An Anti-Inflammatory Diet Can Transform Your Health

 Fresh vegetables on cutting board.

 Written by: Dave Johnson, MD, FACC

Inflammation occurs when the body, mind, and spirit are out of balance. Left unchecked this turns into chronic inflammation leading to a variety of disease states. Our diet and lifestyle choices are two powerful weapons that can be used to fight back against inflammation. 

In focusing on dietary changes the primary drivers for inflammation are:

  • Added sugars and artificial sweeteners 
  • Saturated fat and trans fat
  • Excess omega 6 fatty acid intake related to consumption of processed foods made with inexpensive omega 6-rich cooking oils such as sunflower, corn, soybean and cottonseed oils.

Added to these three major contributing factors are high intakes of artificial food additives in processed foods and low intake of nutrient dense, fiber-rich plant-based foods. Much of what is triggering the rise in poor health statistics has really only occurred in the past 70+ years, since the beginning of food industrialization.

To restore and maintain health requires individuals, and communities, to reclaim ownership of their health and well-being. The first step is becoming more informed about how lifestyle choices impact health and then making conscious choices that influence the health of the body and environment. A recent study by Harvard University demonstrated how adhering to 5 lifestyle factors can extend longevity by over a decade.

  1. Never smoke
  2. Maintain a healthy weight (Body mass index of 18.5 -24.6 kg/m²)
  3. Daily exercise
  4. Healthy plant-rich diet
  5. Light to moderate alcohol intake

So, it is obvious that the rising tide of chronic inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, can be prevented by choosing an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

One of the most powerful tools one has in combating chronic inflammation in the body is to choose foods that not only nourish the body and mind but fight against unnecessary inflammatory response. Currently, the typical American consumes 60-70% of their daily calories from processed foods made up of high concentrations of sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. Below you will find where many of these unnecessary and pro-inflammatory foods hide.

Here is a basic checklist of what can be done to fight inflammation:

Foods to Avoid (very inflammatory) 

  • Processed sugars and artificial sweeteners (sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, cane juice, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, sucralose, aspartame, maltodextrin)
  • Highly processed foods which often contain added sweeteners and omega-6 rich cooking oils which are often very inexpensive for food manufacturers to use (cereals, chips, crackers, snacks)
  • Refined grains, especially in processed foods
  • Salty processed foods
  • Processed soy, especially products with isolated soy protein
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Fried foods
  • Fast food
  • Sodas
  • Energy drinks
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine

Foods to Limit (Eat no more than a few time weekly)

  • Vinegars are very acidic except apple cider vinegar which is alkaline
  • Processed chocolate
  • Wheat products
  • Roasted nuts and seeds
  • Roasted nut butters
  • Soy-based processed foods (tofu or tempeh meat substitutes)
  • Natural sweeteners such as coconut, maple, or stevia
  • Dried fruits, especially with added sugars and sulfites
  • Salad dressings
  • Salt, limit added salt.

Foods to Eat Liberally (Anti-inflammatory)

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Vegetables, maintain a variety of colors
  • Fruits, especially berries, limes, lemons, and oranges
  • Legumes, soak beans, lentils, and peas in water and consider sprouted sources
  • Whole grains, again soak prior to cooking and/or consider using sprouted grains
  • Raw nuts, seeds, and nut butter
  • Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi
  • Herbs and spices, create ethnic diversity to your palate
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Herbal teas
  • Seaweed such as spirulina, nori, kelp, dulse
  • Water
  • Green juices and smoothies, consider adding plant-based protein powder, especially as you age

Anti-inflammatory Activities

  • Sleep, aim for 7-9 hours daily
  • Relax, enjoy walks in nature, unplug from screen time, try meditation
  • Exercise, find activities that cause you to move your body and have fun. Try yoga, pilates or T’ai chi.
  • Connect, find a tribe and celebrate life with those you love.
  • Consider intermittent fasting

Take the plunge! Test out an anti-inflammatory diet this week and begin to see how much better your body and mind feel. In the first few days, you might notice some headaches, fatigue, or changes in digestion. These symptoms are only a result of the increased efficacy your body has at detoxification and removing unwanted products that may have been stored in fats cells. This will all pass within a week and you can then begin to experience the benefits of an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-rich, whole food, plant-based lifestyle.

Need help with recipes then download the Food Monster App today. Also, check out the blog from UC Davis Integrative Medicine and become updated on evidence in support of plant-based living.

An excerpt from The China Study was recently posted by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and his son Thomas M. Campbell, MD  entitled Eating Right: 8 Principles of Food and Health. This is a well-written post with essential information to support you on your plant-based lifestyle.

Or, contact me for a consultation and learn more about integrative health and healing.

 Dr. Johnson believes healing is the  natural capacity  of the body. He supports his clients on their journey towards health and well-being by helping them find balance in the  body, mind, soul, and spirit ; all essential aspects of our individual being that contribute to health. He draws from his decades of experience in traditional modern  Western medicine  as well as the practices of  ancient wisdom traditions . Dr. Johnson has traveled throughout the Western hemisphere to explore  diverse healing strategies  from the ancient traditions of shamanism to the most advanced modern medical care. The result is an integration of various aspects from his travels and training and is what he refers to as   integrative cardiology  .  Click here  to view Dr. Johnson's services.

Dr. Johnson believes healing is the natural capacity of the body. He supports his clients on their journey towards health and well-being by helping them find balance in the body, mind, soul, and spirit; all essential aspects of our individual being that contribute to health. He draws from his decades of experience in traditional modern Western medicine as well as the practices of ancient wisdom traditions. Dr. Johnson has traveled throughout the Western hemisphere to explore diverse healing strategies from the ancient traditions of shamanism to the most advanced modern medical care. The result is an integration of various aspects from his travels and training and is what he refers to as integrative cardiologyClick here to view Dr. Johnson's services.