Inflammation is the ROOT CAUSE of most chronic illnesses. Those illnesses include Heart Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, thyroid disorders, digestive diseases like Crohn’s and IBS. Not ot mention, the auto-immune diseases like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Fibromyalgia! Inflammation is an important part of the body’s immune response, but chronic, unnecessary inflammation needs to be addressed to truly heal. Here’s the hard truth:
Your diet is responsible for much of the inflammation in your body
This is why my first step in combating malaise, is anti-inflammatory nutrition.
Here’s the good news: controlling that runaway train begins with your plate. And that is an easy place to start! Before we get into specific foods that help decrease inflammation, here’s a list of foods that are scientifically proven to be creating inflammation and should be avoided:
- Processed foods
- Refined sugars
- Chemical food additives
- Vegetable oils
- Trans fats
- Refined carbs
Processed foods, refined sugar, trans fats, etc., have no redeeming qualities and serve no purpose for your body’s functioning. Avoidance is the best course of action. If you are one of my super smart followers I hope you already aren’t eating these things becuase you know how bad they are for you. Hopefyully, you believe in food’s healing capabilities and you understand how detrimental to our health some “foods” can be!
“But Cynthia, which foods can help calm inflammation and help prevent chronic illness?”
I’m glad you asked, there are many!
I like to start by discussing Dr. Andrew Weil’s spin on the old USDA food pyramid. Dr. Weil is the founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Much of his philosophy is built around inflammation’s destructive properties in the body, so he created the anti-inflammatory diet food pyramid!
Very close to a Mediterranean diet, which is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, Dr. Weil’s pyramid is based on an abundance of fruits of vegetables and spotlights the importance of fish, healthy fats and specific grains. You can read his article HERE.
Here are a few of the anti-inflammatory foods groups, many of which you’ll recognize as power/super foods:
Fruits & Vegetables: Literally the foundation of the pyramid—with a recommended 4 servings a day of each—any healthy eating plan relies on an abundance of produce. Anti-inflammatory choices include dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, broccoli and collard greens which contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that protect against cellular damage. Berries are the superstars of the fruit world due to their high concentration of antioxidants.
Whole Grains: Certain whole grains are considered anti-inflammatory because they actually reduce the levels of C-reactive protein in the blood (a marker for inflammation). Choose whole, cracked and sprouted grains. Personally, I eat grain-free as much as possible. Grains and my digestive system do not go together well. I believe this has a lot to do with the generations of genetically modified grains that we have available in the US market. Most of my carbohydrate intake comes from vegetables and fruits.
Healthy Fats: Please don’t be scared of fat. Fat fear is an old dogma that needs to be eradicated. Healthy fats are essential to proper cellular function and vitamin absorption. Healthy fats can be found in nuts, especially walnuts, which are chock-full of omega-3s and antioxidants that help repair damage done by inflammation. Olive oil is a fantastic healthy fat. You want to purchase organic, cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. The MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) in olive oil cool inflammation in the body. Consume MUFAs like a MoFo.
Fatty Fish & Seafood: Eat Omega-3-rich wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel several times a week for their heart-healthy (aka anti-inflammatory) benefits. Not to be confused with Omega-6s. A diet too high in Omega-6s (found in processed foods and vegetable oil) leads to inflammation.
Cooked Asian Mushrooms: Asian mushrooms, especially Shiitake mushrooms, contain substances that boost immunity and discourage inflammation. Add these to your favorite vegetable dishes and become an inflammation buster!
Herbs & Spices: Turmeric in particular is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This deep orange spice popular in Asian cooking contains a powerful compound called Curcumin, the anti-inflammatory effect of which is said to rival that of Motrin and other NSAIDs. Garlic, ginger and cinnamon are other power players in this category.
Supplements: Near the top of the anti-inflammatory pyramid is a category for supplements. If you find it difficult to get the proper amounts of the anti-inflammatory nutrients you need, finding them in high-quality supplements is in order! You can supplement Omega-3s, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, various antioxidants and more.
In any healthy eating plan, including one designed to address inflammation, it’s important to aim for variety. Include as many whole foods as possible and always eat an abundance of fruits and veggies. I also must add my signature caveat:
Bio-Individuality is Key
While all of the foods listed above are technically anti-inflammatory, if you have leaky gut and haven’t been tested for food sensitivity, you might be experiencing inflammation even from something as sublime as an avocado. I urge you to do your own personal research, keep a food diary and try an elimination diet if you have symptoms of chronic inflammation that don’t seem to be subsiding. I believe in substantial testing and use the MRT blood test on my clients to determine food sensitivity.
I hope you have found this helpful. Please believe me, chronic inflammation is at the root of our national health crisis and it can be changed by taking charge of what we eat. Drop a comment below and let’s discuss this topic!
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