel-good endorphins, which are beneficial for your mental and emotional health, as well as physical.