Anti-inflammatory eating is seriously trending right now (thanks, Gisele). But as it turns out, there’s plenty of scientific evidence to back it up, too. The first thing to know: There isn’t one specific anti-inflammatory diet. Most anti-inflammatory (AI) plans advise cutting back on refined sugar, red meat and processed foods, and loading up on healthy fats, whole grains and vegetables. Do that and here are seven health benefits that you could experience.
7 Things That Might Happen If You Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
You Might Feel More Energized
An anti-inflammatory diet advises limiting excess sugar and embracing healthy whole grains—two changes that are known to increase energy levels. That’s because sugar gives you a quick jolt followed by an inevitable crash (like how you feel a few hours after that morning croissant and sweetened coffee). But whole grains are absorbed much slower in the body, giving you a prolonged energy release. Try kicking off your morning with one of these overnight oat recipes instead of your usual breakfast order.
You Might Lose Some Weight
While the main goal of an AI eating plan isn’t to shed pounds, many people who try it report weight loss as a common side effect. A five-year study published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology found that people who followed an anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet lost more weight than those who went on a low-fat plan. And according to another study by Tufts University, whole grains could speed up your metabolism—participants with a diet rich in whole grains (like whole-grain bread) lost an average of 100 calories more per day than those eating refined carbohydrates (like white rice). Pasta salad for lunch, anyone?
You May Feel Happier
According to research published in BMC Medicine, the Mediterranean diet could actually boost your mood. In the study, scientists monitored a group of people with depression for 12 weeks as they followed the anti-inflammatory diet, and the majority reported a big improvement of their symptoms. Not too shabby.
You May Have Less Joint Pain
According to the Arthritis Foundation, an anti-inflammatory diet could improve joint health and help lessen some of the painful symptoms of arthritis. “Although there is no diet cure for arthritis, certain foods have been shown to fight inflammation, strengthen bones and boost the immune system,” says the nonprofit. “Adding these foods to your balanced diet may help ease the symptoms of your arthritis.” (Here are seven of the best inflammation-busting foods, according to a nutritionist.)
You May Reduce Your Risk Of Bone Loss
A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that women with diets that are low in inflammatory foods lost less bone density in a six-year period than those that included more inflammatory foods (even though the less inflammatory group had lower bone density to begin with). The study also found that the diet was linked to fewer hip fractures.
You May Slow Down Cognitive Aging
Antioxidant-rich berries are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods around, and data from one long-term study published in Annals of Neurology found that they might delay cognitive aging. Using memory and thinking tests, researchers discovered that a higher intake of berries reduces rates of cognitive decline in elderly women by as much as two and a half years. Berries with the highest levels of flavonoids, such as blueberries and strawberries, had the most benefit, according to researchers. (They’re also the most delicious, in our opinion.)
You May Boost Your Heart Health
So, to recap, the anti-inflammatory Mediterranean diet is pretty damn great for you. But possibly the best benefit of all? It reduces the risk of heart disease—just ask our friends at the Mayo Clinic. Sticking to the diet is likely to reduce your levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, aka the “bad” kind of cholesterol that can build up deposits in your arteries. (Oh, and did we mention wine is on the menu? Pass the Chianti.)