The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Where to Start!
What is an anti-inflammatory diet? An anti-inflammatory diet emulates the diet of our hunter-gatherer ancestors – and there are many names for the same style of eating, (Paleo, GAPS, Wahl’s Protocol, AIP, Keto and Traditional Foods to name a few). Sourcing of food, especially protein foods, is emphasized in this way of eating. Products from animals raised on pasture provide a more desirable nutrient profile than those from conventionally raised animals, and organically grown produce helps minimize pesticide exposure.
- Many who follow this eating pattern choose to refer to it as a lifestyle instead of a diet. Beneath the surface, there are many variations of what constitutes an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. You may notice that the different diets under the anti-inflammatory umbrella recommend adding/omitting different foods. Tailoring your diet to your needs works on an individual basis.
Some core concepts of Anti-Inflammatory include:
Including produce, (mainly vegetables) both cooked and raw, at every meal
Protein from high quality sources (think pasture-raised, and organic)
Nourishing, traditional fats
Wholesome, unrefined foods
Elimination or reduction of grains, beans, and refined sweeteners
Know What to Eat:
Organic vegetables and fruits
Grass-fed meats, wild fish, pastured eggs and chicken
Nuts and seeds
Virgin coconut oil, butter or ghee (clarified butter)
Fat from grass-fed beef, buffalo or lamb, pastured poultry and pastured pigs.
Extra virgin olive oil for dressings and sauces
Natural, unrefined sweeteners
Raw honey (avoid honey for kids under age one)
What About Dairy?
It is my opinion that if you tolerate dairy, keeping butter (from grass-fed animals) in your diet can be beneficial because it is a great source of healthy fats and vitamin K2, a form of the vitamin that activates vitamin D and is essential for a variety of functions in the body.
Dairy in the form of milk and ice cream may be difficult for some to digest due to the lactose and/or casein content. Ghee (clarified butter), is an optimal cooking fat and is usually included in the diet. Ghee contains very minimal lactose and casein.
Know What to Avoid:
- Grains and legumes that are not properly prepared
- Processed convenience foods
- Processed sugars, artificial sweeteners
- Conventional products
- Processed seed and vegetable oils – canola, soybean, corn, safflower
Grains and legumes are often avoided on an anti-inflammatory diet because they contain phytates and other anti-nutrients that make them difficult to digest. These compounds bind to minerals, preventing the body from absorbing them properly.
Prepare Your Pantry:
Transitioning to an anti-inflammatory lifestyle may require and thorough cleaning of your fridge and pantry, followed by restocking with essentials. To be ready for almost any anti-inflammatory recipe, keep the following items on hand:
- Non starchy vegetables: leafy greens, cauliflower, peppers, zucchini, onions
- Starchy vegetables: sweet potatoes, winter squash, plantain
- Pasture butter or ghee
- Raw apple cider vinegar
- All things coconut: oil, milk, cream, flour, aminos, and butter
- Nuts and seeds
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Chia seeds
- Bone broth
Learn the Ropes – Some Basics For Embracing an Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle
Prioritize blood sugar-balancing foods – think vegetables, protein, and healthy fat
Choose eggs, a veggie omelet or breakfast meat, and even additional sides of vegetables for breakfast or brunch. These make great choices when breakfast is served all day as well!
Look for packages of nuts and seeds that are raw and sprouted. Avoid those roasted in seed oils and covered in sweeteners.
Order salads at restaurants, ask for additional protein (nuts, chicken, sliced steak) and request avocado slices or olive oil and balsamic vinegar instead of other salad dressings.
Enjoy baked fish, chicken, or other meat with a side or two of steamed vegetables. Top veggies with butter or olive oil for a dose of nutrient-rich fat.
Ask for burgers or cuts of meat to be served in a lettuce wrap or atop salad greens instead of with a bun. Ask for a side of sliced avocado in place of mayonnaise.
Set Yourself up for Snacking Success!
Ideally, the anti-inflammatory life-style nudges people in the direction of reduced snacking, since most meals are so nutrient-dense and satisfying that you are satiated for hours. Yet sometimes snacks are necessary in a pinch! To avoid a preventable trip to the vending machine, have delicious and nutritious to-go foods on hand.
Items that make good anti-inflammatory snacks include:
Cut or sliced fresh veggies (think cauliflower florets and jicama sticks)
Wide-flake unsweetened coconut
Whole avocados or fresh guacamole
Canned wild salmon or sardines
Sea vegetables such as nori
Hard boiled eggs
Fresh seasonal fruit
Nuts and seeds (sprouted if possible!)
Plantain chips or sweet potato chips cooked in coconut or avocado oil
Dark chocolate (65% cacao content or higher)
Pistachios and macadamia nuts (or any nut of your choice)