There are all kinds of diets out there today depending on what suits your taste buds and perception of healthy eating. We have the restricted carb diets which initially has high amounts of fats and protein as calorie sources, we have shake diets to cleanse your digestive tracts, Paleo diets where large amounts of meat is acceptable, etc, etc.
I have never believed in restricting carbs or meats and while juicing is good to do every now and then, I have never found that any one particular diet, or meal plan as I like to call it, should be followed religiously.
To me, the best meal plan is one that takes a little bit of everything into account. You get more progress in having variety in your training program and I feel you get the same thing in having a variety in what you eat. How else could you get the assortment of vitamins, minerals, branched chain amino acids and anti-oxidants in your body?
All that being said however, I do feel there are certain foods and ingredients that you should always stay clear of regardless of what diet, meal plan, you choose.
This is why I have been reading about avoiding foods that can cause inflammation in the body or the reverse of that, eating foods that DO NOT cause inflammation in the body.
Any injury, whether internal or external, creates some sort of inflammation. A bite of any sort, inflames the area that is inflicted. Strains, sprains, and broken bones, create inflammation. Same is true with internal organs. Inflammation is just a byproduct of your body trying to eradicate the cause of the swelling.
So what does food have to do with this?
Inflammatory foods can trigger your body’s inflammatory response which is thought to increase your risk of disease. While there still needs to be more studies conducted to prove that anti-inflammatory foods can lead to a healthier lifestyle, people that follow Mediterranean and Asian diets which closely resembles anti-inflammatory diets have shown to suffer much lower rates of cardiovascular disease and have longer life expectancy.
Inflammatory foods have certain characteristics. Here are some of them:
Trans Fats, foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats. They induce inflammation by damaging the cells in the lining of blood vessels.
Sugar, no surprise here. This includes manmade sugars like High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Syrup. Constant bombardment of sugar to the body keeps your body’s insulin levels high and reduces your body’s ability to burn fat. This means NO SODA’s, even of the Diet variety!
Processed bread and pasta, because they quickly break down into sugar. These are also known as refined grains.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids, this one is not necessarily bad for you but rather must be kept in balance with Omega-3 fatty acids. To give you an idea, most Western Diets have a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 of 16 to 1. An optimum level for health is 4 to 1 and studies have shown that inflammation is reduced in patients with rheumatoid arthritis when the ratio is reduced to 2 to 1.
Major food oils that provide high levels of Omega-6 are Palm, Soybean, and Sunflower oils so they should be avoided. Certain nuts also contain higher than normal levels such as cashews, pecans and walnuts. Even poultry is a good source of Omega-6.
Other than food oils, the foods that contain higher levels of Omega-6 should not necessarily be avoided but rather taken into account when trying to balance your Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. This is why an Omega-3 supplement is recommended.
Milk, once you reach adulthood, the need for milk should diminish. Milk and even 2% milk contains high levels of saturated fat and sugar, a double whammy.
MSG, monosodium glutamate can create inflammation.
Two other food groups to be cautious of but I have seen arguments on either side of the fence is alcohol and meat.
Primary reason for alcohol being on the list of inflammatory foods is that once it enters the body it immediately is metabolized into sugar. At the same time however, studies have shown that small amounts of alcohol can reduce heart disease and Alzheimer’s. I think the key here is moderation. One drink every several days hits the sweet spot (pun intended) between avoiding its inflammatory effects and benefiting from its cardiovascular effects.
Animal Fats, primarily due to its saturated fats. But just as in alcohol, meat has many benefits too. It contains the full complex of Branched Chain Amino Acids which are essential for the proper functioning of every cell in your body. Without it, you have to find other ways to get these.
The meat argument and whether it should be considered a purely inflammatory food is debated between vegetarians and Paleoist. My opinion, is that this is no different than the debate of alcohol and that if you eat the really lean cuts of beef, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
For simplicity, it should be broken down into carb and protein sources then what ingredients should they be cooked with.
Whole fruits, especially berries are great anti-inflammatory sources. Blueberries, Strawberries and great examples. Apples and oranges fall into this category as well.
Great sources of vegetables are broccoli, spinach, kale (baby), avocado, carrots. Any dark leafy veggies actually.
For other complex carb choices, sweet potatoes, oatmeal and whole grain rices and bread (not refined!!!).
Salmon, Tuna, Trout, Sardines, very lean cuts of meat, non-fat yogurts, and beans are just some examples.
What you cook with is just as important as the actual food you eat. It also determines taste and gives you variety options. Some examples are:
Olive or Canola Oil
Garlic and/or Onions
Turmeric and/or Ginger
Peppers, spicy or normal variety
So whether you want to call it an Anti-Inflammatory meal plan or if you are on some other form of ‘diet’ I think that the food choices described here can help you incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into whatever you are following and make you aware of what to avoid in order to be…Fit Forlife!