Benefits Of An Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Healthier aging
- Improve joint and muscle comfort
- Increased energy
- Improved immune function
- Improved nervous system function
- Improved digestive function
- Faster tissue healing
- Help prevent many age-related diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, and inflammatory diseases:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS)
- Coronary heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
The food choices that we make determine whether we are in a pro-inflammatory state or an anti-inflammatory state.
Macro-nutrients (Fats, Carbohydrates, Protein)
Try to include carbohydrates, fat and protein with each meal. Optimally, maintain a 3:1 to 2:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. This means that most people will need to eat less carbs and more protein, especially at snack time.
Fats – Fats play a big role in inflammation. They are also the most well known part to the anti-inflammatory diet thanks to the wide spread recommendation of fish oils.
In our last newsletter, I wrote an article on how to balance the fats in your diet. The focus should be on increasing your Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) and decreasing your Omega 6 EFA’s. In general Omega 6’s will increase your inflammation, while Omega 3’s have the opposite effect. You should strive for an Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio of 1:1. Most people eat far more Omega 6’s than Omega 3’s. The Standard American Diet has a ratio of about 30:1.
Omega 3’s (Eat More)
- Flax oil or Flax Meal (ground flax seed) – 1-2 Tbsp / day – you can get fresh flax seeds at Central Market in Mill Creek and grind them up yourself using a coffee grinder. It’s cheaper, and is probably the best source of flax. Use a separate grinder for coffee, or stop drinking coffee.
- Fatty Fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, bluefish) – Due to the potential toxicity of fish (mercury, PCB’s, dioxins) it is not advised to eat fresh fish more than twice a week. For those that need to consume a lot of fish oils, it is better to use a purified fish oil supplement.
- Fish Oil Supplement – Chose a high quality, purified supplement that is certified to be free of heavy metals and other contaminants. Take 1-2grams per day of EPA + DHA, the two active ingredients in fish oils. That usually equals about 2-6 capsules per day with most brands. Liquid forms are also available. In our office, we sell very high quality fish oils.
Small amounts of Omega 3’s are also found in
- Walnuts, cashews, almonds
- Hemp seeds
- Leafy greens
Omega 6’s (Eat Less) – Because Omega 3’s are hard to come by, it is very important to balance your fats by decreasing Omega 6’s.
- Do not eat any products listing partially (or fully) hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening as an ingredient.
- Do not eat foods with any amount of trans fat.
- Do not eat margarine. Use butter, olive oil, or natural butter substitutes such as “Smart Balance”.
- Do not eat fried foods. The oils in the fryers contain bad fats.
- Minimize the use of polyunsaturated oils (safflower, sunflower, corn, sesame, soy). They are susceptible to rancidity so buy them in smaller quantities; protect them from air, light, and heat; and use them up quickly. These are also found in processed and packaged foods, which you should also avoid.
- Never heat oils to the point of smoking. I rarely turn my burners above a 5 or 6 unless I’m boiling water.
- Buy high quality cooking oils. Spectrum Essentials brand offers a wide variety of cooking oils that will suit most needs. Each oil is given a heat rating index to help you chose the right oil for the job. You can get them at Central Market in Mill Creek. For cooking, I use Spectrum Essentials brand organic sunflower oil. I only use olive oil unheated.
Other pro-inflammatory fats (Eat Less)
- Saturated fats – Eat less butter, cheese, cream, unskinned chicken, fatty meats, and products made with coconut or palm oil.
The main goal with carbs is to reduce consumption of high glycemic load (GL) and high glycemic index (GI) foods and replace them with moderate to low GL & GI foods. You can read more about glycemic load & glycemic index on the Internet:
- Eat less bread, white potatoes, crackers, chips, and other snack foods, pastries, sweetened drinks, candy, dessert foods.
- Eat more whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, and other vegetables.
- Eat less refined and processed foods.
- Don’t eat fast food.
- Eat fewer products made with flour of any kind.
- Don’t eat products made with high-fructose corn syrup.
- Cook pasta al dente and eat it in moderation.
When choosing protein foods, look for options that help balance your fat ratio.
- Eat more fish (see above for types/amounts). Fish contain anti-inflammatory Omega 3’s. Wild game is another healthier protein choice (it’s leaner and may have more Omega 3’s than beef, chicken, or pork)
- Eat less poultry and other meats. Animal protein is the biggest source of saturated fats, which are pro-inflammatory.
- Eat more veggie protein: fermented soy foods (tofu, tempeh, miso), beans, lentils, whole grains, seeds (especially flax and hemp) and nuts (especially walnuts, cashews, almonds).
Micronutrients: Vitamins & Minerals
General rule: eat 7 or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day. Aim for a variety of colors; eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. This will ensure that you are getting the phytonutrients you need to protect you against inflammation and environmental stress. Anti-oxidants found in fruits and vegetables inhibit the production of inflammation.
Two phytonutrients of particular importance are anthocyanins (found in red & purple veggies) and carotenoids (found in orange and yellow veggies).
Anthocyanins – This phytonutrient may significantly reduce blood pressure, improve eyesight, protect against cancer, as well as inhibit inflammation.
- Dark leafy greens (Swiss chard, kale and collards)
- Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries – a good option is frozen berries. These often have higher levels of nutrients than their fresh counterparts. I buy mine at Trader Joes and put some in my smoothie every morning.
- Cherries, grapes, pomegranates
- Red cabbage
Carotenoids – Reduce the risk of macular degeneration (the most common cause of vision loss in the elderly), enhance immune function, protect from sunburn, inhibit certain types of cancer, as well as inhibit inflammation.
- Cooked veggies (carrots, pumpkins, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, leafy greens) provide a more available source than raw.
Other Anti-Inflammatory Micronutrients
- Ginger – Make ginger tea – Take 2 inch piece of raw ginger, shave off the skin, & chop into little pieces. Boil some water. Remove from heat, add the ginger pieces, and cover. Let tea steep for 20-30 mins. Strain out the ginger, which you can eat, and drink the tea.
- Dark Chocolate
- White or Green Tea
- If you drink alcohol, make it red wine (pinot noir has highest amount of resveratrol).
Anti-Inflammatory Shopping List
I can get everything I need at two stores: Trader Joes and Central Market in Mill Creek. They offer a lot of healthy options (to balance all of their unhealthy options).
Fruits and Veggies. Heavy on the Veggies!
Trader Joes offers a variety of prepared fresh veggies and bagged salads. I use a lot of them because they’re so darn convenient, though some are not organic.
- Dark leafy greens (Swiss chard, kale and collards)
- Frozen mixed berries – Berry Medley @ Trader Joes
- Pomegranates or juice
- Red cabbage
- Carrots – cooked
- Pumpkins – cooked
- Winter squashes – cooked
- Sweet potatoes – cooked
- Leafy greens – cooked, for carotenoids
- Ginger – 2 inches, for tea (or buy Yogi brand ginger tea at Trader Joes).
Others – in moderation
- Dark Chocolate – Trader Joes has organic dark chocolate bars.
- White or green tea – Trader Joes
- Red wine (pinot noir is best), if you drink alcohol.
- Flax oil or Flax Meal (ground flax seed) – you can get fresh flax seeds at Central Market in Mill Creek & grid your own flax meal.
- Fatty Fish, wild – salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, black cod, bluefish
- Hemp seeds
- Leafy greens
- Smart Balance – as a butter substitute – Trader Joes
- Spectrum Essentials brand cooking oils – Central Market
- Fermented soy foods (tofu, tempeh, miso)
- Whole grains
- Low fat yogurts
- Wild Alaskan Salmon
- Wild game / lean meats
Tips For Making Diet Changes
Set goals. Be very specific. Make them realistic. Set a timeframe (2-3 weeks is a good timeframe to start with). Post them on your bathroom mirror, refrigerator, t.v.
Find someone to hold you accountable – you’ll increase your chances of success if you tell someone about your goals and check in with them on a weekly basis. Try to find someone who wants to set goals with you.
Make it FUN! If you thrive on competition, then challenge someone to make the same diet changes. Reward yourself (hopefully not with food, definitely not with pizza) when you complete a goal.
Start Simple – Start by choosing two foods you need to cut out of your diet and two foods you need to eat more of. Start with a couple of easy ones. Once you start making changes, you can use your momentum to help you tackle the tough ones.
Stay On Purpose – Regularly remind yourself of the benefits of healthy food choices. This will keep you on purpose, and it will make it much easier to put down that fudgsicle and pick up a bowl of blueberries.
Glycemic Load (GL) and Glycemic Index (GI) Of Common American Foods
|LOW GL||All-bran cereal (8,42) Apples (6,38) Carrots (3,47) Chana dal (3,8) Chick peas (8,28) Grapes (8,46) Kidney beans (7,28) Nopal (0,7) Oranges (5,42) Peaches (5,42) Peanuts (1,14) Pears (4,38) Pinto beans (10,39) Red lentils (5,26) Strawberries (1,40) Sweet corn (9,54)||Beets (5,64) Cantaloupe (4,65) Pineapple (7,59) Sucrose (table sugar) (7,68)||Popcorn (8,72) Watermelon (4,72) Whole wheat flour bread (9,71) White wheat flour bread (10,70)|
|MED GL||Apple juice (11,40) Bananas (12,52) Buckwheat (16,54) Fettucine (18,40) Navy beans (12,38) Orange juice (12,50) Parboiled rice (17,47) Pearled barley (11,25) Sourdough wheat bread (15,54)||Life cereal (16,66) New potatoes (12,57) Sweet potatoes (17,61) Wild rice (18,57)||Cheerios (15,74) Shredded wheat (15,75)|
|HI GL||Linguine (23,52) Macaroni (23,47) Spaghetti (20,42)||Couscous (23,65) White rice (23,64)||Baked Russet potatoes (26,85) Cornflakes (21,81)|
GI: low=1-55 mid=56-69 High=70-100 GL: low=1-10 mid=11-19 High=20 or more
- Focus on foods toward the upper left of the table.
- Avoid foods on the bottom of the table (high glycemic load).