The Anti-Inflammation Diet: Could one simple, and easy to fix problem be at the root cause of almost all of your health challenges?
First Published on the 4th June 2014; Updated 15th November 2018
Inflammation is an immensely important topic. Practically everyone is carrying inflammation in their body. Unless the diet has been very clean and alkaline for many years, we are all carrying inflammation and it’s effects can be far-reaching and quite devastating.
Inflammation is at the root-cause of practically every degenerative disease and health symptom we know of.
If you’re experiencing any niggling health issues, things like fatigue, excess weight, skin conditions, reflux, IBS or more, it’s highly likely that inflammation, that you don’t even know is happening, is the cause.
Research has found direct links between chronic inflammation and a whole host of conditions and diseases, from skin conditions, allergies and fatigue all the way through to Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease.
You might think that when it comes to inflammation you either have it (and know about it) or you don’t.
But a huge number of us are living with inflammation every day. It’s just that we don’t realise.
And until something big and scary happens, we might not do anything about it.
So I hope, with this guide, that we can put an end to inflammation before it’s a problem.
And note: Inflammation certainly rapidly increases the aging-process (and the more we age the worse we are at dealing with inflammation. Kinda like a vicious cycle.) Hopefully that’s a little motivating too!
But Not All Inflammation Is Bad…
Inflammation is a natural response in the body. We all know it as the thing that happens when we cut ourselves, or get an infection. It is the body stimulating a combination of internal and external defence mechanisms and looks like: redness, swelling, heat, joint pain, muscle pain.
It’s an important part of healing and is a delicate balance of give and take stimulated by the immune system.
This, perfectly normal and important response is called Acute Inflammation.
It’s what’s happening to me right now. Yesterday I fell over a suitcase (I know) and my knee is hot, red, bruised and swollen. Acute inflammation, happy days!
However, when this get’s out of control you have a problem. When the immune response gets locked in the ‘on’ position and you can’t switch it off, that’s when Chronic Inflammation starts to occur.
It’s your body on high-alert 24/7.
And this is what we’re talking about today: Chronic Inflammation
How Chronic Inflammation Could Be Ruining Your Health & How You Might Have It And Not Even Know…
Millions of us are walking around on ‘high alert’ every day and we don’t even realise.
And symptoms can include fatigue, fibromyalgia, IBS, reflux, poor digestion, constipation, headaches/migraines, low libido, skin conditions, premature ageing, weight gain, being too thin, low energy, poor sleep, allergies, food intolerances, joint pain…
Right through to degenerative conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and more…
The Seven Most Anti-Inflammation Foods to Get Abundant Energy, Vitality & Health
So let’s get into the seven most anti-inflammatory foods to focus on, the seven foods to avoid and my action plan to help you make it real!
And remember, if you ever need motivation to make this happen: chronic inflammation will dramatically speed the aging process and the older you get the more inflammation you will have and the faster it will happen!
The Seven Most Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Quiz: can you notice anything that all of the anti-inflammation foods have in common…and something all of the pro-inflammatory foods have in common too?
Avocados are possibly one of the very best anti-inflammation foods. I really recommend having avo every day!
There are FIVE nutrients in avocados that makes them such an anti-inflammation powerhouse:
- Phytosterols: including beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol
- Carotenoid antioxidants: including lutein, neoxanthin, neochrome, chrysanthemaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, violaxanthin, beta-carotene and alpha-carotene
- The non-carotenoid antioxidants: including the flavonoids epicatechin and epigallocatechin 3-0-gallate, vitamins C and E, and the minerals manganese, selenium, and zinc
- Omega-3 fatty acids: in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (approximately 160 milligrams per cup of sliced avocado)
- And Polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols (PSA)s
All five of these nutrients have been strongly linked to preventing inflammation, especially arthritis.
Ginger contains ultra-potent anti-inflamation compounds called gingerols (cool name), which are the substances that many researchers believe are responsible for the reduction in inflammation people experience when they start taking ginger supplements regularly.
Gingerols have been heavily researched and proven to be linked to the relief of pain from the inflammatory conditions, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
In two clinical studies involving patients who responded to conventional drugs and those who didn’t, physicians found that 75% of arthritis patients and 100% of patients with muscular discomfort experienced relief of pain and/or swelling.
Ginger is delicious, easily used in cooking, juices and smoothies and I recommend you fall in love with it!
Research shows that turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antioxidant properties.
Turmeric contains a pigment called curcumin, and this pigment not only gives turmeric it’s very yellow color, but is also the active ingredient behind many of it’s proven health benefits.
One recent study found that osteoarthritis patients who added 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan experienced reduced pain and increased mobility, whereas the control group, which received no curcumin, experienced no significant improvements.
Other research also found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids (plant-based nutrients that contain powerful antioxidant properties) blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the launch of a protein that triggers swelling and pain.
Clinical studies have also found that curcumin also has very powerful antioxidant effects. Due to this, it is able to neutralize free radicals, and dramatically reduce joint inflammation and pain.
Definitely worth including in your daily diet, but don’t get it on your clothes. I learned that lesson (on dozens of occasions) the hard way!
Delicious, smelly and darn good for you.
Garlic has huge anti-inflamation properties that have been linked to cardiovascular health, preventing obesity (related to sulphur-containing compounds found in garlic) and in helping and preventing arthritis.
Two additional compounds in garlic (vinyldithin and thiacremonone) are found to inhibit the activity of inflammatory messenger molecules while also providing an anti-oxidative stress benefit.
The most researched compound in garlic, allicin, has been linked to many anti-inflamation benefits, and this food should definitely be eaten multiple times daily.
As with many other high-antioxidant foods, beetroot has been shown to have fantastic anti-inflammatory benefits.
The phytonutrients betanin, isobetanin, and vulgaxanthin that are found in beetroot have been the subject of huge amounts of research with regards to heart health (a symptom of chronic inflammation).
Alongside the anti-inflammatory benefits that betanin has, it is also proven to have anti-fungal properties and aid in detoxification.
Asparagus is a super-anti-inflammation because of it’s unique combination of anti-inflammation nutrients including asparanin A, sarsasapogenin, protodioscin, diosgenin, quercetin, rutin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin.
You don’t need to be able to pronounce those nor do you need to remember them – just know that asparagus has possibly more anti-inflammation compunds in it than any other food!
(Plus asparagus also contains antioxidant nutrients including vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the minerals zinc, manganese, and selenium.)
7. Omega 3
Omega 3 is crucially important to fight inflammation.
The primary omega-3 fatty acid in flaxseeds—alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA— is fantastic for the cardiovascular system in and of itself.
It also acts as a building block for other molecules that help prevent excessive inflammation and protects the blood vessels from inflammatory damage.
But the antioxidant and anti-inflammation benefits of flaxseed don’t stop with the cardiovascular system.
Studies have shown that omega 3 intake can be linked to the prevention of the following inflammation-based conditions: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and more.
PLUS Honorable Mentions Must Also Go To: Cucumber, Cinnamon, Celery, Quinoa, Cloves and Cauliflower which are all excellent at fighting inflammation too!
The Seven Most Inflammation-Causing Foods to Avoid!
And on the flip-side, here are the foods to avoid.
I’m not suggesting giving up everything at once. You need to be a bit more kind to yourself than that.
To help you out I have a short guide to how to transition below (plus the answer to that quiz!).
Refined sugar and other foods with high glycemic values hike up insulin levels and put the immune system on high alert.
Reports in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that processed sugars and other high-glycemic starches increase inflammation, which causes pain, overheating, redness and swelling.
High amounts of sugar in the diet increase advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs, a protein bound to a glucose molecule, resulting in damaged, cross-linked proteins. As the body tries to break these AGEs apart, immune cells secrete inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Depending on where the AGEs occur and your genetic predisposition, they could eventually result in arthritis, cataracts, heart disease, poor memory or wrinkled skin.
Plus of course, sugar is the most acid-forming foods you can consume and messes with every area of your body.
Best avoided when possible!
2. Red Meat
High intake of red meat has been repeatedly linked to inflammation across many studies.
Quality of meat can be a factor, in that mass-produced, low quality meat can contain dangerous chemicals which are added to the meat supply through feed and medicines and these contribute to inflammation.
Red meat also contains high levels of omega-6 fatty acids that produce inflammation. This arachodonic acid produces inflammation that can attack anywhere in the body from your heart and arteries to your joints.
According to Mark Hyman, MD the caffeine in coffee increases catecholamines, your stress hormones. The stress response elicits cortisol and increases insulin. Insulin increases inflammation and this makes you feel lousy.
The acidity of coffee is associated with digestive discomfort, indigestion, heart burn, GERD and dysbiosis (imbalances in your gut flora).
There are also numerous studies that show coffee to increase inflammation. One particular studie looked at coffee consumption on inflammation marker concentrations were in 3,042 randomly selected men and women.
In all inflammatory markers, the consumption of coffee, as little as one cup a day, was associated with an increase in inflammatory markers.
Common allergens like casein and gluten (proteins found in dairy and wheat) are quick to spark the inflammatory cascade.
And it has been estimated that as much as 60% of the world’s population cannot digest milk!
In fact, researchers think that being able to digest milk beyond infancy is abnormal, rather than the other way round. Milk is also a common allergen that can trigger inflammatory responses, such as stomach distress, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, acne, hives and breathing difficulties in susceptible people.
5. Refined Grains
A lot of the grains we eat nowadays are refined.
They are devoid of fiber and vitamin B compared to unpolished and unrefined grains that still have the bran, germ and the aleurone layer intact.
This makes refined grains as good as refined sugars, which are practically empty calories, devoid of nutrients.
And like refined sugars, refined grains have a higher glycemic index than unprocessed grains and when they are consistently consumed, can cause inflammation throughout the body when consumed.
Just skip them.
6. Trans-Fats (and excessive omega 6 with no omega 3)
As we’ve discussed, you want to be increasing your intake of omega 3s.
These are the anti-inflammation fats that lubricate your circulation, your joints and your brain.
Sadly, the vast majority of people get almost no omega 3 on a daily basis and a LOT of omega 6s.
These are the polyunsaturated fats including corn oil, safflower, sunflower and soybean oil.
How much is too much? The ratio of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6’s in the diets of most Americans is 1:20. Our ancestors were healthy in a diet with a 1:1 ratio. Whoops.
In the ratio they occur in the typical Western diet, these oils create inflammation, pain and cellular damage.
Trans fats are even worse.
These are the oils list as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated and appear nowhere in nature.
Trans and partially hydrogenated fats are a huge contributor to inflammation and should be avoided whenever possible.
7. Processed/Packaged/Prepared Foods
Quite simply because they contain a lot of the above, and have had all of the beneficial foods processed right out of them.
If you are eating a lot of prepared/packaged/processed foods do try to move away from these. I know they’re convenient but they’re not worth the hassle.
So Here’s The Plan…
If you’re anything like me you hate it when you get all juiced up by the promise of amazing benefits and then get told that the plan basically equates to giving up everything, being perfect forever-more, never going out with your friends again or to dinner, and living off just salads for the rest of time…
It. Never. Works.
Well actually, in about 1% of cases it does because some people are just super-human.
But for the other 99% of us (me included for sure), I need it to be simple, manageable, achievable and leave me feeling stress and guilt every time I have a treat!
(We all need treats, right?)
So the plan goes something like this…
Work out ways to SNEAK these anti-inflammation foods IN
It would be easy to say: “just eat vegetables, low-sugar fruits and healthy fats from now on and you’ll be fine”.
But like I say, that won’t stick for more than about 3 hours.
So we need to have a way to sneak an abundance of these foods in and that’s where I come in with my sneaky strategies:
Sneak These Foods Into Your Existing Meals!
This is going to make life so much easier for you because it requires almost zero change.
You don’t have to do anything different. You just need to add these ingredients into your current meals!
Idea 1: If You’re Making a Juice
You can add a heap of beetroot to a juice, some celery, some turmeric…
Idea 2:…Or Smoothie
Add chia seeds for more omega 3, a spoon of flax oil, a pinch of turmeric, some grated ginger and of course, avocado makes every smoothie super creamy without changing the taste all that much.
Idea 3: If You’re Making a Sauce
If you are making a sauce for pasta, or a pesto or anything like that you can always add a pinch of turmeric and an extra clove of garlic.
For a lot of sauces where you’d normally call for olive oil, you could also make it 50% flax seed oil and 50% olive oil for a much more omega-3 based sauce.
Idea 4: If You’re Making (or Having a Shop Bought) Soup
It’s so easy to double the nutrient content of soups! Adding quinoa to the soup is a great call. Makes it more filling, more protein, more fibre, more omega 3’s and of course it makes it more anti-inflammatory.
You can also add celery, beetroot, ginger, turmeric, cauliflower and asparagus to practically any soup and this will only make it all-the-more delicious.
In fact, you could make an anti-inflammatory soup out of all of the ingredients in this guide plus some veggie stock!
Idea 5: If You’re Having a Salad
Salads are also easy to make into an anti-inflammation superstar. Grate beetroot (or use a spiralizer), add lots of grated ginger, quinoa, grilled asparagus, avocado…you can see where I’m going here.
Idea 6: …and then for your Salad Dressing…
Mincing garlic into salad dressings is great, and you can make any salad dressing creamy my mashing in or blending in avocado (that’s a cool trick).
Plus for any oils in dressings you can change these to omega-3 based oils like flax oil, and you’re adding a whole-lotta anti-inflammatory ingredients to your salad!
Idea 7: And Even If you’re Eating a PIZZA!
Or any other foods you’d never consider healthy…but you’re having them (we all do, and need to at some point) – always ask this question:
What can I add to make this meal much more healthy, without a lot of effort or changing the taste too much?
For instance if you were having a pizza (cooked in the oven at home, or takeaway) to make it more anti-inflammatory you could:
- Drizzle with flax oil for an omega 3 hit
- Sprinkle with chia seeds for a tasteless extra bit of omega 3 and fibre and digestive cleansing!
- Top with a pinch of turmeric (would not change the taste at all)
- Add extra garlic (sliced or minced) to make it more delicious and anti-inflammatory
- Add asparagus to make it more veggie-fied and anti-inflammation rich
- Serve with an avocado & tomato side salad (dressed in flax oil and lemon juice) for an alkaline, anti-inflammation super-hit.
Idea 8: Get Into Anti-Inflammation Spices!
Use any of these at any time on any recipe and add an anti-inflammation kick to your meal!
These are just a few examples and you can do this kind of thing with ANY meal.
You just have to be conscious of your need to include these foods and let your brain do the rest!
It’s all about being creative and just to give you another idea, here’s me with a quick ginger, turmeric, garlic & lemon tea I just knocked up in under 3 minutes!
Anyone can do it!
And Now Step Two: work out a manageable plan to transition away from the pro-inflammatory foods and to an anti-inflammation diet…step-by-step…
Just as I insist you make it easy for yourself to ADD these foods, I also want it to be easy for you to deal with the bad foods.
And to do this don’t try going cold turkey.
The moment you tell your brain you can’t have something, the moment it craves it.
The trick is to work out a manageable transition plan, food by food, one at a time. And you only move onto the next food when you feel you’ve got the first one completely under control.
It has to be a step by step process.
For instance, if you want to work on caffeine first:
- Take a look at your coffee right now: is it lots of coffees per day, do you have a large coffee, does it have sugar, does it have syrups…think about all of the variables
- Now, pick one variable such as the frequency, and work out a plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be – and let’s say 2 weeks
- If you have 3 coffees per day right now, then for the next week, have only 2 per day. Keep your coffee exactly as it is, but just cut out the 3rd cup
- Now after seven days, just make it 1 per day, but REALLY savour that cup, make it worth it to have just one
- Now move onto the next variable, let’s say size.
- If you’re having a large right now, change it to a small…then after a few days, maybe a ¾ full small (less milk)…then after a few days move from dairy to non-dairy milk
Of course, you could always go for a coffee alternative too.
I broke my caffeine habit using Redbush tea years ago, but nowadays you can get awesome coffee alternatives (that are alkaline) like this one.
You can see where this is going and it can work like this for anything.
Personally, if you really have to, I wouldn’t begrudge you a coffee each day, as long as you get super hydrated before and after.
I think the better balance would be more like having one only on weekends, but that’s your call.
This is how you make the Anti-Inflammation diet happen…
It’s not so much a diet, but more of a conscious adding of the foods you know are going to make an impact.
If you’ve been trying hard to get to your health goals but haven’t been seeing the results you expected, inflammation could be the root cause.
The excessive, ongoing inflammation in your system could be stopping everything else from doing it’s job properly, and so no matter how hard you try, you won’t get far.
Try adding these seven foods, and gradually removing the inflammation seven from your diet for a period of 28 days and see what happens.
I’m pretty sure you’ll be pleased with what you see in the mirror and feel in your body.
Until next time, enjoy and join me on Facebook or comment below to continue the conversation!
Quiz Answer: all of the anti-inflammation foods are ALKALINE and all of the pro-inflammation foods are, of course, acidic! Eat alkaline folks!
Anti-Inflammation Sources & Scientific References:
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Bahadori B, Uitz E, Thonhofer R, et al. Omega-3 Fatty acids infusions as adjuvant therapy in rheumatoid arthritis. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2010; 34(2):151-5. – Link to Article
Chedraui, P., & Perez-Lopez, F. R. (2013). Nutrition and health during mid-life: searching for solutions and meeting challenges for the aging population. Climacteric, 16(S1), 85-95. – Link to Article
Elbandy MA and Abdelfadeil MG. Stability of betalain pigments from a red beetroot (Beta vulgaris). Poster Session Presentation. The First International Conference of Food Industries and Biotechnology & Associated Fair. Al-Baath University, North Sinai, Egypt. – Link to Article
Fredrickson, B. L., Grewen, K. M., Coffey, K. A., Algoe, S. B., Firestine, A. M., Arevalo, J. M. G., et al. (2013). A functional genomic perspective on human well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(33), 13684-13689. – Link to Article
Ippoushi K, Azuma K, Ito H, Horie H, Higashio H. -Gingerol inhibits nitric oxide synthesis in activated J774.1 mouse macrophages and prevents peroxynitrite-induced oxidation and nitration reactions. Life Sci. 2003 Nov 14;73(26):3427-37. – Link to Article
Iriti, M., Vitalini, S., Fico, G., & Faoro, F. (2010). Neuroprotective Herbs and Foods from Different Traditional Medicines and Diets. Molecules, 15(5), 3517-3555. – Link to Article
Lashinger, L. M., Ford, N. A., & Hursting, S. D. (2014). Interacting Inflammatory and Growth Factor Signals Underlie the Obesity-Cancer Link. The Journal of Nutrition, 144(2), 109-113. – Link to Article
Licinio, J., & Wong, M. L. (1999). The role of inflammatory mediators in the biology of major depression: central nervous system cytokines modulate the biological substrate of depressive symptoms, regulate stress-responsive systems, and contribute to neurotoxicity and neuroprotection. Mol Psychiatry, 4(4), 317-327. – Link to Article
Maroon JC, Bost JW. (2006) Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammation: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammation drugs for discogenic pain. Surg Neurol. 2006 Apr;65(4):326-31. – Link to Article