As wellness-lovers, we hear certain buzz words all. the. time. The latest on the top of that list? Anti-inflammatory—as in, “anti-inflammatory diet” or “anti-inflammatory foods”. Sign us up, right? But what does anti-inflammatory even mean? TBH, I wasn’t even sure until I spent many years studying functional nutrition. So, let’s break it down plain and simple.
When you hear the word inflammation, you might picture a swollen knee, a bruised ankle, or a strained back. While these are definitely signs of short-term inflammation or trauma to the body, chronic inflammation within the body is not quite as obvious.
In our bodies, inflammation manifests itself in the form of things like chronic fatigue, joint pain, headaches, sinus issues, and mental stress, just to name a few. Unlike a bruise or swelling, you won’t necessarily see the inflammation in your body, but you’ll definitely feel its side-effects.
And that’s where diet comes into play. Unlike healthy veggies and proteins that fuel our bodies, foods that cause inflammation—like sugar, refined carbs, and trans-fats—slowly cause our bodies to deteriorate. Think: you’d never put junky, low-grade gas in a Ferrari. Sure, it may run on that fuel for a while, but eventually, the engine would gunk-up and the car would break down.
And if that didn’t give you the a-ha moment you were looking for, maybe this real-life story will resonate with you. A few months ago, I had a client come into my office saying, “It’s so hard for me to make healthy changes to my diet because I live with my best friend who is so thin and she eats junk food ALL day long.”
For starters, it’s important to note that thinness does NOT equal healthy! But, here’s the real kicker. Her best friend actually came to see me a month later and sure, she was thin, but she had a face full of acne, her digestive system was a mess, her cholesterol panel was a disaster, and her body composition (muscle-to-fat ratio) was less than ideal. ALL signs of chronic inflammation.
Bottom line, an anti-inflammatory diet is gold-standard, premium fuel for your body, and also one of the easiest ways to improve overall wellness, body function, and mental health (because hey, what we eat is completely in our hands).
Enter: my Top Tips For Following An Anti-inflammatory Diet.
🙅🏾♀️ Avoid Refined Carbohydrates + Added Sugar
I get it. A bagel is so easy (and delish) in the morning and that big bowl of crunchy-sweet cereal before bed can be SO satisfying. However, these foods are most notorious for causing chronic inflammation in the body. Instead, the bulk of your diet should consist of real foods that don’t come with a list of ingredients the length of a Harry Potter novel.
🧠 Eat Your Way To Less Stress
Perhaps one of the most incredible benefits of a clean, anti-inflammatory diet is that it can help boost mood, tamper depression, and make you feel like yourself again. That’s why it’s important to include foods in your diet that promote better digestion (hello, fiber), support restful sleep, and nourish your immune system. The Less Stress Kit is an easy way to manage stress with clean, anti-inflammatory ingredients that are good for your mind and body.
🔄 Rotate Your Food!
I know it might be simple to eat the same foods each day but the more diverse your diet, the more diverse the bacteria in your gut will become and the more diverse the bacteria in your gut, the better your body will be able to fight disease. Plus, rotation prevents you from consuming too much of certain lesser quality foods. And you won’t get bored.
🌈 Taste The Rainbow
The more color you eat, the more your body will be able to fight oxidative damage. Aim to consume a colorful array of food every day. You may find this to be easiest if you choose 2-3 different colors at each meal. For example, a red pepper egg scramble for breakfast, a lunchtime green smoothie with banana and blueberries, and a dinner that includes roasted eggplant and sweet potatoes.
👀 Focus on Functional Foods
Choose foods and spices that actually serve a purpose in the body. It’s easier than you might think—when you choose foods that come directly from the earth, you are automatically making this happen. Salmon protects our brain, broccoli helps us to detoxify, turmeric is famous for its ability to fight inflammation. The list goes on and on.
🔽 Reverse the Pyramid
Most of us reading this article were raised to follow the traditional Food Guide Pyramid when it came to making food choices. Sadly, we as healthcare practitioners eventually discovered that this only led to health issues. Dr. Andrew Weil, a physician famous for his ability to use food as medicine, created an anti-inflammatory food guide pyramid which is essentially our traditional pyramid shaken up and put back together. Not only does this show you which foods to eat in order to fight inflammation, but it also tells you how much to consume.
I hope I have inspired you to start fighting inflammation (and disease!) with your fork. Cheers to a happier, healthier life through food!