It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses, including: heart disease, many cancers, diabetes, rheumatologic disease, and more.
We all know inflammation on the surface of the body as local redness, heat, swelling and pain. In fact, our source Medical Dictionary states inflammation is a localized protective reaction of tissue to irritation, injury, or infection, characterized by pain, redness, swelling, and sometimes loss of function.
Inflammation is the cornerstone of the body’s healing response, bringing more nourishment and more immune activity to a site of injury or infection. But when inflammation persists or serves no purpose, it damages the body and causes illness and the onset of chronic disease.
Poor nutrition, stress, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition, and exposure to toxins (like secondhand tobacco smoke) can all contribute to such chronic inflammation.
Nutritional choices lead the way to inflammatory disease and ill health.
Learning how specific foods influence the inflammatory process is the best strategy for containing it and reducing long-term disease risks.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is not a diet in the popular sense. It is not intended as a weight-loss program (although people can and do lose weight on it considering weight loss is a side effect of wellness), nor is it an eating plan to stay on for a limited period of time.
We have to adopt an anti-inflammatory nutritional protocol for the rest of our lives. We must learn to select and prepare foods based on scientific knowledge of how they can help your body maintain optimum health.
Along with influencing inflammation, understanding how to eat in this manner will provide steady energy and ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids dietary fiber, and protective phytonutrients. You can also adapt your existing recipes according to the following anti-inflammatory diet principles.
General Nutritional Tips
- Include as much fresh food as possible. Eat mainly fresh and raw fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds and good clean protein.
- Minimize your consumption of processed foods and fast food. Get rid of it if you can.
- Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Eat more vegetables than fruit.
- Aim to color your plate with variety and different colors of vegetables.
- Most adults need to consume at most between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day or less.
- Women, smaller and less active people need fewer calories: 1200-1500 calories per day.
- Men, bigger and more active people need more calories. We must be conscious of adding calories when exercise and activity can create a deficit.
- If you are eating the appropriate number of calories for your level of activity, your weight should be stable not fluctuate greatly.
- The distribution of calories you take in should be as follows: 30-40 percent from protein, 25-30 percent from fat, and 25-30 percent from carbohydrates.
- Try to include carbohydrates, fat, and protein at each meal.
- On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, adult women should consume between 50-150 grams of carbohydrates a day.
- Adult men should consume between 75-200 grams of carbohydrates a day.
- The majority of this should be in the form of less-refined, less-processed foods with a low glycemic load.
- Reduce your consumption of foods made with wheat, flour and sugar, especially bread and most packaged snack foods (including chips and pretzels). Say no to the chips and salsa and absolutely no to the free bread.
- Eat more beans, winter squashes, and sweet potatoes.
- Avoid products made with high fructose corn syrup.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, additives and preservatives.
- Calories can come from fat. This should be in a ratio of 1:2:1 (saturated : monounsaturated : polyunsaturated). We should not be so fat phobic. Fat is essential for healthy cell membranes and cell communication.
- Reduce your intake of saturated fat by eating less butter, cream, high-fat cheese, unskinned chicken, fatty meats, and products made with palm kernel oil.
- Use extra-virgin olive oil as main cooking oil. If you want neutral tasting oil, use expeller-pressed, organic canola oil. Organic, high-oleic, expeller pressed versions of sunflower and safflower oil are also acceptable. Coconut oil is a good choice and can handle the heat of cooking.
- Avoid regular safflower and sunflower oils, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and mixed vegetable oils.
- Strictly avoid margarine, vegetable shortening, and all products listing them as ingredients. Strictly avoid all products made with partially hydrogenated oils of any kind.
- Include in your diet avocados and nuts, especially walnuts, cashews, almonds, and nut butters made from these nuts.
- Strictly avoid any trans fats as these are foreign to your body and cause inflammation.
- For omega-3 fatty acids, eat salmon (preferably fresh or frozen wild or canned sockeye), sardines packed in water or olive oil, herring, and black cod (sablefish, butterfish); omega-3 fortified eggs; hemp seeds and flaxseeds (preferably freshly ground); or take a fish oil supplement (look for products that provide both EPA and DHA, in a convenient daily dosage of three to four grams).
- Eat less protein if you have liver or kidney problems, allergies, or autoimmune disease.
- Decrease your consumption of animal protein except for fish and high quality natural cheese and yogurt.
- Eat more vegetable protein, especially from beans in general and soybeans in particular. Become familiar with the range of whole-soy foods available and find ones you like.
- Try to eat 40 grams of fiber per day. You can achieve this by increasing your consumption of fruit (especially berries), vegetables (especially beans), and whole grains.
- Ready-made cereals can be good fiber sources, but read labels to make sure they give you at least 4 and preferably 5 grams of bran per one-ounce serving.
- To get maximum natural protection against age-related diseases (including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease) as well as against environmental toxicity, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and mushrooms (unless allergic).
- Choose fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum (color your plate), especially berries, tomatoes, orange and yellow fruits, and dark leafy greens.
- Choose organic produce whenever possible. Learn which conventionally grown crops are most likely to carry pesticide residues and avoid them. Use a vegetable wash that is gentle and effective.
- Be cautious with nightshade vegetables. Nightshades can be very inflammatory in individuals who are susceptible/sensitive to them. They contain high alkaloid — a substance that may affect the joints, nerve-muscle function and digestion in some individuals. If you are suffering from any of these problems, you may want to try cutting down on the consumption of nightshade vegetables.
- Drink tea instead of coffee, especially good quality white, green or oolong tea. Avoid too much acidity. For every cup of coffee or tea drink two cups of water.
- If you drink alcohol, use red wine. Wine has sugar alcohol and we forget this is caloric and glycemic.
- Enjoy plain dark chocolate in moderation (with a minimum cocoa content of 70 percent). Watch the addition of cane sugars and other sweeteners.
Vitamins and Minerals
The best way to obtain all of your daily vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients is by eating a diet high in fresh foods with an abundance of fruits and vegetables. In addition, supplement your diet with the following antioxidant cocktail:
- Vitamin C, 200 milligrams a day
- Vitamin E, 400 IU of natural mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-tocopherol with other tocopherols, or, better, a minimum of 80 milligrams of natural mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols)
- Selenium, 200 micrograms of an organic (yeast-bound) form
- Glutathione powder, 1 gram
The antioxidants can be most conveniently taken as part of a daily multivitamin/multimineral supplement that also provides at least 400 micrograms of folic acid and 2,000 IU of vitamin D3. It should contain no iron (unless you are a female and having regular menstrual periods).
Do not take any preformed vitamin A (retinol). Take this cocktail with your largest meal.
Women should take supplemental calcium, preferably as calcium citrate, 500-700 milligrams a day, depending on their dietary intake of this mineral. Men should avoid supplemental calcium.
Other Dietary Supplements
- If you are not eating oily fish at least twice a week, take supplemental fish oil, in capsule or liquid form (3-4 grams a day of a product containing both EPA and DHA).
- Talk to your doctor about going on low-dose aspirin therapy, one or two baby aspirins a day (81 or 162 milligrams).
- If you are not regularly eating ginger and turmeric, consider taking these in supplemental form.
- If you are prone to metabolic syndrome, take alpha-lipoic acid, 600 milligrams a day, chromium50mg a day.
Drink pure water, or drinks that are mostly water (tea, very diluted fruit juice, sparkling water with lemon) throughout the day.
Use bottled water or get a home water purifier if your tap water tastes of chlorine or other contaminants, or if you live in an area where the water is known or suspected to be contaminated.
Your body is 60-65% water and being even a quart low will increase your fatigue. Rehydrate and resuscitate all the cells in your body.