Anti-Inflammatory diet tips

Written by Anne Gilbert, Youth and Family Services Manager

You don’t have to follow any anti-inflammatory (AI) diet perfectly to make a big impact.

Anti-inflammatory diets may be a big adjustment for people who tend to eat different kinds of food, however there are several resources which document how you can support and better manage inflammation through diet. AI foods pose no harmful side effects and are relatively cheap and easy to get hold of. Here are some of our top tips for getting some AI foods into your diet.

1. Aim for half to two-thirds of your plate to be non-starchy vegetables (think: greens of all kinds, mushrooms, summer squash, beets, cauliflower...the list goes on and on)—ideally at breakfast, too. They’re packed with gut-balancing fibre and powerful antioxidants.

2. Limit added sugar and sweet drinks. That includes fruit juices and natural sweeteners like honey. Studies have shown that people who have a high-sugar diet have significantly elevated blood levels of haptoglobin (an inflammatory marker that in high concentrations is associated with diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and obesity) compared with controls.

3. Eat fish, especially fatty kinds like salmon, mackerel, herring, and anchovies. (Or take omega-3 supplements—check what is the appropriate amount for you or your child) In some studies Omega 3 has also been shown to be potentially important in brain development and function.

4. Cut out white flour and limit other flour-based foods. Focus on whole, intact grains like quinoa, brown rice, and bulgur wheat instead of loading up on whole-grain crackers, breads, and tortillas. 100 percent white flour will cause a spike in blood sugar that exacerbates inflammation.

5. Choose fats carefully. The most abundant saturated fats in our diet contain the same fatty acids as do fragments of the cell walls of many bacteria—no wonder your immune system sees a bacon cheeseburger as a threat! Limit saturated fats like butter and skip vegetable oils that are high in omega-6 fats, such as sunflower and corn oils. Go for olive, avocado, or walnut oil instead.

The Mediterranean diet is often referred to by medical professionals as the most effective anti-inflammatory diet as it’s an eating plan and not just about individual foods.

There are several things a person can do to make the transition to an anti-inflammatory diet easier, including: 

  • eating a variety of fruits and vegetables
  • reducing the amount of fast food eaten
  • eliminating fizzy drinks and sugary beverages
  • planning shopping lists to ensure healthful meals and snacks are on hand
  • carrying small anti-inflammatory snacks while on the go
  • drinking more water
  • staying within the daily calorie requirements
  • adding supplements, such as omega-3 and turmeric, to the diet
  • exercising regularly
  • getting the proper amount of sleep

To get started on a Mediterranean diet:

  • Focus on fruits and vegetables and make these the staple of the diet.
  • Eat beans, nuts, and whole grains daily.
  • Season foods with herbs and spices instead of salt, fat, and sugar.
  • Cook food with olive or avocado oil as standard, instead of butter.
  • Focus on lean proteins, primarily fish, and eat less than 3 ounces red meat per week.
  • Limit the intake of sweet and high-sugar foods and base most dessert intake around fruit

The recipes below are quite typical of something you might choose to prepare if you are on an anti-inflammatory diet. Add as many vegetable side dishes to accompany these meals as you like.

Spanish Style Chicken Stew

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 red onions, coarsely chopped

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

2 (400g) tins peeled plum tomatoes

1 (400g) tin chickpeas

475ml (16 fl oz) water

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

2 carrots, cut into chunks

1 potato, cubed

4 chicken skinless thighs

115g (4 oz) Spanish chorizo sausage, casing removed and thickly sliced

Method

Prep:20min Cook:1hr30min Ready in:1hr50min

 

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in onions and garlic, cook until the onion has softened and turned translucent.

Pour in tomatoes, chickpeas and water; season with paprika, chilli flakes, salt, and pepper.

Stir in carrots and potatoes, then place chicken thighs skin-side up on top of the vegetables.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C / gas mark 6.

Remove chicken from the stew and set aside. Stir in the chorizo slices, then pour the stew into a baking dish. Place the chicken thighs on top.

Bake in preheated oven until the stew has thickened., about 15 minutes.

Lemon Chicken

Ingredients

Serves: 3

1 lemon

1 dessertspoon dried oregano

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

6 chicken thighs, skinless (2 each)

Method

Prep:15min› Cook:50min› Ready in:1hr5min

 

Preheat oven to 220 C / Gas mark 7.

In a 23x33cm (9x13 in) baking dish, grate the peel from 1/2 the lemon, squeeze out the juice and add to peel with the oregano, garlic, oil, salt and pepper. Stir until mixed. Coat chicken pieces with the lemon mixture and arrange, bone side up, in the baking dish. Cover dish and bake for 20 minutes. Turn and baste chicken.

Reduce heat to 200 C / Gas mark 6, and bake uncovered, basting every 10 minutes, for about 30 more minutes. Serve chicken with pan juices.

 Bulgar Cracked Wheat Salad

Ingredients

Serves: 4

350g fine bulgur cracked wheat

2 tbsp tomato puree

500ml vegetable or chicken stock

1 small bunch of spring onions

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Prep:10min› Cook:5min Extra time:1hr soaking Ready in:1hr15min

 

Put the bulgur in a large bowl. Add the tomato puree to the stock and heat to just below boiling point. Pour over the bulgur and mix well, at this point you should also season with a little salt and black pepper. Cover with cling film and allow to stand for approximately 1 hour.

Meanwhile, finely slice the spring onions and dice the peppers. Once the bulgur has expanded in size use a fork to fluff and loosen the bulgur grains. Mix in the vegetables and you instantly have a salad or accompaniment. Dress with olive oil and lemon juice, if you like.

Summer Pasta Bake

Ingredients

Serves: 4

1 large aubergine, cubed

3 medium courgettes, cubed

3 red onions, cut into thin wedges

6 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

1 red pepper, cubed

6 plum tomatoes, quartered

4 tablespoons olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

100g penne pasta

100g soft goat cheese, crumbled (optional)

Method

Prep:15min Cook:50min Extra time:30min resting Ready in:1hr35min

 

Sprinkle the aubergine cubes with a little salt and leave in a sieve or colander for 30 minutes to extract the dark, bitter juices.

Preheat the oven to 190 C / Gas 5.

Combine all of the prepared veg and place in a large baking dish. If the baking dish is overcrowded with veg, split the veg between two dishes. Drizzle veg with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Toss to thoroughly coat the veg. Bake in the oven till the vegetables are very soft, about 45-55 minutes.

Meanwhile, during the last 10 minutes of cooking the veg, boil the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, according to the timing on the packet. Drain.

Remove the veg from the oven. In the baking dish, toss the veg with the hot pasta. If desired, add cheese and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve straightaway.

 Summer Salmon Pasta Salad

Ingredients

Serves: 8

500g dried macaroni pasta

2 ripe tomatoes, diced

4 spring onions, chopped

2 pickled cucumber spears, diced

1 (418g) tin salmon, drained

6 tablespoons of Quark (add a teaspoon of chilli sauce for flavour)

salt and pepper to taste

Method

Prep:10min Cook:10min Extra time:1hr chilling Ready in:1hr20min

 

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.

When pasta has come to room temperature, combine it with tomatoes, spring onions, cucumber spears, salmon, quark, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Chill before serving.