The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
What is Inflammation?
Inflammation is one of the natural ways that the body protects and heals itself. It involves complex chemical reactions that occur in response to infection and injury, as blood flow increases to the areas in need of healing. This sometimes results in pain, redness and swelling, our body’s warning sign that something is wrong. Unfortunately, as with anything in life, too much of a good thing can cause other issues.
Inflammation is Like Our Body's Fire
Inflammation is often compared to a fire, in that a controlled amount keeps us warm, healthy and protected.1 When there is too much fire or a consistent fire, things can get out of control, causing damage over time. We now understand that even low levels of inflammation experienced over long periods of time can lead to various health issues including chronic fatigue, pain, digestive issues and serious diseases like Alzheimer’s, just to name a few. The main factors that lead to inflammation include poor diet, stress, unaddressed food sensitivities, toxins, cigarette smoke, chronic dehydration, infrequent bowel movements (anything less than once a day), gut imbalances and a lack of exercise.
Controlling Inflammation Through Diet
It is estimated that 60% of chronic diseases can be prevented through our daily diet choices.2 Eating whole, nutrient dense foods reduces the occurrence of inflammation and can help bring down already present inflammation in the body. Understand that it’s ok to follow an 80/20 rule of thumb: 80% of what you eat should be whole, nutrient dense foods, while 20% is left to indulge in your favourite unhealthy foods.
When you think whole, nutrient dense foods think foods that exist in nature that haven’t been overly processed or chemically altered. We often see a great example of this in the standard Mediterranean diet, which consists of plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, proteins and fermented foods.
FOODS TO EAT
Fresh Vegetables & Fruits
4-5+ daily servings of vegetables, 2-3 of fruit
Carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, peppers*, tomatoes*, dark leafy greens, bananas, citrus fruits, cabbage, green beans, potatoes*, berries, eggplant*, olives, cauliflower, squash, beets, asparagus, peas, onion, garlic, cucumber, zucchini, bok choy, watercress, sprouts, apples, kimchi, sauerkraut, natto, olives, avocados, etc. (*Avoid nightshades as needed)
Healthy Omega-3 Fat
2-3 servings p/week
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, tuna, etc.), oysters, walnuts, Omega-3 oil supplement
Other Healthy Fats
Olives (olive oil), avocados, flax seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nut butters, almonds, hazelnuts, chia seeds, grass-fed ghee or butter, tahini
Grass-fed meat, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, tuna, etc.), oysters, chicken, turkey, organic tofu and tempeh, free-range/pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed dairy
Gluten-free whole grains (quinoa, brown and wild rice, oats), legumes (lentils, beans, peas, etc.), nuts, vegetables and fruits
Herbs & Spices
Turmeric (curcumin), chili pepper (capsaicin), cloves, ginger, garlic, rosemary, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cilantro, nutmeg, mustard seed, oregano, peppermint, parsley, sage, fennel, dill, thyme, cumin, green tea leaves, dandelion, etc.
FOODS TO LIMIT
Partially hydrogenated oils (margarine, vegetable shortening, microwave popcorn, mayo), store-bought baked goods (cakes, pizzas, cookies, fried foods
Refined Chemically Altered Vegetable Oils
Canola oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, soy oil, corn oil, grapeseed oil
Processed Meats & Dairy
Hot dogs, lunch/deli meat, bacon, sausage, commercial eggs, non grass-fed meat or dairy
Sugar & Simple Carbohydrates
Refined grains like bread and pasta, gluten (wheat, barley, spelt, kamut, rye), white rice, corn, cereal, candy, baked goods, commercial juices, soda, white sugar, etc.
Alcohol, peanuts, additives, preservatives, food colouring, artificial sweeteners (use honey and syrup instead), artificial and natural flavours, sweets (dark chocolate is ok), excess caffeine
1. School of Medicine and Public Health. The anti-inflammatory lifestyle. UW integrative health. 2018. https://www.fammed.wisc.edu/files/webfm-uploads/documents/outreach/
2. Willett WC. The Mediterranean diet: science and practice. Public health nutrition. 2006;9(1a):105-110.