Inflammation is the leading cause of death in the United States and some doctors and nutritionists believe that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is the leading culprit. “But inflammation can easily be decreased in your body by making some simple dietary shifts,” says Erin Clifford, a Chicago-based holistic wellness coach. Clifford’s top tips include:
Decrease or eliminate white flour products and sugar. You want to choose foods that are lower on the Glycemic Index (GI) scale, which is designed to measure the concentration of sugar in a carbohydrate. When you consume a carbohydrate, whether it’s an apple, leafy green or cookie, your pancreas spits out insulin and your body uses it as energy or storage. A higher burst of insulin is required to cover the higher GI foods, like a white potato, pineapple or bagel, and the extra insulin is stored as fat. It’s a large burden on your pancreas over time if you eat high GI foods which can lead to Type II diabetes. Therefore, you want to consume lower GI foods (like beans, steel-cut oatmeal and non-starchy vegetables) for a lower insulin response.
Consume healthy fats. Healthy fats are pivotal to achieving optimal wellness and reducing inflammation. Omega-6 (sunflower oil, corn oil, safflower oil) and Omega-3 (salmon, flax seeds, walnuts) fats are extremely beneficial in reducing inflammation, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, ADHD and cancer. Specifically, Omega-3s are known to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. But you need to be careful about how you consume omega fats or you could be increasing the inflammation in your body.
- Buy only expeller pressed oils. Oils that are expeller pressed are in a heat-controlled environment to keep temperatures below 120 degrees F. The introduction of heat to the process of making oil will degrade the flavor, nutritional value, and color of the oil.
- Do not cook your oils past their smoke point because this causes oxidation. Grapeseed oil and coconut oil are great alternatives to olive oil (smokes at 350 degrees) if you’re going to be cooking at a higher heat (up to 450 degrees).
- Aluminum and Teflon pans are bad for you because the fumes can seep out into your food. Therefore, use Teflon ceramic, iron or stainless steel.
- Avoid trans-fat (partially hydrogenated oils): Trans-fat, a byproduct of the chemical hydrogenation process, can promote inflammation, elevate cholesterol levels and are more artery-clogging than saturated fats.
- Go for small fish to prevent mercury poisoning, like salmon (not farmed), sardines, white fish (flounder, halibut and sole not tilapia
Limit antibiotic use. Antibiotics mess up gut bacteria which can lead to a number of inflammatory autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and arthritis. Buy organic meat when you can for less exposure to antibiotics in your diet.
Watch out for food sensitivities, which can cause inflammation in your body. For instance, if you always feel congested after you have a particular food, like cheese, beer or eggs, you may have developed a food allergy. The best way to test this is to cut out the food for a few weeks and then reintroduce it.
Buy organic when possible and watch for pesticide exposure in produce. Each year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) updates their Shopper’s Guide to present the newest “Dirty Dozen Plus” list – produce that contains the highest pesticide residues, as well as the “Clean Fifteen” list – produce least likely to hold pesticide residues. Think about the skin; if it’s thin and you’re going to be consuming it, you want to buy it organic (berries, potatoes, bell peppers, celery, apples v. bananas, pineapple, carrots). This can also help you save money because it highlights which foods you should buy organically. And hint frozen vegetables and fruits are can be just as nutritious!
Cook with anti-inflammatory spices, such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, oregano, allspice, marjoram, sage and thyme.