If you Google “anti-inflammatory diet,” you’ll see there are more than 50 million articles on this topic. That’s because inflammation is a hot-button topic these days. Research shows chronic inflammation to be a contributing cause of most diseases. That’s right. Diabetes. Heart disease. High blood pressure. High cholesterol. Autoimmune disease. Obesity. The root cause of all of these conditions is chronic inflammation.
Though it is true genetics play a role in the development of disease, chronic inflammation kicks it into high gear. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to control or eliminate chronic inflammation. One of the most important steps you can take today to protect your health, slim down, and feel great is to start an anti-inflammatory diet.
Anti-inflammatory diet Vs inflammatory diet
There is no one standard anti-inflammatory diet. However, most of these diets do follow certain principles proven to reduce inflammation.
The typical anti-inflammatory diet, for instance, is rich in plant foods with little to no red meat but plenty of fish. It also contains foods abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flax seeds. Finally, an anti-inflammatory diet does not include foods containing preservatives, additives, or other chemicals.
An anti-inflammatory diet radically differs from an inflammatory one in key respects. First, you are already familiar with an inflammatory diet, otherwise known as the Standard American Diet (SAD). This diet contains an abundance of heavily processed foods containing massive amounts of chemicals. It also contains large amounts of sugar that are toxic to the body. Those on an inflammatory diet also consume large amounts of red meats purchased from fast food restaurants, fried in unhealthy trans fats. They consume very few whole foods and little fish.
The majority of foods they eat are ones known to cause chronic inflammation. This includes refined sugar, gluten, heavily processed foods, refined carbs, and trans fats. Eating inflammatory foods occasionally is not harmful to the body. But those whose regular diet consists of these foods are at risk of developing chronic inflammation and all the health problems that come with it.
It’s sad that a process (inflammation) designed to heal the body is destroying the lives of so many. Yes, there is a Jekyll and Hyde aspect to inflammation, one good and one evil.
Inflammation: the good and the bad
So much has been written about chronic inflammation these days that you may think inflammation is bad. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, acute inflammation is your body’s first defense against tissue injury. If your body didn’t have this inflammatory response, you wouldn’t survive any infection or injury.
Acute inflammation is your body’s reaction to a sudden injury or pathogenic attack. It lasts just hours or days, lasting only until the body no longer needs it.
What happens with acute inflammation?
When tissues are injured by bacteria, toxins, injury, or any other cause, the damaged cells release chemicals that increase blood circulation around the area, causing swelling. This inflammation walls off the injury from surrounding tissues. Meanwhile, the immune system sends an army of immune cells to fight the injury.
How do they make it through the cocoon of inflammation?
Gaps open in the cell walls around the area of the injury, allowing the bigger immune cells carried by the blood to pass through. All the relevant immune cells arrive at the site of injury to do their jobs. The body increases heat at the site, which helps to kill the infection. (If you’ve ever injured your knee or another body part, noticed the swelling, and felt the warmth, now you know what was going on behind the scenes.) The inflammation lasts only until the healing process is well underway and the body no longer needs it.
Chronic inflammation occurs when the body cannot eliminate a toxin or what it sees as a foreign invader. It can also be triggered against something that isn’t a threat. When white blood cells pour into an area to fight an intruder, and there is no intruder to fight, they start to attack nearby tissues and organs. This triggers more inflammation because, remember, damaged tissues release inflammation-causing chemicals. This is how inflammation contributes to heart disease, diabetes, and many other conditions.
But what about weight gain and obesity?
Neurological inflammation and weight gain
Many studies show there is a link between chronic inflammation and weight gain. But the exact reason for this link has been unclear — until now. New cutting-edge clinical research is finding neurological inflammation raises the setpoint weight, which slows your metabolism and causes weight gain.
Here’s how it works.
The hypothalamus, the control center of the metabolism, is located in the center of your brain. It is regulated by the hormones leptin and insulin. When the hypothalamus is healthy, it receives these hormonal signals correctly so that when calorie intake increases, your body burns more calories. Your weight automatically balances at your setpoint weight. Easy peasy. A healthy hypothalamus equals a non-elevated setpoint weight equals a healthy actual weight. You don’t have to worry about counting calories or points or exercising yourself silly.
When neurological inflammation occurs, and the hypothalamus is inflamed, however, it does not receive these signals correctly. Instead of working to keep you slim, your hypothalamus and hormones now work to hold on to extra fat. And it doesn’t matter how much you cut calories or work out.
This means neurological inflammation raises your setpoint weight, making it nearly impossible for you to permanently lose weight until this inflammation is healed. An anti-inflammatory diet can help eliminate this inflammation, making weight loss a joy instead of a chore.
Symptoms of chronic inflammation that an anti-inflammatory diet can help
Unlike acute inflammation, the symptoms of chronic inflammation are subtle. You can’t feel them or see them. The only indication you may have chronic inflammation is if you develop a disease associated with it. Some diseases associated with chronic inflammation are as follows:
- Heart disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Ulcerative colitis
- Metabolic syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
The list could go on and on. Anytime you develop any illness or disease, it’s best to consider chronic inflammation as a contributing cause. Or, better yet, prevent it from happening with an anti-inflammatory diet.
5 causes of chronic inflammation
Before discussing the details of an anti-inflammatory diet, let’s discuss typical causes of chronic inflammation. Here are a few of the known causes.
Diet: Processed foods/fast foods/sugars: These foods contain toxins that the body can never totally eliminate because they’re a regular part of the diet.
Environmental toxins: Air pollution, herbicides on plants, chemicals in household cleaning products. These and other toxins cause low-grade chronic inflammation.
Emotional stress: Chronic stress elevates cortisol levels. Cortisol is your “fight or flight” hormone, designed to save your life in an emergency. After the danger passes, levels go back to normal. But if you’re chronically stressed, your body is in a state of emergency constantly. Cortisol prepares your body to fight or flee. One of the things cortisol does is to help prime your immune response. When your immune system is always on high alert, chronic inflammation results.
Food allergies: Certain foods contain substances that trigger food allergies in many people. For instance, many people are allergic to gluten found in wheat. When a food allergy occurs, it prompts an inflammatory response in the digestive tract.
Some diseases: Rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, irritable bowel disease, and other conditions can cause chronic inflammation. But this is like the chicken and the egg question. In this case, which came first, the disease or the inflammation?
Anti-inflammatory diet guidelines
If you want to reduce your chances of many serious diseases and lose weight long-term, give the anti-inflammatory diet a try. It is a versatile plan that you can design to fit your lifestyle and dietary preferences. Here are a few general guidelines.
- Increase your intake of plant foods, particularly non-starchy vegetables.
- Consume a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables per day. Try to include a variety of different colored vegetables on your plate every day, or add them to a delicious green smoothie. Be sure you include plenty of green leafy vegetables. This will ensure you receive the nutrients your body needs to help reduce inflammation.
- Reduce your consumption of foods made with grains and sugar. This includes bread made with white flour, rice, and pasta.
- Avoid heavily processed foods as much as possible.
- Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry.
- Eat fewer processed fats, such as partially hydrogenated fats. You’ll find these fats in processed foods, and they not only cause inflammation but they also contribute to many other health problems.
- Add nuts and seeds to your diet. Almonds and cashews are particularly effective at reducing inflammation.
- If necessary, use a small amount of coconut oil for cooking
- Avoid using regular vegetable oils, such as corn oil, as they have been shown to contribute to inflammation.
- Increase your intake of fish and poultry.
- Eat oily fish at least three times per week. This includes tuna, salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines. Oily fish contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, substances known for their inflammation-reducing effect. If you do not like the flavor of fish, you can take a daily fish oil supplement.
- Add nonfat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese to your diet. Both of them are high protein sources.
5 top anti-inflammatory diet foods
Though many foods have an anti-inflammatory effect, there are some foods that are particularly beneficial. Here are a few of them.
Blueberries: Loaded with antioxidants and other nutrients, blueberries are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Not only can they lower your risk of heart disease, but research also shows they have an anti-inflammatory effect. One study published in PLoS One showed neurological inflammation was reduced in rats fed a blueberry-enriched diet.
Green leafy vegetables: There are many health benefits to eating green leafy vegetables. They are loaded with vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and beta-carotene…you name the nutrient, and you can find it in green leafy vegetables. These vitamins and minerals support the immune system and reduce your risk of several diseases. They also contain quercetin, a bioflavonoid proven to have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.
Celery: This is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Celery contains huge amounts of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that will help protect you from all manner of diseases. Plus, celery contains a large number of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, such as quercetin and luteolin, that helps take care of any inflammation.
Salmon: Like all fatty fish, salmon contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to reduce inflammation. Wild-caught salmon has the highest level of omega 3, and it is a SANEr choice than farmed salmon. (Other types of fatty fish are tuna, herring, mackerel, and sardines.)
Broccoli: One of the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse. One serving of 1 cup of broccoli florets contains 66.2 mg of vitamin C, 34 mg of calcium, 23.75 mg of potassium, 2130 IU of vitamin A, and much more. Broccoli also contains several substances known to reduce inflammation: sulforaphane, isothiocyanates, and omega-3 fatty acids.
The best anti-inflammatory diet? The Setpoint Diet!
The setpoint diet is a great way to reduce or eliminate chronic inflammation. It focuses on SANE whole foods proven to lower setpoint weight, reduce inflammation, and improve health.
The 4 main food groups are non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole-food fats, and low-fructose fruits. Simply fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables at each meal, or blend them into inflammation-shrinking green smoothies. Fill a third of your plate with nutrient-dense protein. Whole food fats fill in the remainder of your plate. You can have 0-3 low-fructose fruits as needed.
Research shows these foods fill you up fast and keep you full for a long time, especially when eaten together at the same meal. You’ll be too full of inflammation-lowering SANE foods on the setpoint diet to reach for starchy carbs, sugars, and other inflammation-causing foods. No willpower is necessary. Did we mention the setpoint diet is the best anti-inflammatory diet?
Next step: Discover the ultimate anti-inflammatory diet with SANE
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