The Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

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As a dietitian and food and nutrition journalist, I live and breathe nutrition. It is my job to pore over nutrition studies, travel to nutrition conferences, and talk to scientists in search of strategies to help you live a longer, more vibrant life.

This past year, I released a book, titled The Plant-Powered Diet to encompass the reasons behind the simple advice I often give when asked about the best diet for optimal health.

My advice? Eat more plants. And it seems as though everyone, from internationally renowned health experts to government nutrition policy-makers, to food systems advocates, are beginning to agree on one overarching principle: All of us can benefit from shifting to a plant-based diet.

More: 6 Reasons to Try a Plant-Based Diet

One of the main reasons plant-based diets are so beneficial for our health is their ability to lower chronic inflammation levels in the body that lead to chronic disease.

Just as the phrase "plant-based diet," is the latest buzzword in the field of nutrition, "anti-inflammatory diet" is also making waves.

Interestingly enough, these two diets go hand-in-hand.

You see, inflammation is your body's natural defense response when you have an injury or an assault.

When you get a splinter in your finger, for example, your body has a cascade of biochemical defense responses that take place to reject that splinter. So, acute inflammation—the kind in this type of scenario, is a good thing. Unfortunately, prolonged inflammation is a condition that scientists now widely believe is a root of the chronic killer diseases of our time, including heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and neurodegenerative disease.

According to growing evidence, your diet and lifestyle can either create a pro-inflammatory environment or an anti-inflammatory one. In fact, inflammation may turn out to be one of the main reasons why healthful, plant-based diets promote health, and the Western diet promotes disease.

More: The Pros and Cons of a Vegetarian Diet