Inflammation has become a bit of a buzzword these days.
Everything causes inflammation, and inflammation causes everything.
Or at least, that's what it can seem like while you're wading through information online. Knowing where to start can seem pretty dizzying.
But let's cut through the noise. Here are two truths about inflammation:
- Keto offers anti-inflammatory benefits.
- There are some small but meaningful tweaks you can make to help improve the anti-inflammatory potential of the meals you eat.
The easiest way to do this is to include more Keto-friendly anti-inflammatory foods in your diet. Below, we review Keto and inflammation and share our top 20 Keto-friendly anti-inflammatory foods.
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is an immune response that helps your body adapt to stress and heal from wounds, injuries, or illnesses.
Although it's got a bad reputation these days, inflammation is a very vital function of the body, and it plays an important role in maintaining good health. [*]
The problem is when the inflammatory process — which is supposed to be short-term — becomes a chronic, long-term state that your body is in.
This can lead to a number of health issues.
Inflammatory Health Conditions
Inflammatory health conditions are chronic conditions related to being in a state of long-term inflammation.
Researchers have linked a number of conditions to chronic inflammation, including[*]:
- Being overweight and obesity
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Cognitive decline
- Autoimmune conditions
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
How Does Diet Affect Inflammation?
Diet is one of the key controllable lifestyle factors that can have a drastic impact on inflammation.
Unfortunately, the standard American/Western diet — which is high in refined oils, added sugars, and ultra-processed, hyper-palatable food — is powerfully pro-inflammatory.[*][*][*]
The advent of these foods becoming a primary part of the Western diet tracks almost perfectly with the exponentially climbing rates of chronic, inflammatory diseases.
Additionally, researchers have found that removing these foods from the diet may help reduce inflammation and improve metabolic health.[*]
So, what does an anti-inflammatory diet look like?
Here are a few key factors that anti-inflammatory diets, regardless of their macro breakdown, have in common:
- High-quality foods: Organic produce and ingredients and meats raised and harvested humanely (such as grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and pork, or wild-caught fish) may be less inflammatory than their conventional counterparts. Organic foods have fewer pesticide residues, and in many cases, humanely raised or harvested meats have a more favorable nutrient profile.[*][*][*][*]
- Nutrient density: Anti-inflammatory diets also contain foods rich in nutrients and phytochemicals (plant compounds). These foods include healthy fats and protein sources, a diverse assortment of herbs and spices, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in varying colors.
- Minimal processing: Finally, because ultra-processed foods appear to be so highly inflammatory, another thing that most anti-inflammatory diets have in common is that they are built around minimally processed foods and homemade meals.
Is Keto Anti-Inflammatory?
Ketogenic diets have been shown in research to reduce inflammation.[*][*][*]
This may be due to ketosis, the metabolic state your body enters when you restrict carbs. Ketosis results in a number of biochemical changes that may help reduce inflammation.
Still, if you’re not getting the health results from Keto that you’re hoping for, you may want to consider making a few tweaks.
With Keto’s explosive popularity, there are a variety of highly-processed foods available that are technically Keto. However, these foods are low in quality, with suboptimal nutrient profiles and highly-processed ingredients. If your meals are built around these foods, you may not experience the anti-inflammatory benefits of Keto.
Fortunately, there are some ways you can start to improve your diet quality to reap more anti-inflammatory benefits.
Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Keto
Interested in making your Keto lifestyle more anti-inflammatory? Here are some of our favorite anti-inflammatory foods to focus on.
- Grass-fed beef: Grass-fed beef is higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats than conventionally-farmed, grain-fed beef.[*]
- Salmon: Salmon is a naturally good source of omega-3 fats, which offer anti-inflammatory, brain health, and heart health benefits.[*]
- Walnuts: Walnuts may help to decrease brain inflammation, which could slow cognitive decline and keep your brain sharper for longer.[*]
- Eggs: According to one study, adding eggs to a plant-based diet offered protection against inflammation and other factors related to metabolic syndrome.[*]
- Strawberries: Strawberries contain antioxidant anthocyanins, which may help to reduce inflammation related to obesity.[*]
- Coconut oil: Compared to highly refined oils that are rich in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats, like soybean oil or corn oil, coconut oil (especially cold-pressed coconut oil) may be a less inflammatory option.[*]
- Olive oil: Olive oil is a mainstay of the Mediterranean Diet thanks to its anti-inflammatory oleic acid content.[*]
- Broccoli: Broccoli contains a unique compound called sulforaphane, which may help with blood sugar control, oxidative stress, and inflammation.[*]
- Flax seeds: Flax seeds are rich in fiber and a good plant-based source of omega-3 fat. They may help protect against inflammatory conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.[*]
- Raspberries: Like strawberries, raspberries are a rich source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants called anthocyanins.[*]
- Avocado: In one small study, researchers found that consuming one avocado a day was linked to improved heart health and markers of oxidative stress[*].
- Green tea: Green tea contains anti-inflammatory compounds called catechins, in particular, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) — which may be helpful for some inflammatory conditions.[*]
- Turmeric: Turmeric is a bright yellow spice that’s rich in anti-inflammatory curcuminoids, which can act as a natural pain reliever for joint pain and menstrual cramps.[*][*]
- Ginger: Ginger may offer health benefits for inflammation, immune health, and gastrointestinal health — making it a great addition to your everyday meals.[*]
- Garlic: Likewise, garlic may be excellent for immune health, heart health, and metabolic health thanks to its anti-inflammatory organosulfur compounds.[*]
- Kale: As a relative of broccoli, kale contains anti-inflammatory sulforaphane compounds.[*]
- Peppers: Hot and sweet peppers are rich sources of vitamin C, which plays a key role in regulating the immune system and inflammation.[*]
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms contain a huge variety of nutrients and phytochemicals (plant compounds) that may help to reduce inflammation and boost overall health.[*]
- Spinach: Spinach and other dark leafy green vegetables are rich in anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. They may be easier to absorb if you cook the greens and eat them with some fat.[*]
- Fermented cabbage: Fermented cabbages, like kimchi or sauerkraut, are a valuable source of probiotics — live, beneficial bacteria that can help improve the health of your gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome can help to balance the body’s inflammatory response.[*]
Interested in eating more anti-inflammatory foods?
Remember that food quality, nutrient density, and minimal processing matters.
Keto is a great start thanks to the anti-inflammatory action of ketosis.
Still, if you’re not seeing the benefits you want from Keto, it may be time to focus more on an eating pattern that includes low-carb, minimally processed, and nutrient-rich foods.