Anti-inflammatory diets are worth serious attention and not just because they sound very sensible. Simply, they encourage a back to grass roots choice of foods based on almost all plant foods including plant proteins, natural fats, nuts and seeds, oily fish, wholegrains and pulses. In addition, animal foods are still in but they don’t dominate and they are definitely not processed.
Inflammation is a major underlying cause of autoimmune conditions, digestive issues, irritable bowel, allergy, skin problems, PCOS, polyps, arthritis, and reoccurring muscle and joint injuries as well as life changing cardiovascular issues, some cancers and Alzheimer’s.
I tend not to promote any one diet and see many benefits in most, however, adhering to a diet that is predominantly ‘anti-inflammatory’ is certainly something I encourage everyone to do as much as they can, principally because doing so has powerful benefits on our health. Though it may not have occurred to you before, inflammation is an underlying factor in almost all health issues and diseases.
We are more aware of localized inflammatory responses such as a bruise or swelling as a reaction to impact and it tends to have negative connotations. It is in fact an important response by the body to heal and protect us from infections. Usually it is a controlled reaction but when it becomes a systemic response to something non-localised such as toxicity, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, stress, poor oxidative capacity, problem start by causing too much inflammation, leading to a number of undesirable health issues. A C-reactive protein (CRP) routine blood test indicates systemic inflammation but cannot pin point the area.
The benefits of eating an anti-inflammatory diet
You may wonder why relaxation and a good night’s sleep are recommended by your Nutritionist. Since inflammatory/anti-inflammatory reactions occur throughout the body, there can be a multitude of benefits to primarily eating the right kids of foods. Improved digestion, immunity, sleep, reduced tendency for allergies and inflammation (in muscles and joints), improved hormonal balance, less aches and pains, stronger nails and hair are all commonly reported. Increased inflammation is often at the heart of most skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, hives and rosacea.
Anti-inflammatory foods to pack in:
These tend to be foods that are least interfered with and mostly of plant origin. However, protein foods and certain fats also come into this group by protecting the body against inflammatory damage. After all, omega 3 fatty acids are a serious partner and proteins are responsible for growth and repair.
- Anything that contains omega 3 – found in fresh oily fish such as mackerel, tuna, salmon, anchovies and sardines as well as flaxseeds, walnuts, omega 3 rich egg yolks and fortified foods.
- Raw nuts and seeds – almonds, Brazil’s, hazelnuts, pumpkin, sunflower.
- Cold pressed oils – Extra virgin olive, coconut, hemp, avocado, walnut.
- Fresh veg of all kinds and colours.
- Fruits – especially berries, and citrus especially lemon and lime.
- Wholegrains and legumes – brown rice, quinoa and beans.
- Spices – turmeric, fresh and dried ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, nutmeg.
- Herbal teas.
Pro-inflammatory foods to watch out for:
Processed foods typically promote inflammation in many ways. They are part of a modern world but should be classified as an occasional food and not an everyday or every week food.
- Fatty cuts of meat – especially processed deli meats such as sausages, bacon and mortadella. Fatty red meat like pork belly, steak and lamb should be limited to 2/week, less if you have an inflammatory condition and keep the portion size down to a small hand size.
- Takeaways, and convenience foods – especially when fried or processed
- Deep frying anything causes changes in healthy fats to become inflammatory especially omega 6 which are the common oils even olive oil. The culprit is arachidonic acid which is proinflammatory.
- High fat dairy – butter, cream, and cheese also increases inflammation and margarine is even worse.
- Processed gluten especially genetically modified is poorly digested and a very common inflammatory trigger.
- Refined sugar, Agave and artificial sweeteners.
- Refined processed carbohydrates and for some, grains as they all contain prolamines which is the umbrella that gluten falls under.
- Sodas mostly sweetened with fructose corn syrup
Supplements can be very helpful for reducing inflammation:
- Superfoods such as spirulina, acai, cacao, chlorella are alkalising, nutrient dense and rich in polyphenol and flavonol compounds to reduce inflammation and protect from oxidative stress. Lemon is also a good everyday food.
- Omega-3 are a great addition to the diet and my everyday pick is Cod Liver Oil pearls.
- Turmeric can be taken as a supplement and is much more potent than eating the dried spice. Natural turmeric is also beneficial if available.
- Vitamin D is so widely used in the body that it is important to know your status and keep it topped up. Especially if you don’t eat oily fish regularly and stay out of the midday sun.