Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to issues like chronic pain, lupus, or other age-related illnesses. Beyond exercise and other healthy habits, incorporating anti-inflammatory recipes into your diet can help you manage, prevent, or reverse the effects of inflammation. We’ve gathered some of our favorite anti-inflammatory dinner recipes here. Make sure to hit the comments to share your favorites too!
Why is managing inflammation so important?
Inflammation in response to an injury can protect your body. Your body sends blood to the site of injury, creating swelling that protects from further injury. In due course and with treatment, this swelling will subside as the injury heals, and the body goes back to functioning as normal.
Chronic inflammation, however, has a much different effect on your body. With chronic inflammation, the body continues to react as if there is an injury present. When the body is taxed for one reason or another, cells send distress signals (and inflammatory response) until the cause is removed. If the cause is not removed (i.e., injury healed) then cells continue to alert the immune system that there is trouble.
With chronic inflammation, your body never gets a chance to rest and re-set. The immune system is constantly on guard, fighting, and the consequences of this can be dire.
Some of these consequences include:
- Autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Cardiovascular disease
- Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders
- Age-related illness
- Chronic pain
The good news is that inflammation and its damage is largely reversible with some simple changes. An anti-inflammatory diet, backed by these yummy anti-inflammatory dinner recipes or these anti-inflammatory smoothies from an earlier post, is a great place to start. Together, they can combat the consequences of inflammation in the body.
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet follows some simple principles:
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Minimize “bad” fats (saturated and trans fats)
- Include omega-3 fatty acids
- Sharply decrease or eliminate refined flours and sugars
- Increase consumption of whole grains
- Avoid processed foods
- Add spice to combat inflammation
This diet is very similar to a Mediterranean diet that features plenty of olive oil, wild-caught seafood, and very few refined sugars and flours. Dr. Andrew Weil is one of the modern-day proponents of the anti-inflammatory diet. In the early 1970s, Dr. Weil wrote a book called The Natural Mind. This book began his life-long exploration into integrated medicine and natural ways of helping the body to heal itself.
Today, Dr. Weil is director of the Center for Integrative Medicine of the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. His focus is on holistic care for not only optimal health but also to treat disease. To that end, Dr. Weil created an anti-inflammatory diet food pyramid.
This food pyramid is similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) food pyramid (replaced with a plate in 2011) but with some very fundamental differences. It focuses on whole foods versus derivatives. For example, whole fruit instead of fruit juice, whole grains vs. refined grains, and full fat vs. low fat foods. There are reasons for this. Whole grains—like brown rice and whole wheat flour— are infinitely better for the body than refined grains such as white rice and highly processed white flour. Further, new research indicates that full-fat dairy products are not a threat to heart health and convey unique benefits.
The best anti-inflammatory dinner recipes
If you’re ready to get started with an anti-inflammatory diet, dinner is a great place to start. Many healthy recipes combine fresh vegetables with heart-healthy whole grains and fats to create lots of yummy options. We’ve included a variety of recipes. Most are easy to make, with few ingredients or active prep time. Again, if you have any other recipes you love, make sure to share them in the comments! (And Pin the following image now so you can refer back to these recipes later.)
1. One-pan roasted chicken with turmeric
Turmeric may have some major anti-inflammatory powers. The Arthritis Foundation explains: “Several recent studies show that turmeric/curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and modifies immune system responses.” It’s great to cook with and adds a beautiful color to any dish. We especially love this recipe from PureWow’s list: one-pan roasted chicken with turmeric and fennel. Find the recipe here.
2. Crockpot bean bolognese
What could be better than being able to put a cozy meal on the table that requires six ingredients and five minutes of prep time? Not much! Serve with whole-grain pasta or brown rice, along with a green salad. Find the recipe here.
3. Baked turkey meatballs
Meatballs are simple to prepare, versatile to serve, and people love them. You can serve them as-is or throw them into soup for a comforting dinner. This recipe makes a big batch, so feel free to freeze a portion to use at a later date too. Find the recipe here.
4. Salmon and cauliflower rice bowl
5. White bean and chicken chili with winter veggies
This recipe uses some of the best vegetables that winter has to offer: leeks, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and beans. It’s extremely forgiving however, so feel free to include additional vegetables (butternut squash would be an excellent choice!) or swap an ingredient out for another favorite. Make it vegetarian by removing the chicken and using vegetable stock. Find the recipe here.
6. Harissa marinated chicken tenders
You can eat the tenders as is, in whole-grain sandwiches, or chop them up to add to salads throughout the week. Why not up the ante though by marinating the chicken in yogurt – which helps to tenderize the meat – and spicy harissa, a Middle Eastern chili paste. Find the recipe here.
7. Baked buffalo cauliflower
In this recipe, cauliflower is chopped into bite-size pieces and battered in a mixture of banana flour and water before it gets baked in the oven with a buttery hot sauce. Banana flour is a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour. The flour has been proven to be a good source of resistant starch, which eases the passage of food through the digestive system, and could help to prevent diabetes and certain forms of cancer. Find the recipe here.
8. Ground turkey sweet potato stuffed peppers
These have just a handful of ingredients and can be frozen individually for easy dinners. Best yet, they taste great! Lean turkey is complemented by bell peppers and soothing sweet potatoes. Find the recipe here.
9. Polenta with wild mushroom bolognese
Cheesy polenta serves as the base to this wild mushroom Bolognese sauce. The wild mushrooms produce immune-boosting benefits, while potentially aiding in weight loss. Because most of the vegetables are pulsed in a food processor, grinding them into small pieces, this is a great way to incorporate extra healthful ingredients into a meal, especially for the non-veggie-lovers in the crowd! Find the recipe here.
10. Spiced lentil soup
Spoon University notes that this recipe is “full of every healthy spice you can imagine: cinnamon, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and cumin.” It’s a delicious soup from one of the masters of vegan cooking: Angela at Oh She Glows. Find the recipe here.
11. Chinese chicken salad recipe
This makes a substantial portion so feel free to whip it up for your next summer picnic, or prep it on a Sunday and enjoy the leftovers yourself all week long. The flavors here make a big impact too, with a nutty ginger dressing atop a mix of cilantro and mint leaves. Find the recipe here.
12. Sweet potato and crispy kale tostadas
One of the most important parts of anti-inflammatory dinner recipes is to incorporate as many colorful fruits and vegetables on your plate as possible. Orange vegetables like sweet potatoes and dark leafy greens like kale are particularly beneficial. There’s a high vitamin content contained in each. This sweet potato and crispy kale tostadas recipe just so happens to include both! Find the recipe here.
13. 30-minute saag paneer
This easy saag paneer was featured on Eating Well’s list of anti-inflammatory dinner recipes. With so-healthy spinach, combined with paneer cheese, fresh ginger, and turmeric, it’s a wholesome and yummy dinner you can get on your table in less than 30 minutes. Pair it with whole brown rice. Find the recipe here.
14. Spaghetti squash Alfredo
Do you want to be healthier, without sacrificing decadent and rich dishes? Then try this lighter recipe for Alfredo sauce, with spaghetti squash, in place of traditional fettuccine! Find the recipe here.
15. Homemade fried rice
It can be tempting to reach for the nearest takeout menu, when hunger hits hard. Making your go-to restaurant dishes at home, though, can be just as simple as picking up the phone! This version of fried rice comes together in a matter of minutes, and aids in reducing inflammation. Find the recipe here.
16. Baked tilapia with pecan rosemary topping
We love the simplicity of this dish, as well as how much you can customize it. Healthline notes: “What’s great about this recipe is that it’s quick enough for a weeknight dinner with the family, but can also be served as a fancier dish. If avoiding gluten, choose gluten-free breadcrumbs for this recipe. If you’re not a tilapia eater, trout or cod would work well in this recipe.” Find the recipe here.
17. Sweet potato and chickpea stew
In addition to being anti-inflammatory, both carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A and C. Both also possess a natural sugariness that enhances the flavor in this sweet potato and chickpea stew recipe. Add in a sprinkle of anti-inflammatory turmeric and spices like cumin and paprika to balance the sweetness with their warmth. Find the recipe here.
18. One-pot shrimp jambalaya lentil bowls
Get your flavor in with this recipe from Cotter Crunch. Succulent shrimp and okra make a warm fulfilling meal for winter months. Can’t handle the spice? Add less than the recipe calls for. This is an easy meal that comes together effortlessly. Find the recipe here.
19. Green edamame and spinach hummus pesto
Smooth like hummus, but with the rich taste of pesto. This recipe from One Green Planet lets you dig into some yummy (whole-grain!) pasta while still getting in a great anti-inflammatory meal. Pair with a green salad. Find the recipe here.
20. Tofu and winter squash lasagna
Get another serving of yummy pasta in with this healthy recipe. It’s great for vegans, as the ricotta is made from tofu. Use whole grain noodles if you can find them, or long strips of zucchini or yellow squash instead as the layers. Find the recipe here.
How to create your own anti-inflammatory dinner recipes
Designing a menu that’s focused around anti-inflammatory foods isn’t difficult. Take these basics to heart, and you’ll benefit from the effects every night of the year.
Switch to whole-grains
If you are not already eating whole-grain pastas and bread, this is the easiest place to start. It doesn’t require you to make any changes, really, except to look for a different type of pasta.
Increase fruit and vegetable intake
The anti-inflammatory diet has at the base of the pyramid a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Start incorporating these into every meal. A piece of fruit in the morning, handful of carrots with lunch, a salad for dinner: these things add up.
Switch up the fat
The anti-inflammatory diet does not eliminate fat but changes the type of fat it recommends. People in the U.S. are chronically deficient in omega-3 fatty acids which protect the heart and aid metabolism. Switch to olive oil and add avocado to your salad or sandwich.
Minimize (with an eye to eliminating) processed foods and sugars
The one mainstay of many healthy diets, including the anti-inflammatory diet, is the need to eliminate sugar and processed foods. Sugar is highly inflammatory to the body and carries with it many properties of addiction. This last step may take some time, but try to incorporate more whole, fresh foods as you remove sugars and processed food from your diet. The health benefits of this last step will be worth the struggle.
As always, talk with your doctor before making any changes to your diet. If you are not ready to make the change completely, how can you incorporate some of the principles of the anti-inflammatory diet into your meals? And, what are your favorite anti-inflammatory dinner recipes? To find all of our pain-friendly recipes, click here!
If you need help managing a chronic pain or inflammatory condition, a pain doctor can help. You can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or looking for one in your area by using the tips here: https://paindoctor.com/pain-management-doctors/.