If you know for certain that you’re suffering from chronic inflammation or even if you suspect that you are, the first step in starting to control that inflammation is through your diet. Nutrition research has shown us that certain foods will increase the number of inflammatory cytokines circulating in your blood, while other foods will lower those same cytokines. This is powerful information.
With every bite of food you put in your body you have the power to regulate the inflammatory process!
Isn’t that amazing?! You put in enough of the good stuff (read….anti-inflammatory foods) and your body will have what it needs to lower inflammation and by consequence start resolving what’s underlying your hard-to-treat symptoms!! Now the flip side of this is also true and admittedly a bit harder. Besides putting in more of the good stuff, you also need to decrease the amount of the bad stuff (read……inflammation inducing foods) you put in your body. And this step also gets a bit more complicated when you consider that for some people even foods that would otherwise be healthy and good for you may be causing irritation and inflammation. We will explore that conundrum in an upcoming post. Let’s start with the good stuff. Here are the exact foods you need to fill your body with; ideally every day!
Colorful Plant Foods
Plants are full of good chemicals that actually help to lower inflammatory cytokines in your body. These chemicals live in the pigment of plants. So…..the more colorful your diet, the more you’re taking advantage of these amazing chemicals. Make it a goal to get something from every color of the rainbow every day; red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, even white/brown. They’re all good!! Any plant form works….veggies, fruit, beans, lentils, and grains.
Your next strongest ally comes in the form of fat. Healthy fats will work towards regulating your body’s inflammatory process. Don’t be afraid of fat. It goes a long way to keep you healthy and thriving. Here are my favorites……avocado, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and nut butters, seeds, ghee, and grass-fed butter.
Good Quality Proteins
Choosing high quality protein sources will also make a difference in the level of inflammation in your body. Commercially raised animal proteins, especially processed meats, will trigger inflammatory pathways. Cooking meat at very high temperatures will also cause inflammation in your body. Choose organic and pasture-raised animal proteins whenever possible, cook at lower heat, and rotate with inflammation lowering proteins like fatty fish and legumes (beans & lentils).
Low Glycemic Starches
High glycemic, highly refined carbohydrates, and added sugars are the most common cause of inflammation. Work towards substituting refined carbs with high fiber, low glycemic starches like wild rice, quinoa, barley, millet, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are the secret weapon in the kitchen. Truly! Their ability to lower inflammation and prevent disease are unparalleled. And unfortunately many people do not utilize their magic. The remedy is simple. Start adding herbs and spices to your food. They’re all great but the more colorful the spice the more powerful the medicine. My favorites include garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, chili pepper, paprika, cumin, rosemary, and fennel. But honestly just start with whichever ones you like. What matters most is that you start getting them in; ideally at every meal.
What to Avoid
There are some foods that will exacerbate your inflammatory symptoms and likely cause a flare-up. The following foods should be limited or avoided completely depending on how sensitive your system is.
- High Glycemic Starches: white bread, white rice, white pasta, crackers, chips, baked goods, etc.
- Sweets: candy, sodas, other sweetened beverages, cookies, cakes, etc.
- Harmful Fats: hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, fried foods, margarine, vegetable oils (corn, soy, sunflower), conventional animal and dairy foods
- Processed Meats: hot dogs, salami, charred meats, bologna, smoked meats
- Food Processing Chemicals: artificial additives, preservatives, colors, sweeteners, pesticides/herbicide
In addition to food choices, there are some lifestyle components that will further increase the level of inflammation in your body. Here are the most common culprits.
- Lack of Sleep
- In-activity OR Over-activity
- Cigarette Smoking
- Pollution &/or chronic exposure to Toxic Substances
Take Home Message
Tackling inflammation definitely requires a holistic approach. My first recommendation is to take inventory of all the potential culprits (food and otherwise) currently in your life that could be contributing to your chronic inflammation. The next step is to come up with a game plan of how you can start minimizing the factors that are adding to your inflammation, while bringing in more of the foods that will help you lower it. If you’re not already, become a member of The Rustic Tribe. That way you won’t miss out on any new posts, recipes, strategies, or just plain inspiration! (this article was first published on 7/15/17)