Notice I said "eat anti-inflammatory" not "go on an anti-inflammatory diet" or "reduce inflammation."...
Personally I'm tired of those words... diet. reduce.
I've grown weary of all. the. rules.
This is my philosophy: we add in to crowd out.
I came to it from my own experience.
In my own health journey, at the beginning of it I found myself in doctors offices being told "no gluten. no dairy. no soy. no sugar."
no. no. no. no. no.
It kept me stuck in that "no" mindset of restriction and rules.
And it kept me stuck battling symptoms of inflammation and an autoimmune diagnosis.
I wish those doctors had taken this approach. Instead adding in more nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods first to give me plenty of options that I loved first, before we started taking things away.
This is the approach I take with everyone I coach. We always start by adding in.
We make small changes every day, create habits that make it automatic, that keep you moving in the direction you need to go to reach your goals.
Before we know it, you're there. It's an amazing, inspiring, beautiful thing. Gah, I just love what I do.
This is the best way to go about getting more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet.
I've put together a few resources for you here to get you started.
First, download the free anti-inflammatory foods shopping list.
You can get it here. Use it, print it out, put it on your fridge as reminder, and make a fun little challenge out of it, how many new foods from the list can you try.
The First 5 Steps to Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Step 1: Add in greens at every meal.
Dark leafy greens (think spinach, kale, collards, chard, bok choy...) are the No. 1 most underrated food on the planet. Better than a multi-vitamin, multi-mineral, greens not only give you a hefty daily dose of elemental nutrients your body needs to complete every process, they bring oxygen into the body, help clear congestion in the body, purify the blood, improve circulation and lift the spirit. This is the most powerful place to start. And you can do so by just adding something dark green and leafy at every meal. Yes, shoot for 3 times a day and you will transform your taste buds and your body.
Pro tip: Sneak greens into smoothies, dressings, dips, soups and stews. You'll be eating them and you won't even realize it!
Step 2: Add in one food of every color of the rainbow, every day.
It sounds way too simple to be enough, I know. Truth is though most of us don't have to count vitamins and minerals, or calories for that matter. Each color in the plant kingdom signifies different nutrients (ie. yellows and oranges are typically high in vitamin C, reds and purples, potent in antioxidants). When you focus on eating a variety of color and a lot of color in general, you'll be getting your nutrients in variety and high quantities.
Step 3: Sub in slow carbs.
There's a lot of talk right now about carbs being "bad" though it's important to understand not all carbs are created equal. The "bad" carbs that fan the flames of inflammation are what I call "fast carbs." These are the processed carbs made out of refined white flour (even if it's gluten-free) or sugar, like breads, pastries, pastas, muffins, cakes, candies, etc. These foods spike blood sugar and insulin levels, which drives inflammation, and visa versa.
Get your carb fix from slow carbs like starchy vegetables, like squashes and potatoes; fruit; beans; whole grains, like quinoa and oats; and lentils. These slow carbs, in their natural form, are high in fiber and nutrients which slow the release of sugar in the blood stream and don't have the same dramatic effect on insulin levels. Most of these foods offer their own anti-inflammatory benefits too.
Step 4: Upgrade your fats.
Just like carbs, not all fats are created equal either. There are fats that are anti-inflammatory and fats that are pro-inflammatory. Omega-3 essential fatty acids, the type that salmon is known for is essential for helping the body manage inflammation. You can get them from plants too, in walnuts, flax seeds and dark leafy greens. They're higher in grass-fed beef too. The fats you want to get rid of are the ones high in Omega-6, which balances (though more often competes) with Omega-3. We get Omega-6s from seed oils like canola, soy and your standard vegetable oil - basically the oils used in virtually all packaged food products and in most restaurants (ugh) - and these fats create more inflammation in the body (no bueno).
At home, use extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter (if tolerate dairy), ghee, or virgin coconut oil for cooking.
Step 5: Sub in whole food sweeteners.
If you've been following along, you've likely already checked off this step. Sugar is sneaky though. It's likely hiding in places you may not even realize, like in that coffee creamer, almond milk, yogurt, granola... you love so much (sorry). Even if you're not adding spoonfuls to your coffee, you could be getting that much without even being aware of it. The solution: read labels. If you see cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, pear juice concentrate, anything that ends in ose - that's added sugar and you want to avoid it.
When you're using sweeteners at home and being a detective looking for them on labels, if you use any opt for ones like honey, maple syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup. These will still affect your blood sugar and cravings and thereby can affect inflammation so still use sparingly. Because they're in their whole form, they have their nutrients in tact to balance the sugar.
The way I see it, why waste your sugar allowance on coffee creamer and yogurt? Wouldn't you rather save it and treat yourself?
Get Steps 6-10...
OK, I think I've given you plenty to get you started. Remember, this is a marathon, not sprint.
Start slow, start adding in. Use the anti-inflammatory foods shopping list and the steps here to get yourself going with this.
You've got this!
What's here is just the half of it. These first 5 steps are big ones, and I have 5 more for you.
I just covered them in a Facebook live the other day you can go back and watch here: Up the ANTI: Steps 6-10.
I hope these steps are so helpful for you. I'd love to know how you're using them and how it's going.
Questions? Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you - leave a comment down below or send me a message. I'm here to help.
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps people take charge of their health and to start listening to themselves over the latest diet trend to optimize their own wellness, happiness and potential. Her family-friendly meal plans help parents take charge in the kitchen, too. This leads to more vegetables, less junk, and happier, healthier kids and parents. Megan shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.