If you have read anything I’ve written, you will know that I am not an advocate of any ‘diet’ in particular, largely because I believe that restricting food groups can often put us at more risk than leaving them in. However, adhering to a diet that is predominantly ‘anti-inflammatory’ is certainly something I encourage everyone to do as much as they can, principally because doing so has powerful benefits on our health. Though it may not have occurred to you before, inflammation is an underlying factor in almost all health issues and diseases – from problem skin, PCOS, allergies, polyps, arthritis, autoimmune conditions, IBS and injuries; to cardiovascular issues and even cancer and Alzheimer’s.
What is inflammation?
Though it has negative connotations, in fact inflammatory reactions are totally natural and incredibly important for the body – they protect us from infections, repair wounds and heal broken bones. These are normally balanced closely with anti-inflammatory reactions, which prevent inflammation from spiralling out of control. The problem starts when we have too much inflammation in the body and sadly, typical modern lifestyles (which can entail stress, sleep deprivation, alcohol and an abundance of the wrong kind of foods) can promote these reactions, leading to a number of undesirable health issues.
The benefits of eating an anti-inflammatory diet
Since inflammatory/anti-inflammatory reactions occur throughout the body, there can be a multitude of benefits to primarily eating the right kids of foods. Better digestion, improved immunity, reduced tendency for allergies and inflammation (in joints, muscles etc) more balanced hormones, fewer aches and pains, and stronger nails and hair are all commonly reported. Too much inflammation is also often at the heart of most skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, hives and rosacea so it is advisable to take this on board if trying to manage your skin.
Pro-inflammatory foods to watch out for:
Unsurprisingly, it is foods that are typically ‘bad for us’ that tend to promote inflammation so limit these where possible. I’m not saying never eat them, but they should certainly not form the majority of your diet!
- Fatty cuts of meat – especially processed sausages, bacon and luncheon meats. Fatty red meat like pork belly, steak and lamb should be limited to 2/week, less if you have an inflammatory condition
- Takeaways, ready meals and convenience foods – especially when fried or processed
- Deep fried anything!
- Processed crap that shouldn’t really be classified as real food – i.e. margarine
- High fat dairy – butter, cream, cheese
- Processed gluten
- All forms of refined, added sugars
- Refined processed carbohydrates
- Fizzy drinks
Anti-inflammatory foods to increase:
All the good stuff tends to promote anti-inflammatory reactions in the body, whilst also protecting against the damage done by inflammation. Eat an abundance of these foods, and for those times when gorging on ribs and steak, aim to eat them alongside veggie side dishes to offset the impacts.
- Anything that contains omega 3 (which truly lays the smack down on inflammatory reactions). Found in fresh oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, anchovies and sardines as well as hempseed, walnuts, acai, broccoli and kale.
- Raw nuts and seeds – almonds, Brazil’s, hazelnuts, pumpkin, sunflower.
- Cold pressed oils – Extra virgin olive, coconut, hemp, avocado, walnut.
- Fresh veg of all kinds – the more colour the better.
- Fruits – especially darker colours such as blueberries, strawberries; as well as citrus – lemons, limes, grapefruit.
- Wholegrains and legumes – brown rice, quinoa and beans.
- Spices – turmeric (get fresh if you can), fresh ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, nutmeg.
- Herbal teas – especially white and green.
Supplements for reducing inflammation:
- Superfoods (such as acai, spirulina, cacao, chlorella) – Alkalising, nutrient dense and rich in polyphenol and flavonol compounds to reduce inflammation and protect from oxidative stress. I believe in the power of these so much that I have co-founded Equi London, a range of targeted superfood blends that are uniquely combined with powerful probiotics, omegas, botanicals and herbs to combat a whole host of health problems. We launch in March 2016 – stay tuned here for more information about how you can get hold of them.
- Omega-3 – Helpful to combat health issues, as well as a great general daily support for body and mind. Especially important if you don’t eat much fish.
- Turmeric – Pharmaceutical strength in an absorbable form which is great for skin, joints and auto immune conditions.
- Vitamin D – As well as supporting pretty much everything else, the sunshine vitamin plays a pivotal role in reducing inflammation and supporting immunity.