​By Susan Haines RD, Registered Dietitian, Princess Margaret

Inflammation is a helpful part of healing when it is a short-term response to an infection or injury. When inflammation in the body is an ongoing response to physical stress, it can be harmful. Chronic inflammation has been linked to an increased risk of developing obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and certain types of cancer.


How Diet Can Increase Inflammation

The foods we eat can put physical stress on our bodies and increase inflammation. Inflammation happens when our bodies are exposed to processed ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, refined sugar and refined grains on a continual basis. Processed ingredients are common in our Western style diet.

Many processed foods are made with poor quality fats such as soybean, corn and sunflower oils, which are high in omega-6 fats. When we eat too much omega-6 fat, it creates an imbalance in nutrients in our bodies that promotes inflammation.

Eating large portions of food also puts more stress on our bodies.


How Diet Can Decrease Inflammation

The good news is that what we eat can also reduce inflammation. Choosing to follow a Mediterranean diet is one way to do this.

The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating plant foods, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. The main fat used in Mediterranean cooking is olive oil, which does not increase inflammation. Fish is a major protein source. Fish provides beneficial omega-3 fats, which are low in the typical Western diet. Because it contains more whole, fresh foods and uses herbs for flavour, this diet is higher in fibre and lower in salt.


How to Make More Mediterranean Choices

Instead of this:Try this:Benefits:
¾ cup sugary, refined breakfast cereal with milk¾ cup plain Greek yogurt with berries and a teaspoon of honey
  • More protein
  • Less refined flour and sugar
1 sandwich on white bread with processed meat, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato2-2½ cups salad with bulgur, chopped spinach, chick peas, feta, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, oregano and lemon
  • Healthier fat
  • More fibre
  • Less refined flour
Potato chips and ½ cup sour cream-based dipVeggie sticks with ½ cup dip made of plain Greek yogurt, minced garlic, chives and dill
  • More protein
  • Less calories, saturated fat and salt
Medium French fries with gravy1 cup chickpeas roasted with olive oil and pinch of salt
  • More protein and fibre
  • Healthier fat
  • Less calories and salt
Store-bought salad dressingHomemade olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
  • Healthier fat
  • Less salt
Large portion cooked spaghetti (2 cups) and bottled meat sauceModerate portion cooked spaghetti (1 cup) tossed with olive oil and grilled vegetables, topped with sliced chicken breast
  • More fibre and vitamins
  • Less calories, saturated fat and salt
Grilled steak with 2 cups buttery mashed potatoGrilled salmon with olive oil, lemon and parsley on 1 cup brown rice
  • Healthier fat
  • More fibre
  • Less calories and saturated fat
Last reviewed: 6/20/2022
Last modified: 6/21/2022 12:59 PM