You’ve probably heard doctors and health experts talk about inflammation and eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Unfortunately, a quick Google search on what this diet entails yields an array of different interpretations. This can be incredibly confusing for those of use trying to do our best to improve our health! So let’s dig through the weeds and focus in on the core aspects of eating to reduce inflammation!
1. Base your diet on plants. No this doesn’t mean you have to be vegan. Plant-based simply means that all means and snacks should be based on a bunch of whole plant foods. You can still eat other types of foods, but these should not be the main event. By basing our diet on plants, we eat plenty of fiber, which helps our body to eliminate inflammatory compounds. Veggies also give tons of vitamins and minerals that help support our immune system so we can fight any inflammation we may already have. And despite common misconception, there are plant foods in every single food group! Check it out:
Vegetables: Aim for 5 or more servings per day, with a serving, is considered cup. And before you ask, no potatoes do not count as a vegetable (see starchy veggies below). When I say vegetable, I mean the crunchy, more watery, and often more bitter-tasting kind. Think broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, carrots, cucumber, radish? The list could go on for days. If you think you don’t like a vegetable, I’m willing to bet you haven’t had it cooked the right way yet, so pick a new recipe with other flavors you know you like and give it a try!
Carbohydrates: There is no good guideline for amount of carbs to eat per day because everyone is different in their needs. However, the rule of thumb for reducing inflammation is to choose carbohydrates in their natural form, such as starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn), fruit and whole grains (wild rice, quinoa, millet).
Protein: Eat some protein every time you eat. This helps keep our blood sugar in check, which keeps inflammation from spiking up. Proteins from plants include ALL kinds of beans, lentils, soy and a little in nuts and seeds.
Fat: Yep, we need it! In fact, when we are trying to reduce inflammation we want a little bit of healthy fat every time we eat so that our cells stay nice and healthy! Healthy plant fats include olives, avocados, nuts, seeds, and coconut, as well as the oils from all of these plants. When choosing oils, look for cold-pressed or expeller-pressed on the label to avoid oils that have been exposed to inflammatory heat.
2. When eating animal products, choose those fed an anti-inflammatory diet. If I’m telling YOU that eating certain foods will cause inflammation, doesn’t it make sense that an animal can be inflamed by its diet as well? To avoid inflammation from animal products, we want to be eating from a healthy animal source! Key terms are grass-fed, pasture-raised and wild. These phrases tell you that the animal ate a diet that was right for their bodies.
3. Eat more real food and less processed food. This is a big one. You can eat all the fruits and veggies you want and exercise every day, but if you are also still eating McDonald’s and Takis, you can bet your bottom dollar you will have inflammation in your body. When foods are processed to include chemicals and artificial ingredients, our bodies cannot recognize them as foods anymore. Our digestive tract does the best it can to break it down but the immune system still has to come to the rescue with an inflammatory response. A good key rule, imagine the food in its natural state. If you can’t picture where in nature it came from, then it is very processed and you may want to find another option.
4. Drink water like it’s your job. Water makes our blood move! When we fail to drink enough water we end up with sticky blood that can get clotted and we aren’t able to deliver nutrients to the far areas of our body. This means inflammation! Every person should drink half their weight in ounces of water every single day for optimal health.
5. Eat mindfully. How we eat is just as important as what we eat. When our bodies are in a state of stress, we are unable to properly digest our meals so we end up in a state of inflammation. So turn off the screens, turn on some fun music, set the table and enjoy your meals with your loved ones! Try making meals last at least 15 minutes and make them full of laughter and joy!
Guiding Interview Questions
1. Tell me a little bit about who you are and what you do.
2. Can you explain what inflammation actually is?
3. How can our diets impact inflammation?
4. We hear about this concept of ?plant-based? eating all the time. Does this mean that we are all supposed to eat a vegan diet in order to be healthy?
5. Is it possible to meet protein needs while eating plant-based?
6. I get that healthy foods are best, but isn’t it, everything in moderation?
7. When I do decide to buy a packaged food, are there certain things to look for on a label to minimize inflammation?
8. If I can?t seem to find any snacks that fit your label guidelines, what am I supposed to snack on?
9. So many of us are so busy that cooking seems unrealistic to cook on a regular basis. Can you give us some ideas for quick, easy and healthy meals?
10. Is there anything else besides more real, plant foods and less processed foods that we should be considering for an anti-inflammatory diet?
11. Where can we find you in the community to learn more?
Megan Wroe is a registered dietitian and culinary nutrition expert. She received her Master?s degree in nutrition and food science at Cal Poly Pomona and completed her dietetic internship at the VA in Los Angeles. After years in the field of pediatric outpatient nutrition, Megan became a Certified Lactation Educator and more recently, became certified as a Culinary Nutrition Expert, making her a professional at putting nutrition recommendations into actual food experiences. Megan is currently a lead health coach for St. Jude Wellness Center where she works directly with clients for both individual consultation and in teaching health, wellness and cooking demonstration programs. In addition to her position with St. Jude, Megan also lectures online for Cal Poly Pomona?s undergraduate nutrition program and enjoys writing articles and doing interviews for other like-minded businesses.
Follow Megan’s food feed on Instagram @rdmegan and on Facebook @PersonalRD
Megan can also be found at St. Jude Wellness Center:
Facebook: @St. Jude Wellness Center