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Your guide to anti-inflammatory foods

Inflammation is a natural process that helps your body heal and defend itself from harm, but it can be harmful if it becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation may last for weeks, months, or years — and can lead to a spate of health problems. Certain foods have an anti-inflammatory effect though, which is why we aim to include as many as possible in our ELEVATED recipes. Here, James explains more about inflammation and which foods can help you keep it to a minimum.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is your body’s way of protecting itself from infection, illness, or injury. As part of the inflammatory response, your body increases its production of white blood cells, immune cells, and substances called cytokines that help fight infection.

Classic signs of acute (short-term) inflammation include redness, pain, heat, and swelling. On the other hand, chronic (long-term) inflammation often occurs inside your body without any noticeable symptoms. This type of inflammation can drive illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and cancer. Chronic inflammation can also happen when people are obese or under stress.

In our diagram below, you can see some recommended anti-inflammatory foods in the form of a pyramid. A really easy way to improve your diet is by remembering the phrase ‘Cut the CRAP’, where

C = Carbonated drinks
R = Refined sugar
A = Additives
P = Processed food

Exercising more can also help reduce inflammation (although exercising too much can also have a negative effect too!).

Because of the effect stress can have on inflammation levels, it’s really important to make sure to relax as much as possible – try adopting a meditation process or take part in yoga or tai chi. Getting enough sleep is also super-important so the body gets the chance to repair itself. Meditating before bed or drinking Montmorency cherry juice may also help.

Potential causes of chronic inflammation

  • Habitual lifestyle factors: Certain habitual lifestyle factors such as excessive intake of alcohol, smoking and eating too much processed meat.
  • Refined sugars: Consumption of high amounts of refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup can lead to inflammation that causes insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity .
  • Refined carbs: Consuming a lot of refined carbs, such as white bread, may also contribute to inflammation, insulin resistance, and obesity.
  • Processed foods: Eating processed and packaged foods has been shown to promote inflammation and damage the endothelial cells that line your arteries. This is why we Elevate our recipes by cooking as much as we can from scratch.
  • Vegetable oils: Vegetable oils used in many processed foods are another possible culprit. Regular consumption of vegetable oils may result in an imbalance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, which some scientists believe may promote inflammation.
  • Low activity: Additionally, an inactive lifestyle that includes a lot of sitting is a major non-dietary factor that can promote inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory foods pyramid

Anti-inflammatory foods

Certain foods can help reduce inflammation while others do not have an inflammatory effect. Use this guide and you may improve your health.


How much: 0.03l x bodyweight in kg, throughout the day
Healthy choices: Drink pure water, or drinks that are mostly water (tea, very diluted fruit juice, sparkling water with lemon) throughout the day. Make sure to drink any juices through a straw to protect your teeth.
Why: Water is vital for overall functioning of the body.


How much: 4-5 servings per day minimum
Healthy choices: Lightly cooked dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, pok choy and cauliflower), carrots, beets, onions, peas, squashes, sea vegetables and washed raw salad greens.
Why: Vegetables are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids with both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Go for a wide range of colours, eat them both raw and cooked. Choose organic when possible.


How much: 3-4 servings per day (one serving is equal to 1 medium size piece of fruit, 1⁄2 cup chopped fruit).
Healthy choices: Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, oranges, pink grapefruit, red grapes, plums, pomegranates, blackberries, cherries, apples, and pears – all lower in glycaemic load than most tropical fruits.
Why: Fruits are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids with both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. Go for a wide range of colours, choose fruit that is fresh in season or frozen, and buy organic when possible.

Whole and cracked grains

How much: 3-5 servings a day (one serving is equal to about ½ cup cooked grains).
Healthy choices: Brown or basmati rice, wild rice, buckwheat, barley, quinoa, steel-cut oats.
Why: Whole grains reduce blood sugar spikes that promote inflammation. ‘Whole grains’ means grains that are intact, not ‘wholewheat’ products made from flour.

Al dente pasta

How much: 2-3 servings per week (one serving is equal to about ½ cup cooked pasta).
Healthy choices: Organic pasta, rice noodles, bean thread noodles, and part wholewheat and buckwheat noodles like Japanese udon and soba.
Why: Pasta cooked al dente has a lower glycaemic index than fully-cooked pasta. Low-glycaemic-load carbohydrates should be the bulk of your carbohydrate intake to help minimise spikes in blood glucose levels.

Beans & legumes

How much: 1-2 servings per day (one serving is equal to ½ cup cooked beans or legumes).
Healthy choices: Beans like Anasazi, adzuki and black, as well as chickpeas, black-eyed peas and lentils.
Why: Beans are rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium and soluble fibre. They are a low-glycaemic load food.

Healthy fats

How much: 5-7 servings per day (one serving is equal to 1 teaspoon of oil, 2 walnuts, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed, 30g avocado).
Healthy choices: For cooking, use extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Other sources of healthy fats include nuts (especially walnuts), avocados, and seeds. Omega-3 fats are also found in cold water fish, omega-3 enriched eggs, and whole soy foods.
Why: Healthy fats are those rich in either monounsaturated or omega-3 fats.  Extra-virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenols with antioxidant activity.


How much:  2-6 servings per week (one serving is equal to 120g of fish or seafood).
Healthy choices: Wild Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines, and black cod.
Why: These fish are rich in omega-3 fats, which are strongly anti-inflammatory. If you choose not to eat fish, take a high-quality fish oil supplement.

Whole soy foods

How much: 1-2 servings per day (one serving is equal to ½ cup tofu or tempeh, 1 cup soymilk, ½ cup cooked edamame, 1 ounce of soynuts).
Healthy choices: Tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy nuts.
Why: Soy foods contain isoflavones that have antioxidant activity and are protective against cancer.  Choose whole soy foods over fractionated foods like isolated soy protein powders and imitation meats.

Cooked Asian mushrooms

How much: Unlimited.
Healthy choices: Shiitake, enokidake, maitake, oyster mushrooms (and wild mushrooms if available).
Why: These mushrooms contain compounds that enhance immune function.

Other protein sources

How much: 1-2 servings a week (one portion is equal to 30g cheese, 200g serving of dairy, 1 egg, 100g cooked poultry or skinless meat).
Healthy choices: High quality natural cheese and yogurt, omega-3 enriched eggs, poultry, grass-fed lean meats
Why: Try to reduce animal produce. If you eat chicken, choose organic free range and remove the skin. Use organic dairy products such as yogurt and natural cheeses such as feta and true Parmesan.

Herbs and spices

How much: Unlimited
Healthy choices: Turmeric, curry powder, ginger and garlic, chilli, basil, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, oregano.
Why: Use generously to season foods. Turmeric and ginger are powerful, natural anti-inflammatories.


How much: 2-4 cups per day
Healthy choices: White, green, oolong teas
Why: Tea is rich in catechins, antioxidant compounds that reduce inflammation.


How much: Daily.
Healthy choices: High quality multivitamin/multimineral that includes key antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, mixed carotenoids, and selenium); co-enzyme Q10; 2-3 grams fish oil; 2,000 IU of vitamin D3.
Why: Supplements help fill any gaps in your diet when you are unable to get your daily requirement of micronutrients.

Red wine

How much: Optional 1-2 glasses per day.
Healthy choices: Organic red wine.
Why: Red wine has beneficial antioxidant activity. If you don’t drink alcohol, do not start.


How much: Sparingly.
Healthy choices: Unsweetened dried fruit, dark chocolate, fruit sorbet.
Why: Dark chocolate provides polyphenols with antioxidant activity. Choose dark chocolate with at least 70 percent pure cocoa and have a square or two a few times a week. Fruit sorbet is a better option than other frozen desserts.

Adapted from drweil.com

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