Inflammation is a root cause of many chronic diseases including heart and cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. And, when we speak of inflammation in these cases we are not talking about the type of inflammation characterized by redness, swelling, and pain. The inflammation of chronic disease is silent yet detectable through blood work. But, the best news is it is preventable through healthier eating. What are the essentials of the anti-inflammatory diet?
Before we get into the anti-inflammatory diet let’s review some of the causes of silent inflammation. As you will see many of the causes of silent inflammation are dietary based
Causes of Silent Inflammation
- weight gain/obesity
- sedentary lifestyle
- suboptimal hormone levels
- periodontal disease
- diet in high polyunsaturated fats
- diet low in monounsaturated fats
- diets low in omega-3 fatty acids
- low fiber diets
- diets high in saturated fats
- trans fats
- high glycemic diets
- chronic bronchitis
- elevated blood sugar
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
About 40% to 50% of the calories should come from healthy carbohydrates, 30% from healthy fats, and 20% to 30% from protein. Try to consume some carbohydrates, fat, and protein with each meal. At the very least do not eat carbohydrates alone to minimize spikes in blood sugar which are minimized when carbs are eaten with fats or protein. Spikes in blood sugar trigger the release of insulin, and insulin is inflammatory.
Focus on whole foods and avoid processed foods and foods made with flour and sugar (bread and most snack foods). Avoid products made with high fructose corn syrup. Try to eat the rainbow of colors each day through consumption of an assortment of fruits and vegetables. These are low glycemic carbs and will cause minimal rise in blood sugar and insulin.
Eat lean sources of protein like turkey, chicken, fish, and wild game.Limit consumption of sources of lean red meat. Eggs are an excellent choice of a complete protein. Focus on meat from animals grass-fed and not treated with hormones. Yogurt and natural cheeses are acceptable but pay attention to yogurt as many contain excessive amounts of sugar. Consider vegetable protein that comes from beans.
Limit (not avoid) intake of saturated fats found in butter, cream, high fat cheese, and unskinned chicken and fatty meats. Use extra-virgin olive oil as you main cooking oil with organic canola oil as a substitute if you prefer a more neutral taste. Avoid safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, and mixed vegetable oils. Avoid margarine and vegetable shortening and all products with containing partially hydrogenated oils.
Eat avocados and nuts focusing on almonds, walnuts, cashews, and their nut butters.
Eat salmon for omega-3 fatty acids. Sardines, herring, black cod, and omega-3 fortified eggs. For omega-3 fatty acids eat at least two to three grams of combined EPA and DHA daily.
Though 30 grams of fiber is recommended aim a little higher and consume a minimum of 40 grams of fiber daily. Consuming more fruits and vegetables will making reaching this goal easier. If you eat cereals look for one that contains at least five grams of fiber per serving.
Phytonutrients, Vitamins, and Minerals
All of these nutrients help protect cancer and other inflammatory induced chronic disease. The best way to achieve a balance of all phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals is to eat the spectrum of colors of fruits and vegetables – blue, red, yellow, orange, green and everything in between.
Consume more cruciferous vegetables which protect against cancer and maintain a good balance of healthy estrogens in the body. Include some soy. Drink tea rather than coffee. Red wine is the preferred choice when it comes to alcohol. Dark chocolate in moderation with a minimum cocoa content of 70% is a healthy indulgence.
If you don’t eat fish then take fish oil supplements getting 2 to 3 grams of EPA and DHA combined daily. Consider turmeric (curcumin) and ginger supplements if you don’t consume them as foods.
CoQ10 (one mg per pound body weight daily) and alpha lipoic acid 100 to 400 mg a day can reduce oxidation and are especially helpful if you are prone to metabolic syndrome (diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, excess body weight).
Make water your beverage of choice consuming one half your body weight in pounds in ounces of water. So if you weigh 150 pounds you will want to consume 75 ounces of water daily. Get a home water purifier too.
Embrace the anti-inflammatory diet and enjoy better health!