The anti-inflammatory food pyramid

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 7 November 2017

Did you know that you can decrease inflammation by changing the food you eat?

Food is not just a source of calories. Think of the food you eat as messages that go directly to your genes.

Research shows that almost every chronic disease, at it's root, is caused by unregulated inflammation. Think heart disease, cancer, auto-immune diseases and even diabetes. Then of course we have more obvious ones like arthritis, eczema, and asthma.

You have the choice to send anti-inflammatory messages to your tissues depending on the foods you choose to eat.

That's right, not only does changing your diet make improvements in all of those disease I listed above, but eating the wrong foods can make those diseases worse quicker. It is like pouring gasoline on the fire.

Check out this anti-inflammatory food pyramid to help you understand which foods are helping you and which food are hindering you when it comes to inflammation.


Base of the pyramid - Leans, Greens, Healthy Fats

  • Leans are lean meats. Think grass-fed beef, pork, wild game, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, and eggs. Greens are green veggies. Think anything leafy like spinach, kale, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, spring mix, watercress + other greens like asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, zucchini or cucumbers. Healthy fats are foods like avocado, grass-fed butter, olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.

Level 2 - Other Veggies, Nuts & Seeds

  • We don't want to forget about other veggies like cauliflower, onions, leeks, squash, beets, carrots, or cabbage, just to name a few. Watch out for too many nightshades though (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, or eggplant) as they can trigger joint pain for some people. Nuts & seeds in smaller quantities can also provide some healthy fats like our omega 3's. Think walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds, pecans, sesame seeds, macadamia nuts, and pistachios. Did I forget about peanuts and cashews on purpose - yes I did! - that's because they are actually legumes.

Level 3 - Fruits & Legumes

  • Notice how you should be eating a lot more veggies than fruit? Fruits have really beneficial things like phytonutrients and fibre but they also have more sugar than veggies. That is why they taste so great! Sugar triggers inflammation so that is why fruits are further up in the pyramid. If you have higher amounts of inflammation stick to low sugar fruits like berries.
  • Legumes include all beans, chickpeas, lentils, cashews, and peanuts. They are further up in the pyramid because they contain lectins that can trigger inflammation. Legumes are best eaten after soaking overnight & then rinsing. If you are really motivated sprouting is an excellent way to improve your digestion of legumes.

Top of the Pyramid - Grains & Dairy

  • Grains & dairy are considered the bad boys of inflammation by many nutritional experts, especially when they are not in their whole, raw form. Think bread, pasta, cereal, muffins, crackers, cookies, wraps, cake, milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and sour cream. Some people will not have success battling inflammation until┬áthese foods have been removed from their diet altogether.
  • Even though I currently do not have any inflammatory diseases, I do have a family history of cancer & heart disease. That is why I keep grains out of my diet on a regular basis and only eat whole, unprocessed, unflavoured yogurt and small amounts cheese occasionally. I also prefer to eat goat cheese or sheep cheese instead of cow's cheese whenever possible.

I want to keep inflammation as low as possible in my body to prevent chronic disease. If you do, too try eating according to this anti-inflammatory food pyramid for 30 days and then evaluate how you feel.

Now I would love to hear from you! What is one change that you could make today that would send positive messages to your genes to reduce inflammation? Please leave a comment below and share this article with anyone in your life who has a chronic disease. I'll be back next week with another edition of Doctor as Teacher Tuesday!

8 Replies to “The anti-inflammatory food pyramid”

Hi Michelle,
Your article on inflammation and the food pyramid is right on point for me. I am currently on a non-gluten, non-dairy, non-sugar and no egg regimen. I never drink coffee or alcohol, so those are given exclusions.
I am wondering if you consider brown rice to be a “bad boy” food. I really need something to fill me up at times and find that brown rice or brown rice crackers satisfy. What is your opinion about these? Do you have other, better alternatives?
Thank you so much!!


Have followed 30 day Hartqig program.
Have reintroduced grains and legumes but am holding off on dairy. Not craving or hungry between meals as long as I am consistent with good fat and protein with veggies.

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

Hi Patricia!
Brown rice is certainly less allergenic and therefore less inflammatory than other grain choices. To reduce rice from becoming an inflammatory trigger I would consider rotating it with other non-gluten grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and millet. Also if lentils agree with you, they could also be a good choice. Rice crackers are still very processed so I would consider them occasional use versus a staple. I will sometimes make my own crackers using almond flour or sunflower seeds as the base so I have some variety.

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

That is great to hear Theresa!

Tammy Little

Hi Michelle
I suffer from headaches do you think that following this anti-inflammatory food pyramid for 30 days will help to reduce the headaches?

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

Absolutely Tammy!

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

It depends on the person Rhonda. For the average person buffalo yogurt is not as inflammatory as other yogurts made out of cow’s milk.

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