Inflammation is caused by our body’s immune system responding to something foreign. This response is a way for our body to protect us from invaders that may jeopardize our health.
But, when the inflammation becomes chronic it can cause more harm than good. Many diseases have been linked to chronic inflammation including cancers, heart disease, depression, and Type 2 diabetes, among others.
What research continues to reveal is that making adjustments to what we put into our bodies is one of the most powerful ways to prevent, reduce and combat inflammation.
To be proactive in reducing inflammation, we must first be able to identify which foods cause inflammation (pro-inflammatory foods) and which foods help to reduce inflammation (anti-inflammatory foods).
In this post, LifeScape’s Functional Dietician, Dana Bosselmann, IFNCP, shares which foods we want to limit and which foods we want to eat more of to reduce chronic inflammation. She also divulges her top lifestyle recommendations for a healthy, whole and balanced life.
Pro-inflammatory foods to limit (or avoid completely):
These foods have all shown to be linked to increases in inflammation in our bodies. We recommend limiting - or avoiding completely in some cases - the items on this list.
- Industrial seed oils (e.g., canola, soy, safflower, sunflower oils); healthy oils (e.g., olive oil) that have been heated beyond their smoke point and turned rancid/into trans fats
- Refined flour products (can be from milled wheat, rye or barley or high glycemic gluten free grains like rice, corn, potato and tapioca starch)
- Processed foods (foods with a long ingredient list or ingredients that we cannot pronounce or understand what they mean!)
- High fructose corn syrup
- Artificial sugar, flavors or colors
- Gums and food preservatives
- Sugar (can be called by many different names when added to prepared foods); caveat – naturally occurring sugars like honey and maple syrup in small amounts can be fine as well as sugar naturally occurring in fruits (if not consumed in large quantities and independent of other foods that contain protein, fat and fiber)
- Confined feedlot animal protein (conventionally raised livestock and poultry)
- Farmed fish and seafood
- Conventional soy products (GMO and processed with chemicals such as Glyphosate/Roundup)
- Excessive alcohol intake (men> 2 glasses/session; women > 1 glass/session; overall reliance on alcohol on a daily basis)
- Reliance on diet soda or diet foods/prepared foods vs whole, fresh foods
Pro-inflammatory lifestyle habits
There are certain things we do throughout our day, every day that can be contributing to unnecessary increases in inflammation. Review this list to identify any habits that you may be following, and commit to steps to avoiding these in the future.
- Less than 7 hours of sleep on continuous nights
- Not enough pleasure and play
- Feeling disconnected and unsure of life’s purpose
- Exercise – too little or too much; lack of variety
- Less than 15 minutes a day in natural sunlight
- Constant stress – physiological, psychological without healthy outlets
- Lack of social connection/support/community
- Reliance on TV and social media for connection over physically talking with or seeing others
- Late night eating
- Constant eating throughout the day
- Eating at restaurants daily or over 2 to 3 times a week
- Eating too fast and/or with distractions (TV on, phone, iPad, computer)
- Heating food in plastic containers in the microwave/drinking water from plastic bottles
- Cooking with Teflon cookware or other non-stick cookware
- Buying 100% conventional produce
- Cleaning home/surfaces with toxic cleaners
- Using toxic personal care products on the body/mouth
- Living an unsatisfying life/lack of purpose
- Negative relationships (with self, others); negative self-talk
Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Best Anti-Inflammatory Foods
It is easy to feel restricted when you look exclusively at the foods you should limit or avoid. Which is why we encourage patients to focus on what they can have and explore the abundance of foods that add nutritional value and goodness to their lives. Incorporating foods that reduce markers of inflammation and protect against chronic inflammation is within your control and the best place to begin.
Below is a list of the best anti-inflammatory foods to consider adding to your daily meals.
- Organic, unprocessed foods
- Non GMO foods
- Healthy fats (avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, etc.)
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Filtered water not in plastic containers
- Wild caught fish and seafood, pasture raised livestock and poultry
- Minimally processed foods (few ingredients and you can understand them all! Example: gluten free pasta – one ingredient – chick pea flour)
- Colorful rainbow of vegetables daily (goal of two colors per each meal)
- Whole carbohydrates from starchy vegetables (sweet potato, winter squash, pumpkin, turnip, beets, carrots, etc.)
- Sprouted whole grains/preferably gluten free (quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, etc.)
- Balanced meals – fat/starchy carbohydrate/protein/non-starchy vegetables/fruit/fat
- Digestive pause – 3 hours between meals unless need to regulate blood sugar more frequently and at least a 12 hour overnight fast with no food 2-3 hours after dinner before bedtime
Living an Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle
The first step to making the right changes is education. At LifeScape we are focused on empowering individuals with the information they need to live their best lives. The below list includes lifestyle recommendations to help you live a healthier, happier life.
- Same time to bed and rise daily with 7 to 8 hours of deep sleep
- Daily pleasure and play purposefully planned into the day
- Connection with people who uplift you and bring you joy and genuinely care for you and you for them – practicing sympathetic joy
- Avoiding screens 1 hour before bedtime
- Creating a bedtime wind down and sleep ritual
- Exercise – variety and listening to your body and needs each day (practicing strength, body weight/core, flexibility, cardiovascular exercise); joyful movement – dance, time outdoors/hiking or walking, etc.
- 15 minutes outdoors in the morning to reset circadian rhythms
- Eating mindfully, slowly, without distractions
- Having a gratitude and/or meditation practice daily
- Being able to sit with yourself and breathe
- Releasing negative relationships/loving yourself first
- Cooking most meals at home and eating out wisely (restaurants that support clean eating choices); avoiding fast food
- Hydrating with filtered water in glass or stainless steel containers
- Cooking with quality cookware
- Buying non-toxic products for home cleaning and personal health care
- Standing more than sitting
- Stimulating your mind daily with something new (learning a new skill or developing a new area of interest or deepening our knowledge in an area you already have studied)
- Sharing positivity with others, releasing negativity from others or others that are negative towards you or other people in their life
- Taking down time when needed (a 10 minute meditation or walk, stretching, deep breathing, restorative yoga poses)
Reducing your inflammation by limiting inflammatory foods and lifestyle habits and increasing healthy habits may reduce your risks of preventable diseases.
Today is the day to start your journey to true, transformational health.
An Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan
Dana Bosselmann, IFNCP handcrafted an anti-inflammatory meal plan to help you jumpstart your journey to healthier living. Complete the form below to access the meal plan now:
Nutritional Assessments & Customized Meal Plans
Did you enjoy this article and the Anti-Inflammatory meal plan, but are looking for something more customized? Partnering with Dana one-on-one in a Nutritional Assessment gives you an opportunity to share specific details about your individual goals, food sensitivities, allergies and more to walk away with a completely customized (down to the ingredient!) meal plan.