There are many reasons why one would want to adopt an anti-inflammatory diet. One of the most prominent reasons would be to reduce pain and inflammation in the body. Another might be to reduce the effects of diabetes, arthritis and other inflammatory processes that raise the HbA1C.
Our whole body functions better when the foods we eat contribute to it being slightly alkaline rather than acidic. So what types of foods are best to reduce inflammation and what are the worst triggers to produce an inflammatory response?
Processed foods with added sugar, salt, preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, hydrogenated oils and sundry chemicals contribute to inflammation in the body and therefore pain and discomfort.
Our joints and our intestinal tract are especially sensitive to unnatural foods and do best when served a diet primarily made of natural whole foods, including vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains. Some people do even better without the inclusion of whole grains because they have allergies that inflame their intestinal tract.
Processed items include commercially baked products, fast food and sweetened breakfast cereals because these items are usually high in sugar, white flour, corn starch, or corn syrup and trans-fats from hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Sugar is likely the worst culprit in the diet for inducing inflammation. It is an unnaturally occurring simple carbohydrate that is devoid of nutrition, spikes the blood sugar, and is frankly addictive. Consider that centuries ago, the only sweets that people had were fruit. Even in my lifetime my Christmas stocking held a big navel orange and a huge delicious apple. Centuries ago, people did not consume the inordinate amount of sugar that they do now and they were healthier for it.
Perhaps once in one’s whole life, in days gone by, one might have had the opportunity to taste some honey or sample some maple syrup but compare that with the sugar load that most people consume today either knowingly or because of the added sugar in most processed foods. Better options are fruit, dried fruit and home- made goodies where the amount of sugar can be controlled. Sugary drinks are purported to be the leading cause of type 2 diabetes, and should have no place in the diet of anyone who wants to be healthy and fit!
Try to eat a diet mostly based in veggies and fruit and get as many colors into your diet as possible.
You will feel better, move better and think more clearly as your body reduces the amount of inflammation and becomes more alkaline. We are especially lucky to be living in a climate that produces fresh local produce all year round. Our local farmer’s markets make it easy and affordable to feed yourself well and enjoy the variety of beautiful fruit and veggies that we grow here on Kauai.
The healthy fats from the avos, nuts, coconut and fish are also plentiful here. These oils help your body stay pain free and also help you reproduce healthy cell membranes. Avoid processed oils such as soybean oil, cottonseed oil and corn oil which are usually GMO.
The whole grains which you might consider include barley, buckwheat, oats, quinoa, brown rice, rye, spelt or bulgur. The “ancient grains” are the healthiest, giving the most nutrition and the least amount of inflammatory response. White flour products and white rice are nutritional devoid and usually are found in products with massive amount of sugar included.
Some other disease fighting foods that you might consider adding to your diet are herbs such as garlic, parsley, rosemary, green tea and colorful spices such as cumin, turmeric and paprika. These foods have powerful antioxidants that ward off cancers and inflammation.
Fish has two dietary benefits. It is a high quality, low fat protein source in which the fat that it does contain is a beneficial omega 3 fat which has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Beans are also a great source of high quality protein. If you eat other sources of protein from animal sources, select free-range, grass fed or organic or wild caught sources. You truly “are what you eat” and also are what you eat ate. So if the meat you eat was fed GMO corn … well, guess what? So are you.
Alcohol should be limited to one drink a day for women and two at the most for men. This is a strict maximum. The sizes are important too. One drink is equivalent to 1 oz. of spirits, 5 oz. of wine or 12 ounces of beer. This should be the daily limit, so if you skip a day you shouldn’t feel that the next day you can have double.
The quality of your life can improve dramatically by making some small thoughtful choices. You might not be able to initiate all the above changes right away but by introducing small changes over time you can achieve a healthy and pain free lifestyle that feels better than ever. We have the resources here on Kauai that many other places do not. Lucky we live Kauai!
Dr. Jane Riley, EdD., is a certified personal fitness trainer, nutritional adviser, and behavior change specialist. She can be reached at email@example.com, 212-8119 cell/text and www.janerileyfitness.com.