Wednesday's with Whitney
"Where to start with an anti-inflammatory diet?"
Welcome back! Today we dive into where one might start when thinking about tackling inflammation.
Increase your fruits and vegetables! Hands down-that is my number one recommendation. Not only is that my ultimate recommendation for most people I talk to, but is it also where I would start with an eating plan that focuses on anti-inflammatory properties.
What exactly is inflammation anyways? Acute, or short-term, inflammation is our body’s way of protecting itself from harm. It is part of our immune response to infections, toxins, or injuries. When inflammation becomes chronic, or long-term, it increases our risk of developing many chronic diseases (heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, type 2 diabetes etc.). The foundation of most age-related diseases is inflammation. Chronic inflammation is accumulated by many biological and environmental factors including diet, obesity and stress. So, what does this look like on our plates?
The foods we eat can be both helpful and harmful when it comes to inflammation. Low-nutrient dense foods that ultimately lead to excess weight would be considered proinflammatory (or harmful). High-nutrient dense foods that provide omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin C and E, polyphenols (specifically lignans and flavonoids), and prebiotics and probiotics would be considered anti-inflammatory.
Our main sources of proinflammatory foods are those that are low in fiber and high in sugar (donuts, white bread and sugar-laden cereals), trans-fat (fried fast foods, frostings, stick or tub margarines and frozen biscuits) and saturated fat (beef, chicken with skin, pork, full-fat cream, milk and butter, and coconut oil). Note: the FDA has worked to ban artificial trans fat and many companies have eliminated it. However, it is still worth double-checking; look for partially hydrogenated oils on the label.
An eating plan that focuses on foods high in fiber, is loaded with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts and encourages use of olive oil, while limiting red meat and refined carbs would be an excellent example of an anti-inflammatory diet. It sounds an awful lot like a Mediterranean way of eating, doesn’t it? It is also what I would recommend as a holistic, healthful way of eating.
We often get bogged down with very specific recommendations on specific foods and what to eat and what not to eat. Often if we can focus on foods to encourage and foods to eat less often, we can more simply improve our nutrition. In this case, we would hence want to eat more anti-inflammatory foods and less proinflammatory foods.