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10 Minute ReadEducation by Jess Lacey, Beauty & Wellbeing Editor
16.08.21 (Updated 13.12.22)
Far from the next big diet trend, an anti-inflammatory diet is the answer to sustained health, increased energy, better moods, a healthy weight and enjoying a longer life. Using your food intake to get your body in optimum condition and become the best version of you, is easier than you think.
“We've started to limit our food so much that people don't know what to eat anymore,” warns Functional Medicine Nutritionist and LYMA Ambassador Dana James. “Nutrition is timeless, not a trend and our bodies are principally the same as they were hundreds of years ago.” Dana James is one in a long line of experts in the field of nutrition, urging people to view their nutritional intake as preventative medicine rather than fuel.
Let’s talk about what anti-inflammatory actually means. Inflammation is crucial as it is the immune system’s natural response to stress. In small doses it is a healthy and desirable bodily response. But when you find yourself constantly under pressure and rushing around what is perfectly normal can develop into something more insidious. We call this chronic inflammation.
Chronic inflammation can come in from many different sources, one of them being food. “An extreme example of this would be eating cereal or a piece of toast for breakfast, a bowl of pasta for lunch and then maybe a piece of carrot cake in the afternoon. If somebody's eating that way on a repetitive basis, that sheer load of carbohydrates and glucose is very destabilising, which then becomes inflammatory for the body,” explains Dana James.
Unfortunately, inflammation lies at the root of several of the most common health issues in our busy, modern lives. If you’re suffering from excessive or sudden weight gain, mental health difficulties, compromised immunity, allergies or problematic skin, chances are inflammation is to blame.
Food sensitivities or food allergies, inflame the body. Not everybody has the luxury of being able to run food sensitivity tests on themselves because they’re expensive but there are certain things that most of us know we don't react well to - wheat and gluten being the most widely known. “If you are sensitive to a food product, you’ll feel more fatigued,” explains Dana. “Remove it from your diet for four weeks and then try it again and if you feel tired and bloated afterwards, you probably have a sensitivity to that food. Keep it out of your diet for about nine months to hopefully reverse that sensitivity.”
Wheat? No. Gluten? Nope. Dairy? Not even close. Try almonds. Yes, 95% of us now have almond sensitivities because our intake has been ramped up by attempting to eat a more plant-based diet. By subbing out the dairy and the gluten for almond milk and almond flour, almonds could be entering our digestive system around six times a day.
“All fruits and vegetables are anti-inflammatory so filling three quarters of your plate with those gives you a nice anti-inflammatory diet. Next is your preferred form of protein. I’m an advocate of animal protein, be it grass fed organic meats or wild fish; they give you the amino acids to stabilise blood sugar levels so you don't have insulin spikes. If you're vegetarian or vegan, then you would have chickpeas, black beans or brown rice. Technically meats and grains can be a little inflammatory but they’re offset with the three-quarters of the plate of the anti-inflammatory ingredients. Then you want to have some fats in the mix and those should be clean fats - olive oils, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. Carbohydrates next - whether it's a potato, sweet potato, squash, rice or beans. Carbohydrates should be calibrated to your exercise level, so you're if you're training intensely, you need more carbohydrates and if you are not moving your body much, then you don't want those starchy carbohydrates, aim to get your carbohydrates from your vegetables.”
The Paleo and Keto diets are extremely similar and both clean ways of eating, mainly because they’re both modifications on the anti-inflammatory diet. “Everyone’s looking for a quick fix,” says James. “That's why we keep jumping onto these new concepts. Only they're not necessarily new, they're just packaged up in a different way.”
Plant-based might be the biggest buzzword in nutrition right now but even that can be highly detrimental to health when it gets misconceived. Let’s face it, you could be having toast for breakfast, then mac and cheese made with almond cheese for lunch and that would still be considered plant-based but still highly inflammatory for the body. “75% of your diet should come from vegetables and the rest of it is your choice, be that moralistically or from an environmental perspective, it's up to you,” says James.
Take it back to basics - remove the food sensitivities and eat a diet that's rich in fruit and vegetables, then add a little of your preferred protein and some fats. Eating was never supposed to be difficult. After all, don’t we want to spend our time looking at more important things in life?
Here is our complete guide to the best anti-inflammation diets for restoring your natural balance and reclaiming your health:
1. The mediterranean diet
Studies have demonstrated that The Mediterranean Diet can have a significant immune-protective effect against chronic inflammatory diseases.
The Mediterranean Diet focuses on whole foods, fibre, healthy fats and a rainbow of vegetables meaning that it is a diet inherently rich in antioxidants and a force to be reckoned with when it comes to fighting inflammation.
Foods to focus on include leafy green vegetables, nightshades including aubergine and tomatoes, omega-3 rich fatty fish, a small amount of good quality meat, extra virgin olive oil, a moderate amount of red wine (the flavonoids in red wine have health benefits that make it a superior choice to white wine), nuts, seeds, beans and pulses, and whole grains.
2. The paleo diet
The Paleo Diet consists of unprocessed whole foods, consumed as close to their natural state as possible. It is based on the idea that we should be eating what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have eaten, and has been widely acknowledged to play a part in reducing levels of inflammation in the body, as well as lessening the effects of a number of auto-immune diseases on health and overall wellbeing.
The Paleo Diet promotes minimal intervention in the food that is consumed. The diet is naturally very low in sugar and proponents of the lifestyle actively eschew dairy and gluten - two of the most common contributors to chronic inflammation in the modern western diet.
Foods included in paleo eating plans include most non-starchy vegetables, wild fish and meats, game, herbs, spices, eggs, sweet potatoes and certain roots and tubers. When plant foods and animal proteins are eaten in the correct proportions, the Paleo Diet can be seen to have extraordinary anti-inflammatory effects. The problem, however, comes when people overeat on the animal protein and fail to pile enough vegetables onto their plates, thereby negating any possible health benefits associated with eating this way. However, when followed correctly, the Paleo Diet can be an effective diet for reducing inflammation.
3. The ketogenic diet
The Ketogenic - or Keto - Diet is gaining popularity, and for good reason. Following the high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet has been shown to decrease several common markers of inflammation; more so than has been shown to be true of following a low-fat diet. Having too much insulin circulating in your body is one of the leading causes of inflammation; keeping your diet low in carbohydrates helps to keep your insulin levels in check.
Following the diet correctly involves loading up on micronutrient-rich veggies alongside healthy anti-inflammatory fat sources such as avocados, egg yolks, coconut products, butter, nuts and wild fish.
The idea is that by eating keto-approved foods, your body will begin to burn fat for fuel, and will eventually turn to its own fat stores for energy. It is for this reason that the Keto Diet is often associated with weight loss. Carrying excess weight puts a strain on your body that can result in elevated inflammation. You can avoid losing weight if you don’t need to but ensuring you’re eating enough calories and you will still experience the anti-inflammatory effects of reducing your carbohydrate intake, and cutting back on processed foods.
4. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting helps to promote lower levels of inflammation in the body due to an associated reduction in ‘monocytes’ - cells that cause inflammation - in the blood.
Intermittent Fasting involves incorporating prolonged periods of not eating into your day, giving your digestive system a break and giving your body the opportunity to dig into its natural reserves rather than relying on a constant supply of food to keep it going. Incorporating the tenets of Intermittent Fasting into your routine can reduce blood sugar levels, creating a more stable environment in the body, and can be an effective and relatively pain-free way to maintain your ideal weight.
Fasting windows can range from 12-20 hours, depending on your physiology, age, gender and lifestyle. The majority of people who subscribe to an Intermittent Fasting lifestyle find it practical to fast overnight and delay, or skip, breakfast.
Further studies have suggested that Intermittent Fasting can benefit areas of health ranging from increased longevity to improved skin, better mental health and enhanced productivity and focus. Intermittent Fasting can be combined with any of the other anti-inflammatory diets mentioned in this article.
5. Vegan/plant-based diet
Plant foods are naturally high in antioxidants. When eaten in their whole food form, they are also high in fibre which is fundamental to maintaining a healthy gut and keeping digestive stress, and the resulting inflammation, at bay. Getting rid of animal foods which are so often cured, treated or pumped with inflammatory antibiotics or hormones is also a surefire way to reduce the amount of stress on your body. Your body can easily recognise plants as fuel and this keeps it from going into overdrive when trying to process the meal you’ve just fed it.
If you’re thinking about trying to eat a more plant-based diet in order to reduce inflammation, make sure to eat low glycemic foods, lots of vegetables and healthy fats, and to consume minimal refined carbohydrates which can have a nasty effect on your blood sugar. Try, too, to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. Think minimal intervention and minimal processing.
When you look a little closer, these diets have an awful lot in common. The bottom line if you want to reduce inflammation is to follow a diet rich in whole foods, vegetables, healthy fats and fibre, whilst avoiding processed foods, foods your grandparents wouldn’t recognise as being edible, most dairy, refined carbohydrates, gluten, and excess alcohol. All the foods in the latter group will put unnecessary stress and strain on your body, and will keep you from reaching full health.
We can further reduce inflammation levels by taking a supplement that rejuvenates the body at a cellular level. Our Wellmune® Blend is one of patented ingredients formulated in LYMA and is a standardised and validated 1,3 1,6 beta glucan. It’s a hero nutraceutical and a game-changer in terms of its anti-inflammatory potential. LYMA also contains HydroCurc®, a peer-reviewed, specialised delivery format of curcumin, with up to four times the active benefits of generic turmeric. HydroCurc® is the world’s first 100% cold water dispersed curcumin that offers unrivalled protection against inflammation, making LYMA the best supplement out there to support an anti-inflammatory diet. Formulated at a daily dose of 250mg in LYMA, HydroCurc® is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound that has been scientifically proven to reduce inflammatory markers in the body, and to promote an improved sense of overall wellbeing.
See what LYMA’s patented formula can do for you - start feeling your best with the right balance of ingredients at proven levels.