Vegan Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Meal Plan
Vegan Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Meal Plan
You’ve probably heard that reducing inflammation will result in optimal health. But you might have questions such as:
- What exactly is inflammation?
- Does a vegan diet reduce inflammation?
- What foods should I avoid to reduce inflammation?
This article will address the principles of the vegan anti-inflammatory diet and how it can help you in your chronic inflammation journey.
What even is chronic inflammation?
It can be easy to assume that all inflammation is bad, especially because we’re talking about anti-inflammatory nutrition. But that just isn’t true.
Inflammation is a crucial function of our immune systems! It’s designed to help protect us from disease and injury.
When you scrape your knee, inflammation goes to work, sending immune cells to the site of injury, engulfing any foreign microbes, and healing the wound. When the damage is fixed, inflammation shuts off. That’s inflammation in an acute situation. In this case, inflammation is our friend.
Chronic inflammation is a different pathway, governed by different immune cells. It represents a dysregulation.
It is caused by chronic stress, poor diet, inactivity, and even environmental pollutants. When chronic inflammation is firing, other normal body functions don’t work as well and cellular damage occurs.
This is when inflammation can be harmful for us. Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is all too common.
Conditions associated with chronic inflammation
- Cardiovascular and metabolic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease
- Arthritis and chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia
- Autoimmune disease
- Digestive disease such as celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome
- Skin conditions such as acne and eczema
Principles of a vegan anti-inflammatory diet
It’s important that you recognize that no battle is ever won or lost on a single meal.
Plant-based anti-inflammatory eating isn’t about never eating out again or never having cake again. What’s most important is the overall pattern of how you eat.
A healthy, balanced, vegan anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best ways to do this.
Keep stable blood sugars
Maintaining hormonal balance and keeping inflammation at bay means keeping the blood sugar curve moderate.
Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables digest slowly which helps keep blood sugar low. Balancing carbohydrates with protein and fat keep insulin secretion moderate, too.
Spikes in blood sugar that can occur from eating white pasta, bread and sugary snacks increase inflammation in the body.
Choose healthy fats
Choose monounsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids over saturated and omega 6 fats. These healthy fats promote anti-inflammatory pathways.
Opt for extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil in cooking for monounsaturated fats. The best vegan sources of omega 3 are hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and flax seeds.
Make sure that your daily diet includes these healthy fats. Consider taking a 250-500mg daily vegan omega-3 supplement if you don’t eat many vegan omega-3 food sources.
Eat more antioxidants
Research has shown that vegans that consume high quantities of fruits and vegetables often have lower inflammatory markers (such as C-reactive protein) when compared to meat-eaters.
To reduce inflammation, eat lots of colorful fruits and veggies. These are rich in antioxidants that neutralize pro-inflammatory compounds in the body.
Examples of excellent antioxidant sources include onions, garlic, dark leafy greens, berries, carrots, green tea, and bell pepper.
Feed your gut bacteria
Your gut plays a huge role in modulating immunity and inflammation!
If you want to fight chronic inflammation, you need to keep your gut bacteria happy. A good quality probiotic can certainly help, but really, you need to feed your gut bacteria dietary fiber.
Beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are great sources of fiber. In fact, the more emphasis you place on whole foods, the more fiber your diet will provide.
Anti-inflammatory vegan meal plan
It is difficult to create a one-size-fits-all anti-inflammatory vegan meal plan because the best nutrition advice is individualized.
If you’re feeling ready to take the next step, see a registered dietitian for a customized plan.
Nonetheless, here are some general anti inflammatory vegan meal planning tips and foods to eat often on a vegan diet for inflammation:
Aim for 4-5 servings per day of veggies minimum. Vegetables are rich in carotenoids and flavonoids with both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Go for a wide range of colors, eat them raw and cooked, and choose organic when possible.
Aim for 3-4 servings per day. Like their veggie counterparts, fruits are also rich in flavonoids and carotenoids.
Berries, apples, pears, peaches, and oranges are all lower glycemic index than most tropical fruits. Keep in mind that frozen is just as good as fresh!
Beans & legumes
Aim for 1/2 -1 cup of beans of legumes per day. Beans are rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium, protein, and fiber.
Brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat groats, quinoa, rolled oats, and barley are just a few examples of whole grains.
Whole grains digest slowly, reducing the frequency of blood sugar spikes. They are also packed with fiber, which your gut bacteria love.
For cooking, use extra-virgin olive oil. Eat nuts, avocados, and seeds often. Choose vegan sources of omega-3.
Whole soy foods
Aim for 1-2 servings per day. Whole soy foods have isoflavones which have powerful antioxidant activity. Tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soy milk are great options.
Drinking high-quality tea (white, green, or oolong) daily has been shown to reduce inflammation. This is because tea contains catechins, anti-inflammatory compounds.
The anti-inflammatory diet for the vegan athlete
Most exercise results in an acute immune response, which is beneficial for improving strength and performance. We get stronger from exercise because the body repairs itself and makes itself more resilient after each workout.
However, without adequate rest and proper nutrition, regular intense exercise can result in chronic inflammation.
Choosing to eat a vegan anti inflammatory diet as an athlete can help heal inflammation, and assist in preventing it altogether. Even for those who are healthy and fit, inflammation is always something to keep an eye on.
For more individualized sports nutrition support, see a specialized registered dietitian.
What is the best vegan anti-inflammatory diet?
A plant-based diet is a healthy way to combat chronic inflammation and help you feel your best.
The vegan diet is great for inflammation because by passing on the meat, you get the added benefit of extra fiber and phytochemicals from plant proteins like tofu, beans and lentils, and tempeh.
Along with colorful fruits and vegetables, healthy fats such as avocado, nuts and olive oil, and plenty of whole grains, the plant based diet has powerful anti-inflammatory effects.