So I started reading. The references links below will give you an idea of the wide variety of views that are out there.
There's a lot of myths. If you want to see most of the myths and the actual scientific response to them, check the food myths link. Almost anything can be considered an anti-inflammatory food by someone, but the actual research doesn't back a lot of it up.
If you type "food and inflammation" into Google, you'll get endless options. You can read through it all if you like. There's been an Inflammatory Factor list made up to describe the inflammatory effect of various foods - but unlike the Glycaemic Index, it doesn't appear to have any stringent research behind it. (I'm open to being corrected on this - but I have looked and not found the actual research behind it.)
So what have I learned? The sites that actually seem to rely on the most solid research encourage the same kind of diet that my Thursday night weight loss group is working on: low in saturated fats, low GI, high fibre, lots of fresh foods.
The other thing to bear in mind is that there is a definite link between weight and inflammation. Excess weight makes inflammatory disorders like lupus worse. (There's also signs that inflammation can contribute to obesity.)
So if you want an anti-inflammatory diet, here's some basic tips, that pretty much all the sites would agree on, without some of the more radical suggestions.
- If you have any food allergies or sensitivities (eg gluten, lactose), avoid the foods that you know make you sick. (If you have persistent reflux or irritable bowel, and haven't ever checked with your doctor, it's a good idea to ask if something like gluten or lactose could be at fault.)
- If you're eating red meat, cut off the fat. Go for pasture-fed red meat, rather than grain fed. Grain fed has fat marbled all through it, that you can't see.
- For poultry, remove the skin.
- Fish, especially oily fish, is good. Just don't ruin it by deep frying, or something gross like that. (Fish oil capsules are also good - although the amount my rheumatologist has me taking should cause me to grow gills.)
- Dairy products are a great source of nutrients of calcium, but also a source of saturated fats, so keep to sensible serves, and opt for lower-fat varieties.
- Beans, peas, lentils - all kinds of legumes or pulses - are very good for you. They're low GI, low fat, high fibre, and full of nutrition.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables are good for you too. Remember that vegetables are colour-coded you want a variety of different coloured vegetables every day.
- Nuts, avocados, seeds, olives, etc are a great source of healthy fats. If you're watching your weight, be careful of serving sizes, because they are very energy dense.
- Go for monounsaturated oils like olive oils instead of saturated fats (usually animal fats) or polyunsaturated oils. Avoid trans-fats.
- Choose whole grains ahead of refined grain products. Pasta is OK but be careful of the company it keeps!
- If you eat food as close as possible to its natural state, you will have the benefit of the fibre, and it will usually be lower GI, with less salt, fat and other nasties added.
- Following on from point 11, foods with numbers listed as ingredients are not really good. I love the explanation I heard my 18 year old son giving to a 10 year old: "You can't eat numbers. Numbers are math, not food. Math is always bad for you."
- Grill, steam, microwave, stir-fry, oven-bake without fat. Don't deep fry your food.
- If weight is an issue with your health - keep your portion sizes sensible, for everything you eat.