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What Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

There has been an increased focus on exploring the role of certain foods and diets in taming inflammation, even though a specific anti-inflammatory diet has yet to be defined.

Inflammation can be acute, such as following an infection or injury and result in localized pain, redness and swelling. It also can become chronic and affect different tissues and organs of the body. Inflammation is a natural process that serves to protect the body and allow it to heal. However, if it's consistent, it may increase the risk of other health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Recognizing that healthful eating patterns can reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, there has been an increased focus on exploring the role of certain foods and diets in taming inflammation.

Although the term "anti-inflammatory diet" is frequently used, there is not one specific eating pattern prescribed to this diet. A research base of more than 200 studies has, however, looked at the dietary inflammatory index (DII) of specific foods, nutrients, antioxidants and a few select food components, such as turmeric, green tea, thyme and saffron, and within the context of a global population. Using the DII, researchers have been able to assess whether an overall diet has the potential to be either anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory.

Studies also have investigated the effect of eating patterns characterized as a Mediterranean diet, although many variations are possible based on the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. A systematic review conducted by the Academy's Evidence Analysis Center reflected that consumption patterns commonly associated with the definition of a Mediterranean diet included a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, regular intake of olive oil and legumes, and a low to moderate amount of meat intake. Evidence has demonstrated that a higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet is inversely associated with inflammation, yet some studies have found no association.

Other research has examined adherence to the healthy eating index (HEI), which utilizes scores based on dietary guidelines, but the findings have been mixed. One drawback of only looking at select dietary patterns is that it may exclude other healthy eating styles across the globe. Plus, results have been less consistent depending on the study design (i.e., cross-sectional versus longitudinal) and may differ based on the inflammatory markers that are measured.

Even though a specific anti-inflammatory diet has not yet been defined, registered dietitian nutritionists can help people lower their risk for chronic diseases that are often associated with low-grade chronic inflammation by adopting healthier eating styles that incorporate more of the foods that tend to be under-consumed, such as fruits and vegetables. This approach is consistent with the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which features a "Healthy Mediterranean-Style Dietary Pattern" and offers daily or weekly amounts for each food group and subgroup.


  • Hart MJ, Torres SJ, McNaughton SA, Milte CM. Dietary patterns and associations with biomarkers of inflammation in adults: a systematic review of observational studies. Nutr J. 2021 Mar 12;20(1):24.
  • Hébert JR, Shivappa N, Wirth MD, Hussey JR, Hurley TG. Perspective: The Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII)-Lessons Learned, Improvements Made, and Future Directions. Adv Nutr. 2019 Mar 1;10(2):185-195.
  • Shivappa N, Steck SE, Hurley TG, Hussey JR, Hébert JR. Designing and developing a literature-derived, population-based dietary inflammatory index. Public Health Nutr. 2014 Aug;17(8):1689-96.
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library. Dietary Approaches and Health Outcomes. Accessed September 29, 2022.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 9th Edition. December 2020. Accessed August 31, 2022.

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