The Basics of Anti-Inflammatory Eating
What is inflammation and what can we do to feel our best?
Quite often in my practice as a dietitian, I get questions from clients about inflammation, as they often express a desire to eat foods that are anti-inflammatory to improve their health. Seeing as it’s a common question, I thought it was about time I shared some basics about inflammation and a few key principles of anti-inflammatory eating to help you feel your best.
What is Inflammation?
When talking about inflammation, it is important to differentiate between acute and chronic inflammation. Acute, or “in the moment” inflammation is a necessary and needed response to protect the body. For example, let’s say you cut your finger with a knife while cooking dinner – immediately, an inflammatory cascade occurs to allow blood vessels to dilate and immune cells to reach the site of the cut, fighting off foreign microbes and promoting healing. Once the damage is healed, the inflammation subsides.
However, chronic inflammation refers to low-grade, persistent inflammation. Research demonstrates that there are different immune cells involved in regulating this inflammatory pathway and can be attributed to many factors including chronic stress, inactivity, poor eating patterns, and even our environment! With chronic inflammation constantly in the background, cellular damage can occur, and research has now associated chronic inflammation with a variety of conditions including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and chronic-pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, digestive conditions such as IBD, Celiac Disease and IBS, as well as autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
Basic Principles of Anti-Inflammatory Eating
Before I dive into some foundational principles of anti-inflammatory eating, I want to stress that this is a pattern of eating. Far too often I see articles on the internet about anti-inflammatory foods to eat exclusively and other foods to avoid at all costs. This all-or-nothing thinking about food will only serve to harm your relationship with food and body. At Health Stand, we talk about the sweet spot between healthful and soulful eating. A pattern of anti-inflammatory eating is the same – most of the time we focus on nutritious (and delicious!) foods, while also allowing space to enjoy our soulful foods without guilt or shame!
1. Create a Solid Foundation of Fruits & Veggies
Fresh or frozen, raw or cooked, the more colours and the more variety of produce you can get on your plate on a regular basis, the wider variety of phytochemicals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. I’m always a fan of a food FIRST approach – we know that isolating these antioxidant compounds in supplements tend not to work as effectively, so fill you plate with whole foods!
2. Focus on Omega-3 Fats
Whether you’re a pescatarian, flexitarian, or meat-itarian, aiming to get more fatty fish on your plate (twice a week or more!) is a great goal. Fatty fish like salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids, which drive anti-inflammatory pathways in the body. Not sure where to start with fish? I’d recommend this crowd-pleasing recipe. Can’t do fish? Consider other omega-3 rich sources like walnuts, hemp, chia, or flax seeds.
3. Fuel a Healthy Gut
By focusing on including lots of fruits and veggies and rounding out your eating foundation with fibre-rich whole grains and a fair number of plant-based proteins (think chickpeas, tofu, black beans, lentils, etc.), you are providing fuel for the bacteria that live in your gut! Out gut bugs love to feast on fibre, and the more variety of plant foods you include, the higher likelihood of a diverse gut microbiome, which has positive associations with good health. Our gut bacteria are involved in our gut-immune axis, meaning a healthy gut microbiome = a healthy immune response!
4. Eat in a Way that Stabilizes Blood Sugars
A steady provision of whole foods in the form of consistent meals and snacks throughout the day not only helps to maintain consistent energy levels and fuel our body, but also helps to create moderate blood sugar curves throughout the day. Steady blood sugars are important in keeping inflammation at bay, as a diet filled with high amounts of refined flours and sugars can cause blood sugar spikes, which can lead to increased inflammatory responses. It’s not about low-carb, but rather consistent carbs – provided regularly over the day in the form of fruits, veggies, whole grains and balanced with proteins and healthy fats.
In summary, anti-inflammatory eating is all about creating a consistent and sustainable pattern of eating that provides a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for our body and keeps us feeling fueled and energized from the inside out. By incorporating both healthful and soulful foods in a way that works for our lifestyle, we create a way of eating and living that supports us to feel our best.
Struggling with creating sustainable nutrition patterns? Not sure where to start?
Our dietitian team is here to help! Contact us today to get started on your nutrition journey – it would be my joy to support you!
- We first determine your food personality type and help you understand the science of food, nutrition, and what your body needs.
- Then, we help you understand what to eat AND how to put it all into action at home and on-the-go for long term success.
- Along the way we also help you understand how to achieve enough fun and flexibility to live a balanced life.
Our ultimate goal is that you love food and love the body you live in.
Learn more about Meal Planning, Healthy Eating Tips, & More:
Disordered eating, intuitive eating, mental health, digestive health, emotional eating, chronic disease
One of the first things you’ll notice about Britney is her energy, zest for life and love of food! Britney is passionate about supporting her clients in developing a healthy and satisfying relationship with food and their bodies, allowing them to live life to the fullest. Britney specializes in disordered eating, intuitive eating, mental health, digestive health, emotional eating, and chronic disease.