An anti-inflammatory diet helpts to counteract the chronic inflammation that is a root cause of many serious diseases. It is not a diet specifically for weight loss, however many people lose weight while on this type of diet. The key elements of the diet, such as stabilizing blood sugar by choosing low-glycemic foods, eating lean protein with healthy fats, drinking plenty of high pH spring water, and eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, all contribute to increasing your metabolism so that you burn body fat rather than storing it.
Pro-inflammatory foods will increase inflammation, increase the pain associated with the inflammation, and may also raise your risk for chronic disease. Loading up on fast foods, high-fat meats, sugar, and processed foods will increase inflammation in your body. This is partially due to the unhealthy fats used in preparing and processing these foods, especially trans fats and saturated fats. Processed meats such as lunch meats, hot dogs and sausages also contain chemicals such as nitrites that are associated with increased inflammation and chronic disease. Diets high in sugar also promote inflammation, obesity, and chronic diseases such as diabetes. This would include high sugar foods such as soft drinks, pastries, presweetened cereals and candy.
An anti-inflammatory diet consists of the following general components:
- high-quality protein, like that found in fish, shellfish, poultry and tofu;
- low-glycemic carbohydrates including colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as old-fashioned oatmeal, and legumes such as beans and lentils;
- healthy fats, such as those found in cold water fish (especially wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring, anchovies), nuts, seeds, and olive oil;
- 8 -10 glasses of high pH spring water per day.
The word “protein” comes from ancient Greek, meaning “of first importance”. The body cannot grow or function without it. Digestion breaks protein broken down into 22 known amino acids. Eight are essential (cannot be manufactured by the body) the rest are non-essential (can be manufactured by the body with proper nutrition). Since the human body can only manufacture 14 of the 22 amino acids that are essential for life, the remaining eight must be provided through the intake of dietary protein. However, most typical diets do not contain sufficient quality protein to maintain cell health.
Protein is essential to cellular repair. Without adequate protein, the body’s aging process is accelerated. Our muscles, organs, bones, cartilage, skin, and the antibodies that guard us from disease are all made of protein. Even the enzymes that facilitate important chemical reactions in our body – from digestion to building cells – are made of protein. If your cells do not have access to all essential amino acids, cellular repair will be incomplete or much slower than it should be.
The best protein choices are omega-3 rich fish, such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel, vegetable-based protein (soy foods, beans, lentils and other legumes), whole grains, seeds, and nuts. Some poultry and red meat (both of which contain pro-inflammatory fats) can be considered in moderation.
Carbohydrate foods can greatly influence the inflammatory process. High glycemic carbohydrates – those that convert rapidly into sugar – create inflammation on a cellular level throughout your body. Chemical reactions between sugars and protein also produce pro-inflammatory compounds called AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which contribute to the aging process and disease.
You can moderate these processes by keeping blood sugar low and stable. That means avoiding high glycemic foods such as refined breads, baked or mashed potatoes, crackers, chips and other snack foods, pastries, sweet deserts, sweetened drinks, all refined and processed foods, and any food products made with high fructose corn syrup. Instead, concentrate on low glycemic foods such as whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, vegetables, and temperate fruits such as berries, cherries, apples, and pears (instead of tropical fruits such as bananas, pineapple, mango and papaya).
When you eat a slice of bread, the flour from the bread breaks down into sugar (glucose) in order to provide you with energy. The same thing happens when you eat a piece of fruit, drink a glass of milk or eat a chocolate bar. Each of these foods contain a different type of sugar – fructose in fruit, lactose in milk, and sucrose in the chocolate bar.
The speed with which a food breaks down into sugars and increases your blood glucose level is called the glycemic response. The faster the glycemic response, the more inflammation that is created. If you eat a large quantity of refined sugar or any high glycemic food that converts rapidly into sugar (such as a bowl of pasta or a baked white potato), an insulin response from the pancreas is triggered in an attempt to moderate the blood sugar level. Insulin converts any excess calories into fat, and stores them in fatty tissues.
However, the high insulin levels generated by excessive carbohydrate consumption also suppress the hormones responsible for burning fat and promoting muscle development. In other words, eating too many carbohydrates or high-glycemic foods causes a release of insulin, which turns excess calories into fat, and at the same time suppresses the body's ability to burn the fat. This process not only causes weight gain but is pro-inflammatory.
The body must have carbohydrates in order to function. To meet these nutritional needs, choose low glycemic carbohydrates in the form of fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, and whole grains. (For more on low/high glycemic foods see this chart from the Canadian Diabetes Association).
In one form or another, fats are found in all our foods. All living organisms contain fat – animals, plants, humans, even tiny organisms such as bacteria. Fat has sometimes been regarded as a nutrient that should be avoided at all costs, but this is not the case. A healthy diet must include an adequate amount of fat – but it must be the right kind of fat.
The three main categories of fat are saturated (meat products, tropical oils), monounsaturated (olive oil, avocados, almonds, pecans, cashews, peanuts), and polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6 from fish, flax, vegetable oils). Trans (hydrogenated) fats are man-made and have been shown to be extremely damaging to the body.
In general, there are pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory fats in each category, and you need to know what you are getting. For instance, while you may have heard that saturated fats are “bad” and “artery clogging”, the saturated fats in coconut oil have supported healthy populations around the world for centuries. And animal fats such as butter and lard, containing about 40-60% saturated fat, have been part of traditional healthy diets for generations.
An anti-inflammatory diet should be designed to provide a healthy balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. While an ideal ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s is near 2:1, the typical modern diet has resulted in a ratio commonly between 10:1 and 25:1. Most people consume an huge excess of omega-6, from which the body synthesizes hormones that promote inflammation. Omega-6 is highly concentrated in vegetable oils (corn, safflower, sunflower), which are used in almost all snack foods and fast foods and should be avoided. Red meats also contain large amounts of omega-6, especially if the livestock are raised in feedlots where they are fed corn or other grains.
Omega-3 however, has an anti-inflammatory effect. Good dietary sources of omega-3 includes fatty fish and fish oil (mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, salmon), flax seed oil, borage oil, and evening primrose oil. Green leafy vegetables, certain seeds and nuts, and wild game such as venison contain omega-3s. Cattle, chickens, pigs and other animals have much higher levels of omega-3s when they are allowed to “free-range” or are “grass-fed”. Eggs from chickens fed an omega-3 rich diet are also beneficial. Olive oil (omega-9) has also been shown to have many health benefits and is a source of good fat.
In addition to correcting the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, an anti-inflammatory diet should eliminate consumption of margarine, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils – all of which promote inflammation.
High pH Spring Water
About 60-70% of your total body weight is water. In fact, the body contains over 100 trillion cells that must be “bathed” inside and out with water. So the water you drink every day provides the medium for keeping your cells healthy, and for the billions of chemical reactions that keep your body running.
In order to provide a solid foundation for healthy operation, drinking alkaline water (water with a pH above 7) is essential. Drinking acidic water exacerbates the process of acidification that leads to inflammation. And because we need a considerable amount of water in order to function properly, the type of water we drink has an big impact on our general health.
Most readily available filtered water is acid, particularly water that has undergone cleansing by reverse osmosis or distillation. This type of water is clean, but it is also devoid of minerals and should be avoided. Bottled mineral waters can have a pH range from about 6.0 to 8.0. Any mineral water with a pH above 7.0 will have a predominance of alkaline minerals (sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium) and will help to provide your body with an alkaline environment. However, most carbonated mineral waters are acidic. (Acidic minerals include sulfur, fluoride, chloride, and phosphorus).