TikTok users love a wellness trend, but the latest diet being praised could actually do wonders for your health, as it includes eating anti-inflammatory foods.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to infection and injury - but it can also be caused by the food we eat.
According to Harvard Health, there are certain foods that can cause inflammation in the body, such as refined carbohydrates (white bread and pasta), fried foods, sugar, soft drinks, and red and processed meats.
"While occasional exposure to inflammatory foods is unlikely to pose a problem, sustained high levels of these markers can lead to chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation, in turn, increases the risk of several health issues, including certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases."
So it’s no surprise then that videos containing the phrase ‘anti-inflammatory foods’ have seen over 19.8 million views on the video-sharing platform, as users praise the benefits of the anti-inflammatory diet - but what is it and what foods does it include?
What is inflammation?
"Inflammation is a natural and complex biological response that the body initiates as a defence mechanism against harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, injuries, or irritants," MyHealthChecked's nutritionist, Isabela Ramos says.
While acute inflammation is useful for the body to eliminate the source of harm, Ramos explains that the concern comes when the body experiences chronic inflammation which occurs when the inflammatory response persists over an extended period.
"Diet plays a significant role in modulating inflammation," Ramos explains. "The foods we consume can either promote inflammation or help reduce it. Certain dietary choices can contribute to chronic inflammation by promoting the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, such as cytokines and prostaglandins. On the other hand, an anti-inflammatory diet can help mitigate chronic inflammation and promote overall health."
Foods that can lead to inflammation
Andy Daly nutritional therapist at Dr David Jack says that consumption of inflammatory foods can increase the risk of chronic inflammation in the body. Some of these foods include:
Artificial additives such as sweeteners
Ultra-processed foods and junk food
Excessive dairy products
"A diet that is high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sugary snacks and beverages, and unhealthy fats (trans fats and saturated fats) can contribute to inflammation," Ramos explains.
"These foods can lead to insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and a disrupted balance of inflammatory markers in the body."
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
The aim of an anti-inflammatory diet is to reduce inflammation markers in the body and ultimately protect against chronic diseases.
Cleave explains that a good example of an anti-inflammatory diet is the Mediterranean diet as it is "typically rich in polyphenols, dietary fibres, and unsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids".
The Mediterranean diet, which includes eating a large amount of fresh produce, healthy fats and lean proteins, has long been praised for its many health benefits including reducing the risk of dementia.
"Both the Mediterranean diet and the anti-inflammatory diet emphasise whole, nutrient-dense foods that can help reduce oxidative stress, combat inflammation, and support various aspects of health," Ramos says.
"These types of diet contain foods with high content of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and avoid processed foods that trigger inflammation."
Foods to eat on an anti-inflammatory diet
Daly says some of the best foods to eat on an anti-inflammatory diet include:
Fruits and vegetables
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies)
Nuts and seeds
Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats)
Spices and herbs (turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon)
Dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
Fermented foods (yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi)
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage)
Leafy greens (spinach, kale)
Actually making the change towards an anti-inflammatory diet can be tough, especially if you are used to eating inflammatory foods.
"Rather than attempting a complete dietary overhaul, focus on what you can control and take gradual steps," Cleave suggests.
"Can you incorporate more vegetables into your lunch? Can you swap the type of bread in your sandwich for wholegrain? Can you add a piece of fruit to your snacks or sprinkle nuts on your cereals? Remember, what matters most is your overall diet, so if one day your only option is a packet of prawn cocktail crisps from the vending machine, it won't cause harm."
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