At the get-go, let me say that when I say the word “diet”, I don’t mean diet in the Atkins/juice/paleo/1500 calorie/grapefruit/macrobiotic sense of the word. You know I hate diets. When I talk about the anti-inflammatory diet, I’m referring foods that will act as a shield against the environmental, physical, and emotional stressors that bombard our body throughout the day.
What is inflammation& why is it a big deal?
Acute inflammation is actually a really important healing process in the body. When injured, inflammation is the hero that fights off foreign invaders. Studying inflammation reveals it to be mind-boggling in it’s complexity and value. While acute inflammation is great for fighting infections, when our sugary and over processed food choices put stress on our bodies, and these choices are habitual , that constant stress leads to chronic inflammation- and that is a problem.
We can tell when inflammation is high in the body by measuring blood’s cytokines (such as interleukin-1, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and transforming factor beta) and acute phase respondents (such as C-reactive protein, serum amyloid, A, transferrin and albumin). Diabetes, atherosclerosis, and several cancers have all been linked to high levels of a varying number of these compounds, and thus to inflammation.
We will first look at what foods increase inflammation and then see what we can replace them with to calm inflammation.
Pro-Inflammatory foods to reduce:
- Trans fats – found in hydrogenated oils (margarines, Crisco, etc)
- Sugary foods – whether that is cane sugar, honey, or coconut crystals
- Fried foods – the corn and soy oils used to fry are high in omega-6 fats which are pro-inflammatory
- Saturated fats – keep meat and dairy portions small
- Being overweight- not a food, but it is important to say: fat is not just a layer of insulation. It is a metabolically active and dangerous. If your waistline is creeping up, this problem goes beyond having to go jeans shopping. Fat cells produce pro-inflammatory chemicals that, if left unchecked, can wreak havoc on your body
Anti-Inflammatory foods in increase:
- High antioxidant foods – Fruits and vegetables are your besties here. HALF of what you are eating should be from these categories.
- High fiber foods- legumes, intact and whole graines, fruits and veggies
- Mono unsaturated fats – such as almonds, olives, and the instagram-famous avocado
- Omega-3 fats – these are probably the most well known inflammation-fighters. You can find them in rapeseed oil, walnuts, nuts, salmon, herring, anchovies and mackerel
- Spices: turmeric, garlic, ginger, chiles – Any one up for Indian tonight?
The best way to follow the anti-inflammatory diet all goes back to what I always declare on my soapbox. If you read that post and follow those tips, you won’t even have to remember the lists above- it’ll all fall into place.