A diet focused on eating more plant-based foods and less saturated fats will help lower chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to disease. Choose anti-inflammatory foods to improve your health and well-being, lower your risk for disease, and improve your quality of life. Plant-based foods, such as berries and dark leafy vegetables, have anti-inflammatory properties. Base your diet on whole, nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants, and avoid highly processed products high in added sugar and fat. Your anti-inflammatory diet should provide a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrate, and fat.
Foods to eat more of include the following:
Whole Grains: 3 servings/day; whole grains have brain healthy B vitamins and are a great source of fiber.
Green Leafy Veggies: 6+ servings/week; dark leafy greens are nutrient packed with antioxidants and high in vitamins A, C, and K, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Other Veggies: 1 serving+/day; other vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are cruciferous vegetables that protect against cell damage in our bodies.
Berries: 2+ servings/week; berries get their superpowers from their bright colors that fight inflammation and cell damage.
Have you ever started a diet? You may start off strong but before long are back to your old habits. Why does that happen? For many, the diet is often extreme or complicated. For others, we try to change too much all at once.
Ditch the diet mindset. Instead, try a balanced approach to food and eating. When we have a realistic approach, we can improve our health, supply our body the nutrients it needs, and be satisfied with what and how much we eat.
Start by adding one healthy habit at a time. A great place to begin is the MyPlate healthy eating food plan:
Make half your plate fruits and vegetables—think variety and make it colorful.
Make half your grains whole grains (e.g., whole wheat bread, oatmeal).
Choose low-fat and fat-free dairy products.
Vary your protein—poultry, seafood, meat, eggs, nuts, and beans.
Set realistic and achievable goals, and remember that if you slip up one day not to dwell on it; just move on with your health goals in mind.
For more information on Key Nutrients for health, download our Key Nutrients handout, store.extension.iastate.edu/Product/4184.
March is National Nutrition Month, a campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This year’s theme is Eat Right, Bite by Bite.
The first “bite” is knowing portion sizes. Use common items to help guide your portion sizes:
Baseball or fist = 1 cup salad greens or cereal
Deck of cards = 3 ounces of meat, fish, or poultry
Four stacked dice = 1 1/2 ounces of cheese
One die = 1 teaspoon of margarine or spread
Ping pong ball = 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
Do you like to bake breads, muffins, or cookies? Another “bite” to consider is increasing your whole grain intake. Simply substitute whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour. Start by substituting one-fourth of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour, then one-half, three-fourths, and possibly all!
Another “bite” to consider? Replace some or all of the oil in breads, muffins, or cookies with fruit canned in 100% juice. This will help limit fat intake. Pureed fruit, like applesauce, works best. Use the same approach as the whole wheat flour—start by substituting one-fourth of the oil with fruit and work up to one-half or three-fourths.
Small changes do have a positive effect on your health, and every little “bite” is a step in the right direction!