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A Comprehensive Guide to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Beginners

anti-inflammatory diet for beginners

An anti-inflammatory diet may be about the buzziest diet of the year right now. Normally inflammation occurs through the body’s immune response, which can be a healthy thing if your body is being attacked by a virus or bacteria.

But when you consistently have poor lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or eating a typical Western diet (which is high in pro inflammatory compounds), the body creates chronic inflammation.

This is where the large majority of Americans are, and why– seeing the staggering statistics on rising numbers of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease– implementing dietary interventions through an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle is crazy important.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Benefits of anti-inflammatory foods

Although many people are advised to stick to an Anti-Inflammatory diet due to health conditions and chronic disease, more and more people are discovering that following an anti-inflammatory diet is the BEST way to keep inflammation in check and boost the immune system to help prevent those chronic conditions in the first place.

Foods with anti-inflammatory properties can be potent anti-oxidants and polyphenols which not only prevent low grade inflammation, but also slow down aging, keep weight under control, and help you have natural boundless energy every day.

These types of foods also prevent diseases that include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune conditions, asthma, arthritis, lupus, cancer, and even high blood pressure.

How an anti-inflammatory diet works

Although the Mediterranean Diet usually comes to mind first when Anti-Inflammation Diet is mentioned, it’s really a very broad basic guideline for a true anti-inflammatory diet. So let’s start with the basics.

The main things to start out with knowing are that:

  • Being overweight can create inflammatory markers in the body, so weight loss is recommended if overweight or obese
  • Since blood sugar spikes (hyperglycemia) is inflammatory in the body (and cause weight gain), sugars and refined carbohydrates are one of the first things to go
  • Alcohol can be inflammatory in high amounts, but there is a bell curve effect– meaning studies have shown no alcohol to have higher inflammatory rates than moderate consumption (1-2 drinks per day), and then higher amounts than this also bring the inflammatory markers back up. Red wine is the preferred drink of the Mediterranean diet.
  • Oxidated fats (those heated repeatedly) are extremely inflammatory, as well as trans fats (hydrogenated, including margarine), omega 6’s, and saturated fats from feed-lot animals.
  • Processed foods usually contain unhealthy fats, refined carbs and sugar, little to no fiber, and artificial colors and preservatives- meaning they should be eliminated from your eating plan as well.

Here are the breakdowns in terms of macronutrients:

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Proteins

Proteins should include lots of fatty fish, soy, organic eggs, and white meat. Red meat is discouraged unless it’s an occasional protein option that is organic and grass-fed.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Fats

The types of fats that are recommended are healthy fatty acids higher in omega 3’s, lower in omega 6’s, and are either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated (like avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil). The ideal ratio is 1:1 for omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids to get anti inflammatory benefits. However,  most people are way over that, at 14x more omega 6 than omega 3 fatty acids. Saturated fats from red meat should be limited, but when eaten should be organic and grass-fed. This includes butter and dairy.

Coconut oil, although a saturated fat, has been shown in studies to be an extremely powerful antioxidant and contains anti-inflammatory compounds as long as it is virgin and unrefined.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be tricky to weed through. So let’s start with the basics.

Sugar and refined carbs

First and foremost, sugar and refined carbohydrates are extremely inflammatory and should be eliminated in all forms. This can be a really big deal for those who have been on a high sugar and carb diet for a while, and some even feel a true addiction to sugar when they try to eliminate it. An occasional treat of added raw honey or pure maple syrup isn’t that big of a deal.

Fiber

Fiber is the main thing you’ll look for in any carbohydrate food choice. This is pretty easy to accomplish with whole vegetables and fruits that are on the lower end of the glycemic impact scale.

Grains

People usually get confused, however, when it comes to grains. There are 2 main grains I recommend avoiding: corn and wheat. Corn is high in omega 6 fats and is inflammatory. Wheat, in this day and age, has been hybridized so many times over that it has an unbalanced glutenin to gliadin ratio (within the gluten protein) which creates inflammation in the gut.

Whole grains

Whole grains in this application is also pretty confusing. The reason is that we hear over and over that we should be eating whole grains because of the fiber.

While this is technically true, any time even a whole grain is ground into a flour, the carbohydrates are absorbed extremely fast and end up causing a blood sugar spike that rivals that of straight sugar.

For this reason, it’s recommended to eat grains only in their whole form (not ground into a flour as in bread or pasta–unless prepared a certain way), or cracked.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

What diets are considered anti-inflammatory?

Although the Mediterranean diet is the most recognized dietary style to reduce inflammation, there are several other options for anti-inflammatory diets. Which one you choose really depends on what condition/s you may need to manage, your goals for your health, and what foods you may have an allergy or intolerance to.

The main dietary styles that can help create some structure in an anti-inflammatory framework are the Paleo diet, Mediterranean diet, Keto (with a reduction in red meat and possibly dairy and an increase in fiber), Pescatarian (with a reduction in ground flours), and plant-based or vegan with modifications in terms of the grains allowed.

An elimination diet, again, is a really great way to truly get to know your body better and how different foods make you feel.

What should I expect when I start an anti-inflammation diet?

The first thing you may experience when starting this dietary style is a feeling of what is sometimes called ‘keto flu’ or sugar withdrawal symptoms. This is because most people come from a Western diet very high in sugar, refined carbs, and highly processed foods.

When you shift your diet this dramatically, your metabolism has to shift as well. However, many people find that their bodies seem to feel strange in this shift initially. It is absolutely temporary, and shouldn’t be of huge concern unless you’re having large swings in blood sugar levels or blood pressure.

Another thing to expect is a huge change in digestion. You should become way more regular. Many people, however, who have GI issues may not even know they do until starting this type of dietary style because of the larger amounts of fiber.

In this case, it’s a good idea to back off the grains and dairy and see your physician or specialist to have some testing done. They usually recommend an elimination diet to weed out any foods you may be allergic or sensitive to.

Overall you should start seeing a huge difference in 2 to 3 weeks, and a really large difference within 12 weeks.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

What foods to Eat and Avoid on an Anti-Inflammatory Food List

Since we’re starting out with a basic anti-inflammatory dietary style, it’s easier to get a little more specific in terms of which foods to eat that are:

  1. Health-promoting in general,
  2. Which foods have anti-inflammatory effects beyond general health and actually fight inflammation,
  3. And which foods to avoid.

General healthy foods to eat in an anti-inflammatory dietary style

General healthy foods include healthy lean protein like organic and grass-fed or pastured white meats, organic eggs, red meat on occasion, and only if organic and grass-fed, wild fish, and soy.

A huge increase in plant-based foods is really recommended because of the phytochemicals and antioxidants that they provide have, not to mention the huge increase in fiber. This is especially true for beans and legumes. A fiber-rich diet feeds the beneficial gut bacteria that help control inflammation starting in the gut.

Nearly all vegetables in their least processed forms are great choices, but nonstarchy ones are the best because of the lesser impact on blood sugar. Fruits, especially darker and brighter colored ones, are also fantastic choices as long as they are lower on the glycemic load scale. (Remember that high blood sugar equals inflammation.)

Grains should be limited to truly whole grains (not ground into flour) but may be cracked and still acceptable. The 2 main grains I recommend avoiding are wheat and corn because of the inflammatory components they contain.

Nuts and seeds are also great options that include healthy fats and carbohydrates as well as a small amount of healthy protein.

Healthy fats include avocado and extra virgin olive oil, expeller-pressed grapeseed, as well as virgin unrefined coconut oil. Butter can also be used as long as it is organic and from grass-fed cows. Other good options would be goat milk and cheese.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Foods that fight inflammation

Although eliminating foods that cause inflammation is the best place to start, you have to remember that most people still have lifestyle choices that promote inflammation, as well as conditions that increase it as well. This is why it’s also a really good idea to incorporate as many foods as possible that have anti-inflammatory effects.

Plants with higher levels of antioxidants and polyphenols

There are certain plants and berries that have been studied for their higher polyphenol and antioxidant content and ability to lower inflammation in the body. These include blueberries, pomegranate, red grapes, apples, and leafy greens for vegetables and fruit.

Another vegetable category shown to reduce inflammation is the cruciferous family that includes broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Studies have also linked nuts to reduced markers of inflammation and lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee and certain teas (like ginger, white, oolong, and green tea) can also fight inflammation.

High fiber foods

Studies have consistently shown that high-fiber foods are super important in helping a healthy gut bacteria colony grow. Healthy gut bacteria control weight, inflammation, the immune system, and many neurotransmitters that relate to mental health and hormone regulation.

These can be found in all vegetables and fruit, but a larger portion of fiber comes from whole grains like brown rice, basmati rice, quinoa, and steel-cut oats, as well as beans and legumes, including soy.

Herbs and spices

The most popular herbs and spices with anti-inflammatory effects include turmeric, curcumin, holy basil, ginger, garlic, cardamom, rosemary, chili peppers, thyme, and black pepper. Although this isn’t an all-inclusive list, these herbs and spices should be abundant in your kitchen and in your recipes. (Fresh is always best!)

Healthy fats

Healthy fats are usually included in many of the foods already recommended. However, omega 3 is an especially powerful anti-inflammatory. These can be found in fatty fish like wild caught salmon or tuna.

Other healthy fats are those that naturally occur in foods like soy, hemp, flax, and nuts (including walnuts, almonds, and cashews).

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid

In starting this type of dietary style, there are some main foods to avoid that induce inflammation. Let’s break them down (again) by macronutrient.

Proteins that are inflammatory

Red meats and processed meats are extremely inflammatory in the body, with a bit of a caveat. Part of the problem of red meat lies in the saturated fat content. However, it’s been shown in studies that red meat that is organic and grass-fed has proper ratios of omega 3 to omega 6, making this type of red meat ok to eat on occasion. Otherwise, processed meats like hot dogs, deli meats, sausage, pepperoni and the like, are inflammatory proteins.

Fats that are inflammatory

The major fats that are inflammatory include trans fats (like margarine and hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils), oxidized fats (those that have been highly heated and repeatedly heated–like those used for fried foods), and saturated fat from feedlot animals.

Other oils that should be avoided include corn oil, palm or palm kernel oil, cottonseed oil, lard, safflower, sunflower, vegetable oil, soybean oil, and vegetable shortening.

Carbohydrates that are inflammatory

As said before, sugar is enemy number one. This includes ALL forms of sugar. (Raw honey and pure maple syrup are ok on occasion). The problem with this is that there are a thousand and one different names for sugar that are allowed on food labels. The best way to get around this is to eat as many whole foods as possible.

Eliminating sugar includes eliminating fruit juice, sodas, other sugary beverages, and anything that contains a sugar (that are usually named other things to throw you off), as well as fructose. This will also include fruits that are on the higher end of the glycemic load index.

Other carbohydrates that are inflammatory are refined grains. These come in the form of flours used to make breads, bakery items, desserts, and even breading for fried foods. Refined grains break down like sugar in the body and create those blood sugar spikes that induce inflammation.

Sodium

This isn’t talked about a ton unless there’s a factor of high blood pressure. However, many people find that they are sensitive to sodium. Not only does this increase the ‘puffiness’ factor, it can also induce a level of inflammation as well. It’s best to cut down on your sodium content when you begin your anti inflammatory diet to see if it helps.

Foods that you are intolerant or allergic to, or need to avoid because of a condition

It should go without saying that you should avoid foods you are allergic to. The problem is that many people don’t even know what these are. Years of an inflammatory diet have created such chronic inflammation that it can be very difficult to discern which foods you are specifically reacting to.

The same goes for foods that you aren’t technically allergic to, but have an intolerance to.

These types of foods can usually indicate a certain condition, like IBS.

If you’ve already been diagnosed with a specific condition, there are most likely a handful of foods or categories of foods that you should be avoiding already to alleviate your symptoms.

An elimination diet for inflammation

The last thing I want to discuss is an elimination diet to truly nail down which foods are inflammatory to YOUR body. The reason this is important is that there are a few different food categories that have controversial data behind it, and there are also foods that may be beneficial for you to eliminate to alleviate symptoms based on a condition you have (or may not know you have)!

These categories include: grains, gluten-containing grains, nightshades, dairy, FODMAPS, fructans, lectins, nuts, soy, shellfish, coconut, and coconut oil.

Overall, consistent research has shown that there are a number of health benefits of following an anti-inflammatory diet for people suffering from inflammatory conditions, but also for nearly everyone on the planet.

These include reduced inflammation leading to pain reduction and the ability to manage chronic pain, increased insulin sensitivity which is beneficial for diabetics, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced risk of alzheimer’s disease, lower blood pressure levels due to improved lipid profiles, and reduced chance of having a heart attack or stroke because of improved blood lipid profiles.

It is nearly the opposite of the Western style of eating, but can happen by following a few specific steps.

My CHEAT codes to wellness framework guides you through these steps so you can achieve an anti-inflammatory lifestyle without it taking over your life.

Get started on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet with a free 7-Day Meal Plan HERE! 👇👇👇

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anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Healthy Pumpkin Spice Latte | Anti-Inflammatory | Sugar Free | Vegan

https://youtu.be/xCOxatbzvNU

One of the biggest bummers of going anti-inflammatory was learning that sugar was TOTALLY out. Especially in the fall when I love me some PSL—

However—hope is not lost!

I’ve got a healthy pumpkin spice latte that won’t jack your blood sugar up (or your waistline) like a Starbucks PSL will.

Just for reference, the Starbucks PSL has FIFTY grams of sugar in it!!

It’s sugar-free, dairy-free, anti-inflammatory, and full of pumpkin spice goodness.

Now let’s get started!

healthy pumpkin spice latte

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to Fall Freestyle Meal Prep with NO PLAN for crazy busy fall weeks? Grab the free GUIDE and get a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

Gather your ingredients

First we start with our ingredients, which are:

Pumpkin puree, coffee, erythritol or other granulated natural sugar-free sweetener, vanilla extract, unsweetened non-dairy milk of your choice, and pumpkin pie spice.

healthy pumpkin spice latte

Prepare the 2 parts of your pumpkin spice latte

First, you need to go ahead and start your coffee brewing. This will take a few minutes.

While your coffee is brewing, add that cup of nondairy milk to a small saucepan and turn it to medium heat, then add in your sweetener, and the pumpkin puree.

healthy pumpkin spice latte

And then whisk it really well until it’s all mixed together,and let it get really warm.

Then turn off your heat, add the vanilla extract and pumpkin spice, give it another good whisk…

healthy pumpkin spice latte

And then you’re ready to pour it up!

Pour it up like a barista

Put the coffee in your mug first, then pour the pumpkin milk mixture into the coffee.

healthy pumpkin spice latte

And enjoy your pumpkin spice latte that has mega anti-inflammatory ingredients WITHOUT the crazy amounts of sugar.

And if you really love anti-inflammatory seasonal fall recipes, check out my Fall Freestyle Meal Prep session where I grabbed random fall produce to make 4+ anti-inflammatory meals for the week with NO meal plan in place!

Pumpkin Spice Latte | Anti Inflammatory, Keto, Vegan

A healthy pumpkin spice latte that won't skyrocket your bloodsugar!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 4 oz coffee strong
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk of your choice, unsweetened
  • 1 TBSP pumpkin puree
  • 2 tsp erythritol to taste, or granulated natural sugar-free sweetener of choice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Instructions
 

  • Brew coffee while making pumpkin milk mixture.
  • Place a small saucepan on medium heat. Combine milk, pumpkin puree, and erythritol. Whisk together.
  • Keep whisking until mixture is warm.
  • Turn off heat. Add vanilla and pumpkin pie spice.
  • Pour coffee into a mug, then pour pumpkin milk mixture into it.
  • Enjoy!
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free, Vegan

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to Fall Freestyle Meal Prep with NO PLAN for crazy busy fall weeks? Grab the free GUIDE and get a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

healthy pumpkin spice latte

Anti Inflammatory Pumkin Cheesecake Smoothie

The Anti-Inflammatory Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie You’ve Been Waiting For

Today we’re making what tastes like dessert but is a balanced meal with a fall-inspired yummy twist: Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothies

pumpkin cheesecake smoothie anti inflammatory vegan gluten free

So, there’s nothing better than that break in heat from the summer and smelling fall in the air, and when it comes to easy, yummy, FAST meals, you can’t beat a smoothie.

This fall-inspired, anti inflammatory Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie owes its anti-inflammatory balanced macro goodness to pumpkin and banana and a surprise ingredient that gives it that creamy cheesecake mouthfeel that keeps us coming back for more. 😋

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to Fall Freestyle Meal Prep with NO PLAN for crazy busy fall weeks? Grab the free GUIDE and get a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

And here’s how you make it…

pumpkin cheesecake smoothie anti inflammatory vegan gluten free

Prep Your Ingredients

Although many smoothies are just ‘dump and blend’, this one needs two ingredients pre-frozen: a banana and the pumpkin puree.

We keep bananas that were about to go bad in a baggie in the freezer so I always have them on hand for smoothies (or ice cream). But the pumpkin puree is a different story.

For this smoothie I measured out the pumpkin puree and placed it on a silmat and put it in the freezer. (This should freeze for about 30 minutes to an hour.)

pumpkin cheesecake smoothie anti inflammatory vegan gluten free

Dump and Blend

Once those 2 ingredients are frozen you’re free to dump them all in a high-powered blender (my choice is the Ninja), including our secret ingredient that we use instead of cream cheese: Silken tofu.

(Some links may be affiliate links, meaning if you click on and then purchase, I’ll get a portion of the proceeds, at no additional charge to you.) 🙂

Now, if you’ve never eaten or used tofu before, settle down. I used to avoid it like the plague because of all the bad press soy has gotten over the years. The truth is that it’s full of vegan (complete) protein, fiber, and healthy fat.

The reason some soy isn’t considered healthy is because if it’s NOT organic, it’s laden with chemicals, and the soy oil is extremely oxidized.

So choose organic and you’re good to go!

Also, if you can’t find silken (which is a much softer version), you can still use medium or firm, you may just have to add a few TBSP of water and blend longer for it to get super smooth.

Blend all your ingredients until super smooth (scraping the insides of the blender if needed).

pumpkin cheesecake smoothie anti inflammatory vegan gluten free

Then pour it up and enjoy!

pumpkin cheesecake smoothie anti inflammatory vegan gluten free
pumpkin cheesecake smoothie anti inflammatory vegan gluten free
pumpkin cheesecake smoothie anti inflammatory vegan

Pumpkin Cheesecake Smoothie

The Anti-Inflammatory Vegan Cheesecake Smoothie You've Been Waiting For
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Servings 1
Calories 323 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 8 oz tofu silken
  • 1 banana frozen, small
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin frozen for 30 min – 1 hour beforehand
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or other non-dairy alternative
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice about 1/2 a lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions
 

  • Freeze pureed pumpkin beforehand for 30 min – 1 hour.
  • Add all ingredients to a high powered blender.
  • Blend until super smooth. Pour into a glass and enjoy!

Notes

Fat: 11
Carbs: 43
Fiber: 11
Protein: 22

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to Fall Freestyle Meal Prep with NO PLAN for crazy busy fall weeks? Grab the free GUIDE and get a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

And if you really love anti-inflammatory seasonal fall recipes, check out my Fall Freestyle Meal Prep session where I grabbed random fall produce to make 4+ anti-inflammatory meals for the week with NO meal plan in place! >>>CLICK HERE<<<

Make sure you COMMENT BELOW on how you like it any substitutions you may have made!

*And don’t forget to PIN it or SHARE! 💖

pumpkin cheesecake smoothie anti inflammatory vegan gluten free

THE Fall Pumpkin Spice Superfood Smoothie

Your New Go-To Fall Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie

There’s nothing better than that break in heat from the summer and smelling fall 🍂 in the air, and when it comes to easy, yummy, FAST meals, you can’t beat a smoothie— And if you love pumpkin spice as much as I do, you’re gonna love this!

pumpkin spice superfood smoothie anti inflammatory

So this fall-inspired, Anti Inflammatory Pumpkin Spice Smoothie (that is a mouthful!)—is packed with anti-inflammatory goodness like pumpkin, avocado, spinach, and ginger, and I have a feeling it’s gonna become your GO TO smoothie for fall from now on.

Now, as much as I’d like this to be a gorgeous pumpkin color, as with all smoothies that have greens added…it’s green. But this absolutely doesn’t detract from it’s yumminess–pinky promise.

And here’s how you make it:

Step 1: Gather your ingredients

This smoothie is made with pumpkin, banana, avocado, spinach, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, ginger, nondairy milk, egg white powder, and keto maple syrup.

pumpkin spice superfood smoothie anti inflammatory

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to Fall Freestyle Meal Prep with NO PLAN for crazy busy fall weeks? Grab the free GUIDE and get a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

Step 2: Put them all in the blender

Honestly this is why smoothies are so darn easy. You just put them all in the blender at once.

pumpkin spice superfood smoothie anti inflammatory

The one caveat for this smoothie (I’d suggest) is to hold off on the egg white powder until everything else is nice and smooth, because it can make it thicker.)

A high-powered blender is always recommended, like this Ninja, or if you want to spend more, the Vitamix is a favorite for a higher price tag.

(Some links may be affiliate links, meaning if you click on and then purchase, I’ll get a portion of the proceeds, at no additional charge to you.) 🙂

Step 3: Assess thickness

If your smoothie is having a hard time blending, you may need to add a little more liquid to it. If it gets too thick it can’t run back down to the bottom where the blades are doing their thang.

pumpkin spice superfood smoothie anti inflammatory

Step 4: Assess sweetness

I always like to do a little taste-test and just make sure the sweetness is where I like it. If it needs more, I add a tiny bit at a time. If there’s no sweetener in the recipe, I add a natural zero calorie sweetener like liquid stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol.

Step 5: Pour it up + enjoy!

In all honesty, sometimes smoothies make way more than I can handle in one sitting. So if it’s a bit too much, just store it in the fridge for up to a day.

pumpkin spice superfood smoothie anti inflammatory

Love fall anti-inflammatory recipes? Check out my Fall Freestyle Meal Prep Session where I prep for a whole week’s worth of meals by choosing random fall produce, and do it in about an hour! CLICK HERE to read!

And here’s the printable recipe:

pumpkin spice superfood smoothie anti inflammatory

The Pumpkin-Spice Superfood Smoothie: Your New GO TO Fall Smoothie

An anti-inflammatory smoothie made with fall superfoods.
Prep Time 5 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Breakfast, Snack
Servings 1
Calories 267 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 banana frozen
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2 cups baby spinach fresh
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 piece ginger fresh, grated
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk unsweetened
  • 1/4 cup keto maple syrup I used Lakanto brand
  • 2 TBSP egg white powder or plant-based plain protein powder

Instructions
 

  • Place all ingredients into a high-powered blender.
  • Blend until smooth.
  • If too thick, add a few TBSP of water at a time, or 4-5 ice cubes.
  • Taste test to determine if sweet enough.
  • Pour into a large glass and enjoy!

Notes

Per serving:
Fat- 9g
Carbs-40g
Fiber-7g
Protein-12g
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Gluten-Free, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free, Vegan

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to Fall Freestyle Meal Prep with NO PLAN for crazy busy fall weeks? Grab the free GUIDE and get a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

PIN it or SHARE! 💖

pumpkin spice superfood smoothie anti inflammatory

Fall Freestyle Meal Prep in About an Hour

How to Get a Week of Fall Anti Inflammatory Meals Prepped in About an Hour With No Plan

So, it’s fall, kids are back in school … which we’re infinitely grateful for, obviously, 😁 but that makes our weeks just, like… insanely crazy…

So when we’ve got weeks like this where we’re worried about getting kids home from school, homework, after-school activities–and we’re supposed to be cooking dinner, but we’ve got logistics for getting kids everywhere…

It can get pretty nutty.

We have three kids and that’s what we struggle with every single week—

So this method has actually been a lifesaver for us so that on weeks where I don’t even have the brainpower to put a meal plan together, this is our lifesaver.

We have a backup.

And I’m gonna show you how to do that; I’m gonna show you the example meals that we made for the week with all of the produce that we got; and if you scroll till the end I’m gonna tell you how to get the GUIDE that shows you all of the details for all of this so you can keep it on hand for ANY time you have weeks like this.

And I’m also gonna let you know how to get a discount on our Fall Anti-Inflammatory Meal Planning Kit, which is 4 weeks of anti-inflammatory meals, including:

  • Dinners
  • Lunches
  • Breakfasts and Snacks
  • Smoothies
  • Desserts
  • And even Fall-Inspired cocktails!

…SO..let’s get to it!

Step 1: Choose your produce

So for Freestyle meal prep, you start out with simply choosing a bunch of SEASONAL produce- and in our shopping order for this meal prep session I got:

  • broccoli,
  • brussels sprouts,
  • kale already chopped up in a bag,
  • mushrooms, you can choose any kind,
  • sweet potatoes,
  • regular potatoes,
  • an onion,
  • and cauliflower.

And all of this was just random stuff that I know my family will eat and that gave us a pretty good variety for meals this week.

Step 2: Prep your workspace

And after washing all the produce, I pre-heated both ovens for 350 degrees F.

The tools you’ll need for your meal prep session are a large cutting board, good knives, and roasting pans- probably with a lip, and something to line it with so stuff doesn’t stick.

Now I use something I found by accident with is a BBQ grilling mat—I love these because I can cut them to fit perfectly in my pan and NOTHING sticks to them—they come in a pack all rolled up in a box.

(Some links may be affiliate links, meaning if you click on and then purchase, I’ll get a portion of the proceeds, at no additional charge to you.) 🙂

Step 3: Get your base seasoning out

So our base seasoning includes avodado oil to drizzle on, I use this to cook with because it has a high smoke point. Or you can use something like this Misto spray can where you put the oil in, pump air in to build pressure, and spray it on.

Then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and it’s ready to go in the oven.

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to do this? Grab it as well as a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

Step 4: Prep foods that cook the longest first

So, even though I didn’t have full meals planned out when I got all this produce, I had a loose plan for a few things. So I knew I’d want to do baked potatoes one night, so since they take an hour to bake you’ll want to do these first if you’re doing baked potatoes one night.

And for baked potatoes, you just coat each one individually with oil, salt it, wrap it in foil, and then punch some holes with a fork.

Once I’ve got those all set and into the oven for one hour, I get to work chopping everything else.

Step 5: Prep all other foods that cook the same length of time

Broccoli and cauliflower

I started out with broccoli, and just basically cut all the florets off—and if you don’t like to chop you can always buy the bags where it’s pre-chopped. It does save time, but may cost a little more.

Once these were all cut up, I put them all on the pan on one end, because I put the cauliflower on the other end.

Then I started with the cauliflower and removed that large base then cut those into florets as well, breaking some of them apart. And you can also buy these prechopped if you don’t like cutting them up- it does save a lot of time and mess.

Then I placed all those on the second half of the pan where the broccoli was. I cook these on the same pan because cook at right about the same rate.

And then I wanted a bit more flavor than just our base seasoning, so I chopped an onion into chunks and just spread it out evenly on the pan.

Brussels sprouts

Next I prepped brussels sprouts, and the easiest way to do these is chop off the end piece slice them in half and lay them face down on the pan.

I arranged mine with a hole in the middle for all the loose little leaves because they get extra crispy and are a super yummy snack!

Then drizzle or spray with oil, then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.—and they’re ready to go!

Mushrooms.

I decided to split the mushrooms and do half chopped pretty small and the other half roasted.

I chopped one half because I like to mix them in with ground meat to give it bulk and really boost the vitamin content-and my kids can never tell! I don’t precook those, so I just put them in a baggie to store in the fridge until the night I needed them.

The other half I just spread out on the pan, and I had a pack of sage I grabbed at the store as well—this is such a fragrant and nutrition-packed herb, and perfect for colder weather.

So I just chopped some of it, sprinkled it on the mushrooms, then added our oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder and it’s ready to go.

Sweet potatoes

I roughly chopped the sweet potatoes because I had loosely planned mashed sweet potates with cinnamon- my kids love those- and the rest I planned to use in my lunches during the week.

But that meant that all of them needed to be chopped.

Regular potatoes

Then I started on the rest of the regular potatoes I had. So for the ones I wasn’t using for a whole baked potato, we like to sometimes do homemade fries and this tool makes it super easy.

It’s a fry cutter and has this grid blade inside to cut the potato in perfectly squared fries.

So how it works is that you take the lid off, place the potato wedge on top of that grid, then put the lid on and push it down to force the potato through the grid. And you have perfectly shaped fries.

So I repeated this process until I got all the rest of the potatoes cut, then put them with the sweet potatoes on a pan, because they cook at about the same rate. I got them all seasoned and ready for the oven.

Step 6: Put all prepped veggies into the oven

All of the veggies go into the oven at that 350 degrees F for 30 minutes- just keep an eye out and take out anything that’s cooking a little too much.

Step 7: Any veg that won’t be pre-cooked

And the last thing I prepped was kale. Since this came in a bag, I picked out any bad pieces since it was already chopped, and planned to wilt some one night for dinner, and then would have a massaged kale salad one night as well.

So once all the bad pieces were picked out I just stored it in a Ziploc in the fridge.

Step 8: Remove veggies from oven

And when they’re done, just take all the pans out, and let them cool…

Step 9: Store prepped veggies

Then start putting them into your storage containers.

I do recommend putting them in separate containers because some veggies do have a higher water content and a lot of times they get a little bit mushy in there and you don’t want that water running into the other vegetables.

And then you’ve got all your veggies prepped for the week! You can store all of these AND your baked potatoes in the fridge until the night you need them.

4+ Meals with pre-prepped fall anti-inflammatory vegetables

The meals we cooked with our freestyle meal prep session were:

Chicken sausage with the broccoli and cauliflower,

Baked potato with shredded chicken, sugar-free bbq sauce, mushrooms, and brussels sprouts,

Turkey burgers that had the chopped mushrooms with sage built into it, and those homemade fries with Dijon mustard for dipping, and a massaged kale salad, AND

Lemony baked cod with wilted kale and mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon.

And there ya go! That’s how to do Fall Freestyle Meal prep!

Want the free printable PDF guide to learn how to do this? Grab it as well as a discount on the FALL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEAL PLANNING KIT! Get it before the discount goes away! 👇👇👇

PIN IT for later or SHARE! 👇

Summer Freestyle Meal Prep for Anti-Inflammatory Dinners in under an Hour

You know those weeks when there’s so damn much going on that you can already feel yourself teetering before the week even starts?

Well, we tend to have a lot of those around here. So even though I have a meal planning system set up with essentially my whole year of meals planned out, I still have weeks where a formal plan feels like too much to put on myself or anyone else.

So what I came up with is called Freestyle Meal Prep.

anti inflammatory meal prep

What is Freestyle Meal Prep?

Freestyle Meal Prep is what I call it when you don’t really have a formal meal plan or meal prep plan but you do know that you need food easy and ready for the week, if you’re like me and have crazy weeks sometimes where this would be really your lifeline for sticking to your anti-inflammatory diet all week with no planning.

This is really important when you’re managing inflammation and/or blood sugar levels, because your diet is the number one thing you can change to keep inflammation under control.

Now a lot of meal preppers who rely on the ‘cook once eat twice’ method will usually cook meats and then chop veggies at the start of the week but I like to do the opposite of that. Instead, I like to chop and cook veggies and any grains or other complex carbs that I might use during the week, like quinoa, rice, beans, or lentils and then cook meat the night of.

Here’s why I flip that around:

Proteins

So number one, we found that when we cook meats and then reheat them for our dinners they tend to end up pretty dry so they don’t taste nearly as good and then if you have leftovers you’d really just end up reheating those all over again making it taste even worse.

We have a lot of complainers in our household and that’s one of the main things that they complain about is the meat being dry. Also, meats in particular build up histamine as leftovers and I personally have a histamine issue that makes it better for my allergies and inflammation to just cook meats fresh the day of.

Starchy Carbohydrates

Number two is that studies are showing that cooking carbohydrates and then letting them cool and then reheating them again actually increases the amount of resistance starches significantly.

What this means is that those carbs aren’t causing that huge blood sugar spike. Instead, it’s keeping you at more of a steady blood sugar level over a longer period of time keeping you feeling full for longer.

This trick with resistant starches is important because it helps feed your good gut bacteria which helps with inflammation but it also keeps that blood sugar more steady which also helps with inflammation. So it’s kind of a two-fold punch there.

Learning to plan meals around veggies

And then number three: Moving into an anti-inflammatory diet will really just show you how amazing you can feel by eating more plant-based, plant-forward, or sometimes called a flexitarian style of eating. And doing this makes it really easy to just cook all the veggies up front since they store and reheat well and then plan meals around all of the veggies instead of meats.

This actually saves me a ton of time and is my go-to when I don’t have the brain power or the time to do actual meal planning and prep for the week while still getting all those meals on the table for my family at night and then also having lunches for me during the week.

And this method really is super simple so let’s get into it!

How to do Freestyle Meal Prep

So first things first– when I do freestyle meal prep I have my list of seasonal veggies and just add whatever sounds good that week to my grocery order. If you don’t do grocery orders online and you actually go into the store, just take your seasonal veggie list and choose the produce off of there that is appropriate for that season.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Step 1: Get out your prep foods and supplies

So to get started I get all that produce out. I get out my cutting board, my good knives, and a pan to roast the veggies on. Then I go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Some people like to use a Sil match to roast veggies on because stuff doesn’t stick, but I found it really hard to find one of these that fits my pan perfectly. I do still use this for things that I bake that won’t leak into the oven, but for roasting veggies I found a secret kitchen tool that I accidentally stumbled onto.

It’s a barbecue grill mat and I’m telling you nothing sticks to this! They usually come in a pack rolled up all nice in a box (linked below).

anti inflammatory meal prep

And what I do is actually cut them to fit my pans that have lips so that they fit perfectly. And I’ve done this with baking sheets and I’ve also done this with CorningWare dishes.

(Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link, so if you decide to purchase this product, I made a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra charge to you.)

Now for this summer meal prep session, I’ve got zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, green beans, bell peppers, and onions, and I wanted to try fennel this week. Fennel looks a little bit like a celery plant but it has a flavor that’s more like anise, a little bit like licorice. It’s definitely not for everyone but at least wanted to try it out.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Step 2: Wash and chop

Once I make sure that everything’s been washed, I get started chopping.

What’s so easy about this whole process is that there’s almost no wrong way to do it. I literally either slice or chop the veggies however I want as long as I get the pieces all about the same size. This just ensures that all those vegetable chunks cook at about the same rate.

Squash and zucchini

For the squash and zucchini I just slice them in half lengthwise and then just chop slices all the way down.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Eggplant

Eggplants are tricky for some because they are part of the food family called nightshades. Nightshades cause inflammation in some people, but this isn’t a guarantee. Research has shown that nightshades causing inflammation is highly personal to each individual and any conditions they have, and the best way to know if you personally react is to do an elimination diet.

I like eggplants because they’re pretty filling but they have a soft texture without being mushy with liquid. Eggplant slices are really great for eggplant parmigiana, so it may help to slice it if you’d like to use it that way. I’ve been told by an Italian chef before that they sometimes do that and leave the skin on to help the eggplant slice stay intact during cooking.

But I also like to peel mine and cut it into those kind of half slices or half moon slices to roast as well. One thing I’ve learned through the years about eggplant is that you may need to switch your peeling tool depending on the thickness of the skin.

In this meal prep session I tried my larger knife and it wasn’t working very well so I then tried my peeler which is actually really sharp but it wasn’t doing that well either. So for safety’s sake I moved on to a much smaller paring knife which worked great.

Fennel

Next I chopped my fennel. Now fennel is like a large celery bulb in shape and texture. I just sliced the end off where the root is and then sliced off the stalks and then just sliced up the large bulb.

It can be a little difficult to do it this way just because the pieces fall apart a little bit, but just kind of do the best you can. Then lay the slices out and just drizzle them with oil and season them and everything before you roast.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Bell peppers and onions

Then I moved on to my peppers and onions. now for bell peppers I usually will cut off the top and then I’ll work the knife around the insides to pull out that seed pod. Then I’ll turn it upside down and give it a tap to get all those seeds out and then flip it upside down to cut it into slices. I did the same thing with my green, red, and orange bell peppers.

Then when those were done I peeled the skin of my onion. If I’m making something like maybe pico de gallo for a Mexican dish I’ll go ahead and cut some onions into smaller pieces, so I did go ahead and do a little of that. And then I cut the rest of it into larger slices to roast with the bell peppers.

Other veggies that don’t get cooked

The last thing in this session that I did was chop green beans. I do like roasted green beans, but I knew that we wanted fish one night this week and I love sauteing green beans during the summer because the fresh ones taste really great when they still have a bit of crunch to them.

So the green beans did not get roasted but they did get put into a storage container in the fridge.

Seasoning

Once I’ve got enough veggies to fill a pan I place all the chunks in sections.

The easiest way to prep roasted veggies–especially when you don’t know what actual meals you’ll be cooking for in the week yet–is is to do just the basics of oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder if you want.

I used avocado oil because it has good monounsaturated fats, which is great for pulling down inflammation, and it also has a high smoke point. You can use the mister if you want a lighter coating of oil rather than it being drizzled.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Roasting time

Then everything’s ready and goes into the oven. We have a double oven so I actually take full advantage of that on days like this when I’ve got several pans to cook all at the same time. I’ll just leave the light on in there so I can check in case something may need to come out a little earlier.

The general time that I cook veggies is about 30 minutes.

Cooling + storing meal prepped vegetables

The last step is getting them out of the oven, letting them cool a bit, and then getting them into containers to store in the fridge. In our house, we use glass Pyrex storage containers that are rectangular shaped. I’m not sure who thought using round containers inside of a square-shaped fridge was a good idea of it in our house it pushes other dishes around and nearly pops them out of the fridge regularly, so we use square or rectangular shaped.

And then when they’re cool enough put the lids on and you can stack them nice and neat in the fridge until you need them during the week.

anti inflammatory meal prep

Creating ‘freestyle meals’ during the week

Once you have all of your veggies prepped ready to go in your meal prep container stored in the fridge, during the week, basically you just have to pair the veggies with different meats or sauces or flavor profiles to create just about limitless combinations for meals.

So this particular summer week we did:

anti inflammatory meal prep

Grilled salmon with sliced tomatoes and those sauteed green beans,

anti inflammatory meal prep

A low-carb version of eggplant Parmesan with tomato sauce and a side salad,

anti inflammatory meal prep

Fajita bowls with peppers and onion where we cooked chicken added canned black beans and then sliced avocado and brown rice,

anti inflammatory meal prep

And then I paired sauteed tofu with squash zucchini and pesto and that can easily have chicken subbed in for the tofu.

So if you’d like a printable PDF for freestyle meal prep for crazy busy weeks that include some sauce recipe options, there is a link below 👇, and if you grab that you’re also going to get a discount on the four week seasonal anti-inflammatory meal plan kit that has four whole weeks of anti-inflammatory dinners, lunches, breakfast and snacks, desserts, smoothies, and even cocktails!

Let me know in the comments: What meals have you made during freestyle summer meal prep?! 💖 🍍

Blueberry Paleo Pancakes

One of the best things about summer has got to be the delicious assortment of fresh berries. And if your family is like mine, it’s pretty darn rare for anyone to turn their nose up these gorgeous juicy gems.

Our typical problem with baking with them is that so many recipes add in (totally unnecessary) sugar to sweeten berries up. The thing is, if they’re in season and fresh, they absolutely don’t need extra sweetness.

And one of our absolute favorite ways to use them is in pancakes. And these Paleo blueberry pancakes are super yummy AND can easily take a switchout for whichever summer berry goodness you have on hand!

blueberry paleo pancakes

Blueberry Paleo Pancakes

These Paleo blueberry pancakes are super yummy AND can easily take a switchout for whichever summer berry goodness you have on hand!
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Breakfast, Snack
Servings 2
Calories 241 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/4 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk or milk of choice
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup almond flour
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 TBSP monk fruit sweetener granulated, or keto maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp avocado oil for pan
  • 1/4 cup blueberries fresh or frozen; or other summer berries

Instructions
 

  • In a mixing bowl, whisk all the wet ingredients EXCEPT the blueberries; in a separate bowl mix all the dry ingredients. Then add the dry into the wet a little at a time, whisking until completely combined.
  • Either add blueberries into batter, or save for topping pancakes (or both!)
  • Heat a pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot add the oil. Spoon the batter into the pan in scant 1/4 cup portions to form small pancakes. Divide the blueberries between pancakes and cook for about three to five minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through. Repeat with any remaining batter, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
  • Divide pancakes between plates and enjoy!
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free
Blueberry paleo pancakes

The Best Diet for Anxiety: Ultimate Guide

If I’d known the best diet for anxiety fifteen years ago… I would have jumped on it immediately. Spending my two-week training time at a new job just trying to function like a normal human (ie, NOT having a panick attack) was not what I was prepared for.

Sure I had lots of stress in those previous months… new job, new city, new house, and lots of months of trying to get pregnant to no avail. But getting to the point that I felt like I was going crazy all day, every day was not what I signed up for.

best diet for anxiety depression

And that’s unfortunately how so many others roll into their first anxiety attacks… unsuspecting. The sad truth is that many others have experienced this since childhood, especially the teenage years.

We had to deal with this first-hand with our oldest daughter, and I was at a loss. Because I, too, knew what it felt like…but at the time I was under the misconception that it was because she was raised in the day and age of ‘participation trophies’ and needed to just suck it up. She didn’t understand what ‘real’ stress felt like.

best diet for anxiety depression

It took a lot of education and self-imposed nutritional therapy to understand that anxiety (and depression) are highly influenced by what we eat as well as how we treat our bodies in a holistic way.

It’s not a ‘frame of mind’ to suffer from this…It’s a chemical state.

But what many fail to understand is that just because it’s chemical doesn’t automatically mean medication is necessary. I don’t for a second think medication may not be necessary; I personally took it for a decade.

But what I didn’t know then, and do know now, is that anxiety and depression can be largely resolved by lifestyle changes–including an anti-anxiety diet.

Anxiety and depression symptoms

Years ago I thought anxiety and depression looked like people who just withdrew and worried a lot. Now I know better. In fact, symptoms can include any of all of these:

  • Feel like you’re going crazy
  • Claustrophobic
  • Irritable
  • Uninterested
  • Unmotivated
  • Brain fog
  • Numb
  • Chest pain
  • Short of breath
  • Stomach issues
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Clammy
  • Physical pains where you’re holding stress or trauma
  • Overly emotional
  • Sad
  • ADD
  • Out of your body

And this isn’t an exhaustive list.

best diet for anxiety depression

The Gut-Brain Link

What’s been discovered in the last few decades is that the gut and brain and intricately linked. So much so that the gut is now called ‘the second brain’.

Research has shown that our connection has a ton to do with our gut bacteria and nutrition levels. 

Nutrition levels are usually pretty self-explanatory for many: Eat more of what you’re deficient in.

Gut bacteria can be a bit trickier. This is because it isn’t as simple as popping a probiotic once a day. Gut bacteria is influenced by what you eat that you should or shouldn’t, the amount of exercise you do or don’t get, how well or poorly you’re managing stress, and how much and the quality of sleep you are or aren’t getting. 

These are called the CORE 4 pillars of health at TRUEWELL, and they work in a holistic and synergistic way. They can all stack together to work for or against you. Usually the best place to start is nutrition because you gotta eat everyday. 

best diet for anxiety depression

The best diet for anxiety and depression

After being in the wellness and nutrition space for over a decade, I’ve personally been through many dietary styles and researched even more. And what I’ve come to find is that although many dieticians and nutritionists dismiss dietary styles that eliminate some foods… this isn’t always a bad thing like they’d have you think. 

What’s become popular of late is health ‘gurus’ giving advice that you don’t have to quit this or quit that and that it’s unhealthy to restrict yourself in that way. 

I have a problem with this when it comes to conditions that rely on quitting certain foods. Because the price you pay isn’t just your physical health; it’s also your quality of life.

And this is especially true when it comes to anxiety and depression. 

That being said, my highest recommendation for an anti-anxiety and depression diet is an anti-inflammatory diet. Here’s why:

  1. The AI diet starts with the foundation as the Mediterranean diet, which has had heavy research for the last 15-20 years backing it up.
  2. An AI diet goes even further than that to be truly personalized for your unique needs.
  3. It doesn’t normally require counting anything (unless you’re also using it as a tool to lose weight). 
  4. It promotes highly nutritious foods.
  5. It truly is a dietary style meant to be incorporated as a way of life, for life.

How does an Anti-Inflammatory diet help anxiety and depression?

An anti-inflammatory diet starts out with the Mediterranean diet as a foundation. The Mediterranean diet follows these guidelines:

  1. Cut out sugar and processed foods, and instead eat complex carbohydrates like vegetables, low-sugar fruits, beans and legumes, and whole (or cracked) grains for high amounts of fiber and resistant starches. These are the best foods to feed your good gut bacteria (remember we talked about how important gut health is?)
  2. Cut refined flours: These are absorbed into the bloodstream extremely fast and have the same effect as eating sugar.
  3. Stop drinking alcohol (at least temporarily until you know how you react to it). The Med Diet includes red wine, in moderation.
  4. Cut out trans fats and most saturated fats. 
  5. The basic Mediterranean Diet includes low-fat dairy in moderation

To go a step further in refining the diet for anxiety and depression, you should also:

  1. Cut out gluten as it’s been shown to induce inflammation in the gut even in people who don’t have celiac. Those with anxiety and depression commonly also have adrenal fatigue on some level, and gluten aggravates this state as well
  2. Eliminate artificial sweeteners, which have also been shown to have a huge negative impact on gut bacteria
  3. Cut out dairy until you know how you react to it
  4. Consider an elimination diet to determine if you have food sensitivities

The way that this helps with anxiety and depression is that it eliminates the foods putting your body into an imbalanced state via the gut, and starts to repair the gut so that it can function at peak performance.

This allows your neurotransmitters to do their job in managing anxiety and depression properly.

best diet for anxiety depression

What foods can I eat for anxiety and depression?

The best place to start is getting a balance of macros at each meal with the TRUEWELL trifecta:

  1. High quality protein (at least 3 oz at each meal; the size of your palm). Examples would be fatty cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), organic grass-fed beef, pork, or poultry. Soy is also an option (organic). 
  2. Fiber (gluten-free) with resistant starches (fill your plate as much as possible with vegetables, and then add complex carbs like whole or cracked grains, beans, or legumes).
  3. Healthy fats (about the size of your thumb). These would be monounsaturated fats (olive or avocado oil), a few nuts, or some cheese (if you can tolerate it without symptoms). 
best diet for anxiety depression

You should also add a really good probiotic. But just know that these don’t really do much if you’re not taking them with complex carbs. This is because the fiber and resistant starches are food for your good gut bacteria. When these little bugs are happy, they reduce inflammation in your gut and body.

A good multi-vitamin with methylated forms of Vitamin B is also really helpful as B deficiencies have been linked with anxiety and depression.

A great place to start with the Anti-Inflammatory diet is right here at TRUEWELL.

I’ve personally beat my anxiety and depression with diet and lifestyle, and no longer take meds (after relying on them for 10 years!) to manage this. In five years I’ve only had one panic attack, and it was caused by food poisoning. (And look – I’ve got 4 kids and operate the majority of the time as a single working mom, so that should say something!)

If you’re ready to get started balancing your body with nutrition to finally have anxiety-free days that you’re excited to live, grab the Anti-Anxiety Nutrition Starter Kit and learn how the Anti-Inflammatory Diet is the solution you’ve been looking for, and how to get started on it QUICK. 👇

Kick anxiety to the curb by giving your body the nourishment it’s been missing.

🥑 Learn the two biggest offenders in foods when it comes to anxiety and depression,

🥑 Get started QUICK with a 3-day Anti-Inflammatory meal plan with delicious, fool-proof meals hand-picked to start obliterating anxiety, 

🥑 Discover the CORE 4 pillars that all work together either for you or against you when it comes to managing your anxiety. 

✨ Enter your name + email to get the Anti-Anxiety Nutrition Starter Kit! 👇

best diet for anxiety depression

*Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, prevent, or treat any condition. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, get help immediately.

Top 3 Mistakes in Anti Inflammatory Meal Planning + What to Do Instead

So look, meal planning can be tough enough on its own, but when you add in a dietary style that you’re totally new to, that just makes it that much more complicated. 

When doing anti-inflammatory meal planning there are three major mistakes that I see clients making over and over again that are costing you serious time, money, and the ability to get those anti-inflammatory meals cooked and on the table every night so that you can feel amazing every day. So let’s chat about those to make sure you’re not making those same mistakes, and let you in on what to do instead.

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

🌟Don’t know which foods are on the ‘go/no-go’ list for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet? Check out ‘Anti-Inflammatory Diet for Beginners’

Anti Inflammatory Meal Planning Mistake #1: Being overly ambitious

Mistake number one is being overly ambitious and thinking that you need to cook every night of the week.

So I get it–when we get excited about something new (especially if it’s supposed to help us reach our goals like managing a condition, getting your blood sugar under control, or even kick-starting weight loss), we just want to jump all in…But I want you to slow your roll for a minute because when we get overly ambitious and think that we need to cook every single night you’re sorta asking for trouble.

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

The problem is that when we decide to jump all in and cook every single night, we’re going to get completely overwhelmed. And the usual response to getting overwhelmed is to shut down and do nothing. So I want to prevent that and just kind of take a step back instead. 

The reason that we’re going to take a step back on that is that when you stop putting that kind of pressure on yourself and allow yourself to learn in a really more relaxed way where you can learn to enjoy planning, prepping, and cooking and then appreciate what this dietary style can do for your body. 

So instead what I want you to do is maybe start out cooking three to four dinners in your first few weeks to get started…And take that time to get used to the types of food that you can be using. There’s a little bit different way of cooking sometimes for anti-inflammatory meals and I want you to really just kind of get the hang of what this whole dietary lifestyle and style is about before getting overwhelmed with the whole meal planning part of it. 

One of the really great strategies for this is when you cook those three to four meals go ahead and cook a little bit more so that you can have extra for other meals… which leads us into mistake number two. 

Anti Inflammatory Meal Planning Mistake #1: Not cooking enough food

So before you get all up in arms and overwhelmed at that let me just explain. It takes no extra time to cook 4 servings of a recipe versus 8 servings of a recipe. You’re simply using double the ingredients so what I want you to think about is that when you’re only cooking one recipe at a time for whatever meal that is you’re missing out on the opportunity to save so much time later. 

The reason why that happens is that whenever you cook more you have extra time, you have a fallback, and you have a backup plan. 

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

I know a lot of families who do one night a week for leftovers for dinner, (we absolutely do that because it saves me cooking one night of the week and it also saves all of the other clean up that happens, and it cleans up whatever is left over in the fridge.) 

So instead, think about doing one and a half or even doubling up on your recipes. You do also have the option to take one recipe and cook it for your dinner that night and then make a second one at the same time to freeze for later. So I always recommend doing that and or making double at the recipe so that you can have enough for lunch the next day. 

I work out of the house but whenever I did not work out of the house I would get into that hangry situation right before lunch because I’d been really busy working and usually forgot to have a snack. So by the time lunch got there I was just being like in this annoyed, starving state where I really didn’t care what I went to eat, so I would just grab the closest most convenient thing that I could. Which would never work out on this type of dietary style. 

So if you make enough for lunch the next day you can be assured that whatever you’re eating for lunch is compliant with the anti-inflammatory diet and that way you’re not even worrying about what you’re eating the next day because you know that it fit in because you made it for your dinner the night before.

Mistake #3: Not setting enough time aside

Mistake number three is not setting enough time aside for meal prep and for actual cooking

So the problem in this is that you’re making things more frantic for yourself if you have kids–and especially smaller ones. This could actually be pushing their bedtime later which we know makes us more stressed out and most of all you’re stressing yourself out trying to frantically cook a whole meal when you don’t really have enough time to cook it. 

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

Here’s why: When you do allow yourself enough time, it just makes your time spent cooking way more relaxing… You just assemble the ingredients cook what needs to be cooked at your own pace, no rush…Instead of frantically running around with your hair on fire just to get dinner ready. 

But it also gives you peace of mind during the day because you know that those things are already prepped and ready to go and have the extra time to cook dinner. 

I can’t tell you the number of clients that tell me that even though they have meal plans technically done they still have anxiety about getting the meals actually cooked at night because of how long it will take. 

What to do instead is to make sure that you schedule in an hour maybe on Sunday (or one other day at the start of the week) to meal prep: chop veggies and even go ahead and make some of the meat even sauces. Sometimes if it’s a casserole a lot of those ingredients are pre-cooked and then you can just assemble them the night of and then just stick them in the oven so that you have as little to do as possible on the day of.

Bonus points!

Add even more bonus points if you go ahead and shop and then prep all of your veggies the minute that you get back inside with the groceries so that you’re saving yourself an extra trip of taking things back out of the fridge just to chop them and then put them back in the fridge.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve been making any of these mistakes (or even others that I didn’t touch on!)

Get started THIS WEEK on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet by grabbing the 1-Week Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan below! 💖

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anti inflammatory meal planning mistakes

3 Major Lessons That Proved the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Would Change My Life

When I decided to embark on an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, I had just had my youngest kid (as of writing this she is nine years old). And I’d spent a lot of time dealing with the stress of being a mom in general, but also shifting back and forth between operating as a single mom and then flipping back into wife mode because my husband traveled so much for work. 

anti inflammatory diet would change my life

And at the time was just trying to lose the baby weight so that I would fit into my clothes again. But I really and truly needed more energy, I needed my hormones balanced, my blood sugar stable, and then (of course) your mood just ties all in with all of those things (read: I was constantly in Momzilla-mode.)

So what I thought was the right thing to do was to eat low carb or keto because at the time it was all the rage and everybody was having such good results with it. 

I had just barely started my nutrition journey (formal education-wise.) But even in that capacity, there are a ton of differing opinions on how we should eat. 

So I decided to start with trying to lose the baby weight and keep my blood sugar in check, and to do that I would go low-carb and just sort of put that on autopilot in the back of my head because I had so much going on in my life right then, as we all do.

And I knew that it really wasn’t working out in my favor because my hormones were super up and down, my cycles were not regular, (I’d had endometriosis when we were trying to get pregnant the first time) and my energy levels were the same: up and down all day long. I also couldn’t even concentrate for really long amounts of time. I also had allergic symptoms that were getting worse–I’ve always had environmental allergies. 

It was really frustrating because I thought that I had figured out that this diet was the most important thing and that I knew doing low carb or keto would be the best thing for me because of my family’s blood sugar history. I have family members who’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and also with prediabetes, and so I’m very conscientious of it because I also had gestational diabetes with two of my pregnancies, which puts me at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes down the road.

But the thing was, I literally did not have time to do tons of research on what would be the best for me, or spend thousands of dollars on a specialist or even the wellness centers you go into that do all the testing for you and then sell you a bazillion supplements. I didn’t have the time or money to do any of that so I really was just at a loss and just completely frustrated because I did not know what to do.

Lesson learned: feeling lost and frustrated = overwhelmed + ready to give up. 

So the thing that happened that made me just stop and really understand that I had to figure myself out was that I was sitting in the pharmacy drive-through one day picking up a prescription for my daughter, she had strep throat and of course my husband was out of town as it always happens.

And a lot was going on and I was just super stressed out that day and I just happened to kind of put my hand on my leg while we were sitting in the drive-thru and I felt all these bumps all over my legs and I looked down and saw that my legs were covered in welts. 

And I freaked out because I’ve never had a reaction like this before and all I could imagine was that maybe I was going into anaphylactic shock, and my husband was out of town and we had no friends or family members anywhere near that could actually help out.

The wake-up call

So the really big wake-up call was that I called the doctor’s office got in as soon as possible. And they checked everything out and said, “Hey… you don’t really have any discernible symptoms that would give us answers to what’s happening here. You don’t have a history of food allergies and you haven’t changed anything else like shampoo, body wash, or laundry detergent…” 

So the best answer that they could give me is to talk about lifestyle and being stressed and that maybe I had too much on my plate. And that’s when I kind of had to take a step back and thought, “I know that is a good part of it but that’s not the only thing.”

A new plan

So when I decided to really start honing in on what was going on I had three major shifts that make me really understand that did putting in the effort and time into an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle–first and foremost–would be the thing that would help me out the most.

Major breakthrough #1:

So the first thing is that I noticed that when my blood sugar was on that roller coaster situation with the super highs and then the crashes, I could always tell immediately because of my energy levels and mood. And what I put together is that when those things would happen the inflammation always felt worse.

So I would have brain fog, my joints would ache, all the classic symptomatic chronic inflammation symptoms that happened that are your body trying to tell you something… If you would just stop and listen. 

And those were the things that were happening and really just took me taking that step back just to kind of start noticing those things and putting them together with that pattern of my blood sugar levels.

Lesson 1: Blood sugar is a big deal even if you aren’t diabetic

Major breakthrough #2:

So the second thing is that I started seeing patterns in specific foods that I ate.

I already have asthma and I have always had environmental allergies, but when I would eat certain foods I would get a bit of a runny nose, throat congestion, brain fog, and then just this severe drop in energy. 

And again–I’ve never had food allergies, but I did notice that I was having these specific reactions to certain foods.

Lesson 2: Even without food allergies food intolerance is real

Major breakthrough #3:

And in the third shift was really taking a step back and understanding that lifestyle factors were making things exponentially worse.

My husband traveled, at the time, for work non-stop so I’d stay up really late either trying to catch up on work or binge watching Netflix, and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. So that was making me even more stress to the gills that I already was everyday. 

And kind of in these weekly patterns I was shifting back and forth between single mom mode doing you know all the things, and then back into being a wife and having the normal struggles with communication and expectations and everything else in marriage. Not to mention trying to run a business and taking care of the kids and the house and everything that goes with that.

I filled my day so full that I rationalized to myself that I had no time to even think about stress management, practices, or working out, or getting in any type of daily movement. 

And what I realized is that every single lifestyle choice was adding up and then either working for me or against me…and at this point in time they were all working against me.

Lesson 3: Lifestyle factors stack up to either work for you or against you

I thought I knew what was best for me and doing low carb or the keto just kind of whenever it suited me, but the truth was that I never stuck to one way of eating and then just totally disregarded all of the other factors that were playing into me feeling like garbage everyday.

Putting the new plan into action

New plan step 1

So the first thing that I did was take a step back and look at exactly what I was eating everyday. I thought that I was doing good on low-carb but I had to get brutally honest with myself. When I did that, I noticed I was eating mostly meat and cheese and very little vegetables all day long.

This is a huge mistake when you have inflammation in the body because you need those vegetables for fiber and healthy complex carbs and then the phytochemicals.

New plan step 2

The next thing I did was make one change at a time.

So obviously my whole lifestyle situation had to get better but it really had to start with my diet. So I started out just finding, like, 4 really good recipes for breakfast… and I would bulk prep them and rotate them.

So I can usually do the same breakfast every day for a week, maybe two weeks, before I start to get bored. 

There are a lot of people like that there are some people who could eat the same breakfast every day for the rest of their life. And that would be fine. I’m not one of those people. 

But this is where I made compromises with myself so that it would what I needed but it wasn’t too overwhelming. So I had 4 recipes and I figured out how to get really good at prepping them really fast. 

And they were all really good and they all were extremely healthy. And following the anti-inflammatory guidelines was the simplest place to start. 

The next thing that I did was start improving my lunches. And to me this was like the next logical thing to do… so I knew that I would save mega time if I would just have leftovers from the night before. 

So what I decided to actually do is shift my attention over into dinners instead of worrying about lunches. I know that we all have so many of these recipes on Pinterest and everywhere else and I even have some on the website of these really cute mason jar salads and nourishing bowls and things like that. And those are absolutely great!

But if you’re shifting over into a new dietary style…to make that transition for the types of foods you can eat, and how to cook it, and how you have to prep it, how you have to store it, there’s a lot of things that go into this and you don’t want to overwhelm yourself.

So what I started thinking about was just making it as simple as possible so that even if I thought all of these salads and nourishing bowls were really cute and looked yummy…it made things a lot more stressful for me when instead I could just simply make more dinner the night before and then have that for leftovers the next day for lunch.

New plan step 3

So I also made one change at a time in those lifestyle factors and confirmed later with a lot of research that all of these things actually can work together for you or against you

I was seeing it myself, but people say that it’s anecdotal; It could be true… it could not be true, but once I started seeing these things myself and the pieces started falling together I thought, “ There has to be research backing this up.” 

So I really dove into that research, and this is the basis of what comprises the CORE 4 at TRUEWELL and in the CHEAT codes method: the lifestyle factors and diet all working together.

Takeaways

Takeaway #1: 

Take a step back and get real with yourself about your current diet and lifestyle.

Takeaway #2:

Change 1 daily meal at a time to prevent overwhelm.

Takeaway #3:

Make lifestyle changes one at a time to prevent overwhelm.

By far the best thing that I started with was getting in tune with myself in an anti-inflammatory diet 

What changed my life?

A personalized anti-inflammatory diet integrated with anti-inflammatory lifestyle choices.

Smart, efficient, gradual ways to make putting together those true anti-inflammatory components for myself is the thing that actually helped me put all these pieces together into a unique blueprint for how to eat and live that brought me back into balance.

And this is why TRUEWELL is devoted to helping others just like you get real information about what an anti-inflammatory diet is, and then refine exactly what foods you should cut out to help pull your inflammation down. 

Now, I don’t believe in cutting things out for no reason because that makes your life just that much more difficult anytime you eat a meal.

And that’s what the CHEAT codes method is all about. This is what I use with my clients we walk through these steps to create a personalized anti-inflammatory blueprint and then use the system to make this dietary style and lifestyle as effortless as possible…so that it doesn’t take over your life. 

And the first place to start is your food.

I can’t wait for an AI Diet to make you feel just as amazing as I do now so you can take on the world.

If you’re ready to get real with yourself and make that change as well, grab the free Anti-Inflammatory Quick-Start Guide. 👇

anti inflammatory diet for beginners

Get crystal clear on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet and how it can help YOU.

🥑 Get the science-backed food lists of most inflammatory and anti-inflammatory foods,

🥑 Get started QUICK with a 3-day Anti-Inflammatory meal plan with delicious, fool-proof meals, 

🥑 Discover the CHEAT codes method I guide clients through to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle without it taking over their lives

The 3 Most Common Mistakes When Starting an Anti-Inflammatory Diet and How to Avoid Them

Starting an anti-inflammatory diet can be really confusing! Conflicting food lists online, quitting sugar, and annoying requirements for cutting out wheat is enough to make anyone take pause. But I promise the benefits of the anti-inflammatory diet far outweigh the learning curve!

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

In case you don’t know me, I’m Laura, and I’m a nutrition specialist, certified health coach and founder of TRUEWELL.

And I’ve spent pretty much the last decade figuring out how to overcome sugar addiction and find the perfect dietary start to alleviate my anxiety and depression, my crazy hormone issues, erratic blood sugar levels, calm inflammation in my body, and lose the weight after having babies…which is why I am a die-hard fan and teacher of the anti-inflammatory diet. 

But it wasn’t easy for me to get here, and countless other women make a few of the same mistakes when trying to go anti-inflammatory as well which is what I’m about to share with you, and how to avoid all that so you can really get started. So let’s get into the top most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet and what to do instead.

Mistake #1: not knowing how to read food labels

Mistake number one is blindly trusting food labels. The bottom line is that to go anti-inflammatory you must know what’s in packaged foods. When you don’t know what’s actually in your foods you can’t stick to an anti-inflammatory diet very well because this dietary style doesn’t really rely on counting anything.

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

It’s all about the specific foods and the quality of them so when you have no clue how to read a food label and don’t know what any of the information means on it, it gets really tricky to pick out correct ingredients and to pick out anything that fall within the guidelines.

The problem is that food companies are really good at trying to trick us with labeling. Things are getting a little bit better, but for the most part those companies really rely on us just blindly trusting whatever they tell us on those food labels. 

So what we want to look at is the ingredients list and then we also want to look at the top box that is the nutrition information. Really for the anti-inflammatory diet the things that you’re looking for are indicators that there are no added sugars and you want fiber to be in there; that’s going to indicate that there are more complex carbs in it versus simple carbs, refined flours, things like that. 

Know your sugars

But you still just need to make double sure and still be able to understand the ingredients on the food label underneath. I always recommend becoming familiar with the different names of sugars because food companies know that we’re starting to get smarter and they start using different words to disguise what sugars are.

Click here to see the list of foods that are actually sugars.

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

Know your grains and flours

Grains can be super tricky because food companies list a ridiculous number of ingredients, and they also are very good at finding loopholes in laws regarding labeling.

So for example, if you see a packaged food that says, “Made with 100% whole grains” on the front label, that could very well mean that they used SOME whole grains, and then the rest are refined. 

You can verify this by checking the ingredients list on the side or back of the package. 

Tip: The ingredients are ordered by largest quantity to smallest quantity. 

So just start to become very familiar with how to read food labels and understand what’s actually in those foods because I promise you this: Food companies do not have your best interest in mind, and they’re going to do their very best all they care about is their bottom line.

Mistake # 2:Not knowing what grains and forms of those are okay to include 

So when it comes to carbohydrates, we do need carbohydrates to have energy.

But what happens is when grains are ground up and the bran part removed, they’re also taking out all of the fiber that’s in it. Now we need fiber because it helps our digestive systems move but it also binds to simple carbs so that they don’t make our blood sugar spike.

When we have spikes, it’s going to crash and this roller coaster that happens is really bad for inflammation. What you want is steady blood sugar all day long but it’s never going to be a flat line. Rather, you need within a good range versus the dramatic up and down roller coaster. 

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

So what we’re looking at is whole grains but what we need to understand too, is that even if you’re looking at say refined flour like all-purpose baking flour vs. whole wheat flour, the difference between those two is that the whole wheat is going to have some fiber…but what’s happened is that since it’s ground up into that fine flour it’s still giving you a blood sugar spike very similar to what the refined flour does. 

So if you really look at the basics of a Mediterranean diet, the true Mediterranean diet does not include flours like that.

What you are able to include are whole actual grains like rice, quinoa, and couscous. Grains in this form have the entire piece intact or partially cracked so that it really slows down the digestion of those carbohydrates and their absorption. 

That way you have a kind of lengthened version of energy coming in for a while after you eat versus getting that blood sugar hit then all absorbing at the same time with this spike because then it’s going to crash later.

Read next: Are Grains Inflammatory?

Gluten-containing grains

I do personally recommend also taking gluten out because it has been shown to be inflammatory even in people that don’t have Celiac or sensitivities to gluten. But it still can induce that inflammation and so if you have other issues (even if you don’t have like IBS or IBD or other inflammatory issues) you can be affected by gluten

Grains that have gluten include:

  • Wheat
  • Wheat derivatives (like the ones used for pasta)
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Malts

And think about replacing it with a different type of grain that’s going to be really beneficial for your body to get those complex carbs while keeping your blood sugar under control .

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

Mistake #3: Not cooking enough

When you cook more you have better control over what you’re eating and you learn to enjoy just learning about different foods and cooking and that really ends up tying back into the number one mistake–when you cook more you can rely much less on food labels.

The exception of that would probably be unless you use sauces, that sort of thing, within your recipes. For example, spaghetti sauce is already mixed together with ingredients so you still need to be able to read that food label to make sure that the spaghetti sauce is made without sugar.

So number one still applies because you need to know what ingredients you’re adding into your recipe as a whole.

Take away #1:

Learn to read food labels and learn the terms, especially for sugars and grains.

Takeaway #2:

Kick flours to the curb and replace with truly whole (or cracked) grains.

Take away #3:

Learn to cook and learn to love it.

Let me know in the comments below which of these problems you have had yourself and what you’ve done to fix them!

If you’re ready to dive in on an anti-inflammatory diet, get started NOW with the free Quick-Start Guide + 3-day Meal Plan! 👇

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most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

Anti Inflammatory Spring Charcuterie Board

When spring has sprung, we looove having friends over for weekend get-togethers! Admittedly, living in the Houston area has its benefits since we use our patio at least 8 months out of the year. But it does still get cold here!

anti inflammatory spring charcuterie board

One of my favorite things when we entertain is to make a charcuterie board, platter, or table because everyone seems so happy grazing while catching up.

But making it anti-inflammatory allows for everyone to enjoy the finger foods while not worrying about the ramifications later.

anti inflammatory spring charcuterie board

And this anti inflammatory spring charcuterie board seemed a fun addition to our weekends that signified the ending of winter.

anti inflammatory spring charcuterie board

Grab the recipe list below and let me know when you create your own spring board! Post it and tag me! 👉 @truewell.co

**Also, if you’re a charcuterie beginner, check out the mega guide: How to Build an Anti-Inflammatory Charcuterie Board

AND

Build a super cute Anti Inflammatory Easter Charcuterie Board! 🐇

anti inflammatory spring charcuterie board

Anti Inflammatory Spring Charcuterie Board

Since charcuterie boards have pretty random different quantities depending on size of the board and how much is needed for creative license, I don't include amounts in the ingredient list. 🙂
Prep Time 30 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Snack
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • deviled eggs
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • celery
  • baby dill pickles
  • kalamata olives
  • green olives
  • cherry tomatoes
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • kiwi
  • raspberries
  • grapes
  • almonds
  • mozzerella pearls
  • chives for garnish
  • mint for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Chop broccoli and cauliflower into tiny florets
  • Peel and slice kiwi
  • Slice strawberries
  • Slice celery
  • Arrange on board
  • Add chive and mint garnish + additional spring flowers or other decor
  • Serve!
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free, Vegan

Anti-Inflammatory Easter Charcuterie Board

Easter is, no doubt, one of the best times to get together with friends and family to have a brunch. After all, spring has sprung, the weather’s getting nice, and we’re all at our wit’s end with heavy winter recipes.

This Easter charcuterie board is made anti-inflammatory style to accommodate those of us who can’t have all the processed and cured meats.

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

If you’re new to charcuterie boards, check out the post on How to Build an Anti-Inflammatory Charcuterie Board for all the ins and outs, and then grab the recipe below to create your own Easter charcuterie board (or platter) anti-inflammatory style!

Here are ideas and tips for arranging your Easter anti-inflammatory board or platter:

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Decide your pattern

For this platter, since it was oval-shaped like an egg, I wanted the design to resemble a decorated Easter egg. That meant lines across but with pattern interplayed.

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Divide fruits and veggies

I decided that I had enough color to be able to divide the fruits to one side and the veggies to the other with the deviled eggs being the divider in the middle between the two.

I sometimes like to do this just to also make sure the savory flavored ingredients aren’t touching sweet ingredients. (You know what I mean if you’ve ever tasted a pickle-flavored strawberry. 😂)

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Disperse color throughout

Unless you’re going for an ombre effect or specific color groupings, try to spread the colors through the board so that the eye moves through the entire thing. Remember, these things are made to be pretty!

(I realize I could’ve done a better job with the darker colors, but if you’ll notice the dramatic contrast of the blueberries on the top half, this sort of makes my point that contrast attracts the eye. Now looking at these photos later it sort of makes the bottom half look a bit boring, lol!)

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Garnish

The last step is to decorate. So the first think I love doing is using fresh herbs because they’re brightly colored and are great finishers.

I used mint and chives in mine because they feel so much like spring. (My daughter also wanted it to look like there was grass on the platter, lol!)

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Final decor

And the final decor would be any other items you want to place to round out the theme or look of the board or platter. These would be things like number or letter cutouts, flowers, or other themed accessories.

I chose tree blooms to go on this one because the redbud trees and Bradford pears were bursting when we made this board.

So grab the recipe/ingredient list below and let me know if you made one! Post it and tag me: @truewell.co

💖

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Anti-Inflammatory Easter Charcuterie Board (or Platter)

Since charcuterie board assembly has a bit of an 'unknown' factor when it comes to quantity (lest we dampen our creative process…) the quantities for ingredients are left out in this recipe.
Prep Time 30 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Snack
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • deviled eggs
  • olives
  • baby dill pickles
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • cherry tomatoes
  • celery
  • baby carrots
  • assortment of nuts of choice
  • grapes
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • kiwi
  • any condiments, sauces, or dips of choice

Instructions
 

  • Chop the broccoli and cauliflower into tiny florets.
  • Slice celery.
  • Peel and slice kiwi.
  • Slice strawberries.
  • Arrange on board or platter.
  • Garnish with decor.
  • Serve!
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free, Vegan

How to Build an Anti-Inflammatory Charcuterie Board

*As an affiliate, I may receive a small portion of proceeds of any items you buy through these links, at no extra cost to you. However, I only recommend products I know, use, and love.

The charcuterie board has become one of the biggest crazes on social media in the last couple years. I’d blame it on how gorgeous they can be… but I think after lockdowns and quarantine, the appeal may also have to do with the fact that they represent togetherness: If you’re building a board, you must be having a get-together.

And that’s what makes them so fun–having a way to entertain and feed guests at the same time! It also doesn’t hurt that there are literally a million ways to build a charcuterie board based on what season, holiday, or event is being celebrated.

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

That being said, most charcuterie boards have a few ingredients as staple items that are no good for those of us trying to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

Especially since the definition of charcuterie revolves around cured meat products (even though nowadays we add on lots of other fun stuff, too!)

So here’s how to build a board that’s just as pretty and fun, while also keeping out the foods that send inflammation into overdrive.

What exactly makes this an anti-inflammatory charcuterie board?

Obviously the thing that will determine how anti-inflammatory your board is will be the ingredients that you add. These are normally the processed meats, breads, crackers, many of the dips or sauces (including honey), and some dairy additions.

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

The thing to remember about making a charcuterie board anti-inflammatory is that it’s made up of so many fresh ingredients that you can still make it gorgeous and fun without all the inflammatory no-go foods.

There are also (thankfully) enough substitutions for things like crackers and dairy-based dips to give us plenty of options that are A-OK on the anti-inflammatory diet.

So let’s get to it.

STEP 1: Choose your base

The very first step is choosing what your base will be. Since the word ‘board’ is in ‘charcuterie board’, you may automatically think you need a special board for this. Or even a cutting board (which is a good option).

But the truth is that you can expand this way beyond just a plain ole board.

Platters in various different shapes are great, cutting boards (wooden or stone are the prettiest for this), boards specifically designated for charcuterie, or even something more creative like a dough bowl. (I’ve even been seeing charcuterie boxes lately!) Honestly, the possibilities are endless.

Here are some great options:

You’ve surely even seen some of the spreads down the entire countertop. These are usually referred to as ‘spreads’, ‘tables’, or even ‘grazing tables’.

In that case, you may just need some butcher paper as your base. (Although even this larger cases I do still recommend having some boards and other platters to add visual interest.)

👉How to choose between a board, platter, or table? First think about how many people you’re feeding or entertaining. If it’s just a few, a smaller board or platter is perfect. 5-10 would be better served with a board. 20-30 people may warrant several boards or a spread.

There’s really no formal calculation on this, but just know that these boards are traditionally the thing people see when they walk in the door to your get-together.

Although they can be used as the option for sides at a meal, they’re normally used as appetizers before the main meal.

Since people love to graze, especially when having drinks and mingling, it’s highly likely the whole thing will be cleaned off by the end of your get-together.

STEP 2: Layering and levels

Different levels could work for smaller boards, but is usually best when you have a larger board, need a little extra space, or are doing a spread.

The best types of varying levels would be things like raised cake platters, or even a bowl upside down as a pedestal for a smaller platter to sit on.

Using layers can give the board a really interesting add-on while helping to delineate or highlight certain ingredients.

For example, if you have some special ingredients for those with allergies or foods that contain alcohols that kids don’t need to partake in, special levels can designate those foods separately.

I’ve even used separate platters before to keep crackers away from the juices of the fruits and veggies.

STEP 3: Ingredients

Obviously the ingredients are the star of the show. Even though the goal here is an anti-inflammatory board, it should still be pointed out that probably most of your guests (if this is for a get-together) probably don’t eat by anti-inflammatory guidelines.

When this is the case, don’t be afraid to add in ingredients that you don’t eat yourself. Most people appreciate the variety, even if you’re not eating some of those foods.

Another important thing to consider is the season or theme of the get-together (or board). Winter themes probably shouldn’t include things like zucchini or summer squash while spring and summer themes wouldn’t include cranberries.

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Fruit and Veggies

Unless the board is specifically for, say, pre-dinner vs dessert (meaning no fruit vs no veggies), I like to make sure I have a mix of half veggies and half fruit. I also add in lots of extra finger foods like nuts and sometimes seeds. These all work perfectly for an anti-inflammatory diet.

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Cheese

Cheese can be ok if it’s organic, but it may be a good idea to keep it separate if you have anyone who can’t have dairy.

Cheeses that are great for charcuterie boards include mozzarella pearls and pre-sliced cheese that you can cut into different shapes if needed.

Triangular shapes are popular because you can layer pieces while shifting the directions, creating a super cool pattern. Soft cheeses like brie may be ok, but try to choose organic as well.

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Nuts

Unless there’s a severe nut allergy, these can be a great way to add texture and variety. I recommend buying the kinds that are salted and roasted, and individual types, not mixed. (This allows easier flexibility in arranging them.)

Crackers and breads

Bread can be a tricky addition because slices can dry out quickly. It’s especially tricky when it’s gluten-free or grain-free because the slices are more crumbly and hard to manage.

If you include bread, I do recommend pre-slicing it so that the guest line can move along quicker and nobody has to handle a knife.

I personally don’t usually include breads just because they can be tough to deal with when I have so many other things going on as the hostess.

But if you really want to include it (or just try out some yummy grain-free bread!) I recommend the Simple Mills brand:

Crackers are usually a fun addition because you can use them to separate sections on a board, and they come in different shapes to add visual interest.

Gluten-free or grain-free are a little more limited in variety, but can be just as fun!

I’ve recently found these grain-free crackers that are yummy and have just enough crunch to satisfy:

Protein

As said before, processed meats are a definite no-no on an anti-inflammatory diet. So if you choose to leave them out, you can still always add chunked-up grilled or baked chicken, steak bites, or even tuna.

There are some brands now that are uncured, so this may even be an option. If you do opt to have processed meats, I still recommend choosing organic.

Eggs are also a really great protein option. Boiled, that is. (Unless you’re doing a breakfast or brunch board, in which scrambled can still work too.)

Deviled eggs are becoming a popular addition as well since they’re cooked, prepped, ready to go, and usually super yummy.

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Sauces and spreads

Any anti-inflammatory sauces, spreads, or condiments will probably have to be homemade as most store-bought versions are full of inflammatory oils, preservatives, and non-organic dairy.

Some good options for these include hummus, bean dips, and homemade versions of yogurt dips or dressings for dipping veggies.

Honey has sugar, sure, but it can be a nice add-on for others. I always recommend raw and organic.

Fruit spreads are also a favorite as they pair well with cheeses and crackers. It can be hard to find sugar-free versions that also don’t have artificial sweeteners. So if you’re going for anti-inflammatory just for yourself, you may need to whip this one up yourself.

Consider color

Since one goal of the charcuterie board is to sit and be gorgeous, an important thing to consider when choosing your ingredients is color.

Some boards vary color throughout the board, while others have distinct color groupings.

💡 Think about how you want to arrange the board, or the colors you may need to emphasize before making final choices on ingredients to go on the board.

For example, I did a 4th of July board last year that distinctly moved from red to white to blue. This meant that I didn’t include ANYTHING that was green.

STEP 4: Design and place

The most fun part of a charcuterie board is designing it, then placing all the ingredients!

Designs can be literally anything, but the most eye-catching ones usually follow any of these patterns:

  • Linear separations
  • Symmetrical design
  • Color groupings
  • Balanced color through the board
  • Randomized texture

Basically, don’t just put stuff willy-nilly on the board. Have a visual plan in place and follow it, adjusting as needed.

And don’t forget to place your levels as you go as well (like the tiered cake platters.)

STEP 5: Containers

This step is needed for any sauces or condiments, but it’s also a neat visual add-on for things that are small and may need to be contained (like nuts or seeds.) I even use them sometimes for olives since they’re sometimes covered in oil or brine.

Using small containers like ramekins is perfect, but I’ve even seen other fun stuff like cupcake papers or silicone cupcake wrappers. Just make sure the spacing is random or proper spacing throughout the board or table.

An art professor in college once pointed out that the goal of any piece of art is to encourage the eye to move around the total piece, not just focus on one thing. This is the same concept with charcuterie boards. You may have a main focal ‘part’, but you want the entire thing to be visually appealing.

STEP 6: Decor and garnish

I think this is the most fun part, because it speaks to whatever season, holiday, or event you’re celebrating!

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Decor and garnish can be as simple as letters or numbers cut out of cheeses, as easy and natural as flowers from your yard, or as themed as paper or plastic cutouts and do-dads you’ve purchased specifically for this get-together.

Garnish can also be as simple as fresh herbs.

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

The possibilities are endless.

These, too, should be spaced out so they make sense visually and continue to encourage eye movement around the board.

STEP 7: Plates and serving

Plates are necessary for charcuterie serving, but make sure that you pay attention to the types of foods you have as well.

  • Do you need spoons to scoop anything?
  • Are there soft cheeses or spreads that require a knife?
  • Would toothpicks be the obvious choice for some of the foods (like olives)?
  • Would little serving forks be best for spearing things?

Make sure you have appropriate serving pieces to make things easy. (And don’t forget the napkins! 😉)

STEP 8: Timing

I’ll be the first to warn you that make a charcuterie board can take a while!

That being said, you want to try to time the finished masterpiece with when your guests arrive (unless you have a large enough fridge to accommodate until then.)

Just remember that the last thing you want is a food poisoning situation from foods that have been out too long because you made the thing first thing in the morning when guests didn’t arrive until late afternoon.

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

I will sometimes place the tiered platters and ramekins, then arrange the nuts and crackers earlier. Then when it’s closer to time for guests to arrive I’ll place the cold items and garnish with decor right as people arrive.

If it’s just a board I’m making for us at home, the kids will NOT let me do it alone! So it’s actually a kind of cool time to spend together creating something pretty we can eat when we’re finished. 🥰

Charcuterie boards can be a super fun way to add spark and interest to your food choices at any get-together! (I still have friends who talk about boards I’ve done on various holidays.)

But admittedly, it can be a challenge to create one that’s anti-inflammatory. Don’t despair, though–it CAN be done!

Check out my spring charcuterie boards and get the ingredients lists and charcuterie platter ideas of your own! 👇

The ‘Easter’ anti-inflammatory charcuterie platter:

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

The ‘Spring Anti-Inflammatory Charcuterie Board’:

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

And hit me up on Insta! Post your charcuterie board and tag me! @truewell.co

💖

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Turmeric Milk | Golden Milk | Turmeric Latte

turmeric milk golden milk turmeric latte

One of the belles of the ball when it comes to anti-inflammatory beverages (and coffee alternatives) is definitely turmeric milk (or golden milk or turmeric latte–depending on your choice of names).

One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that even though most recipes have the intent of helping to lower inflammation, they still have sugar in them. Usually maple syrup.

That’s why I recreated the recipe as a sugar-free version that’s just as yummy, with just as much inflammation-busting power, but without the added sugar.

turmeric milk golden milk turmeric latte

Turmeric Milk | Golden Milk | Turmeric Latte

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 15 mins
Course Drinks
Servings 2

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups coconut milk unsweetened (or other non-dairy milk of choice)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 1-2 TBSP keto maple syrup or granulated monk fruit or stevia
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions
 

  • Combine all ingredients in a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Simmer up to 10 minutes while stirring occasionally.
  • Pour into 2 mugs and enjoy!
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Sugar-Free, Vegan
turmeric milk golden milk turmeric latte

The Real Reasons Why You Should Quit Sugar

Why you should quit sugar and going sugar-free has certainly been a hot topic of the last several years. One group of ‘health gurus’ will claim that the body needs carbohydrates and that sugar is just one of many that are harmless. And yet another will claim that sugar is killing everyone.

What’s been lost in translation here are several factors when it comes to what sugar and carbohydrates do in the body. But also, the way that different forms of carbohydrates determine that.

Firstly, every single person is different. Their genes are different, their living situations, their lifestyles, and their diets are all different. Some claim that sugar doesn’t affect them adversely at all, while others swear that carbohydrates make them bloated, foggy-headed, and gain weight. And yet others feel they’re chained to it, unable to resist the calling for sugar and unable to quit once they’ve started.

One key puzzle piece here, however, is the fact that the body–regardless of all its differences from person to person–will attempt to adapt to survive. (Which is why people on diets ‘plateau’ at some point.)

So where some end up on low-carb and keto diets with very little carbohydrate and zero sugar and feel great, others can do plant-based or vegan dietary styles with much higher carbohydrate content, and also feel fantastic.

why you should quit sugar

But the constant dispute has revolved around sugar and carbohydrates and whether or not they’re bad for us.

So first and foremost– sugar is a carbohydrate. Our bodies get energy from carbohydrates. There are MANY carbohydrates, however, and the ones that are refined (ie, table sugar, the various millions of ‘renamed sugars’ put on packaged food labels, and refined flours) are the key ones that are dangerous.

So let’s start with the #1 question asked first:

Is sugar bad for you?

This question gets asked a lot (like a LOT). The past few decades saw seriously flawed studies taking over mainstream media that created a whole wave of ‘low fat’ thinking in terms of weight loss.

The truth is that a group of scientists were paid to say that sugar was actually nutritious, and that sugar consumption was fine and dandy, while fat was bad. TIME magazine has actually followed up on the bad science of it and how it’s affected health globally in the following decades at least twice.

(I could write a dissertation on the flaws in studies and how they’re interpreted by media literally just to have something to write about.)

why you should quit sugar

So back to whether sugar is bad… My nutrition practice is rooted in anti-inflammatory nutrition and lifestyle. And from the hundreds of studies I’ve read through, the evidence is pretty conclusive that sugar is inflammatory. Not only that, it affects the brain (which I’ll touch on in a minute.)

Since inflammation is the root of (and sometimes caused by) chronic conditions and diseases including type 2 diabetes and heart disease, my professional opinion is yes, sugar is bad for you.

I realize this is a controversial topic because, ya know… candy, and cake, and all the things. But also because a huge trend lately is to quit the diet culture.

I think lumping sugar intake into this can be really dangerous because sugar has addictive properties, and the more you eat ‘in moderation’, the more you want.

Ask anyone who has cried themselves to sleep because they feel like sugar controls their life and they’ll confirm that for them, there is no ‘moderation’.

The second reason I disagree with being so lax about it is that kids watch everything you do. And they also believe everything in the media. (Mine somehow believe that Tiktok is gospel, but I digress…)

Kids don’t understand what ‘in moderation’ means. If I’d let mine, they’d have sugary drinks at literally every meal, sugar coated everything for every meal, and then add on sugar for dessert. They don’t know any better.

And programming their brains–especially when they’re not even done developing– to need sugary foods or sugar sweetened beverages for a pick-me-up, or to get some energy is a recipe for disaster once they’re adults. (Not to mention the damage that’s being done to the gut and neurotransmitters during adolescence when they’re flailing around in hormones.)

Kids with high sugar diets also have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Here are some more major points on sugar intake and how it affects the body.

Sugar and Processed Foods

The first point I always make as a nutritionist is that when foods have sugar, fructose, or the thousand-and-one various ‘new names for sugar’ created by food companies, they will also invariably lack fiber.

Fiber is the thing in fruits and vegetables that prevent our body’s sugar-management system from going into overdrive.

Fiber helps blunt the impact of sugars, which is why eating whole fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, is healthy, whereas eating refined sugars and refined grains is not.

What I mean is that the lack of fiber in processed foods, with the addition of extra (added) sugars, normally go hand in hand.

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and Inflammation

Inflammation tends to be lower on the list of concerns for anyone that doesn’t seem to have a condition related to inflammation. This is a huge mistake, as chronic inflammation is the cause of a myriad of diseases, as well as other conditions like depression and anxiety.

And a key contributor to inflammation in the body is sugar. Even after studying the effects of several different types of sugar, multiple medically reviewed studies show that one isn’t necessarily worse than the other: ALL sugars contribute to chronic inflammation.

Sugar and your skin

As a teen, I was told peanut butter could be contributing to my acne, only to read a year or so later that foods don’t affect your skin. As a nutritionist, I now know this couldn’t be further from the truth.

What you put in your body determines how your body functions. And since your skin is the body’s largest organ, this especially holds true for your skin.

Sugar affects aging in the skin by producing advanced glycation end products, which cause a severe slowing of cell turnover rates for collagen and other proteins.

The end result is much faster aging on the skin.

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and hormones

Sugar intake has been connected with infertility and hormone imbalance, especially in women with PCOS. PCOS causes issues regulating sugar and insulin in the body, so it’s already a recommendation for avoiding sugar for those with this diagnosis.

Sugar and aging

Just as sugar produces advanced aging mechanisms for the skin, it also accelerates the same process in all other tissues in the body. This means that your skin will begin to reflect what’s happening to everything inside your body as a result of eating high sugar foods.

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and insulin resistance

Yet another thing that added sugars causes is metabolic syndrome, which leads to type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome includes hypertension, dyslipidaemia, insulin resistance, and usually obesity.

Sugar and heart disease

Although dietary saturated fat has been traditionally thought to cause heart disease, studies have shown that sugar is actually a major contributor. This can also be attributed to the relationship with metabolic syndrome, as stated above.

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and high blood pressure

High blood pressure is yet another condition traditionally blamed on excess sodium. It has been found, however, that sugar plays an equal role in high blood pressure.

Sugar and sleep

Although a generally less-researched field, the connection with a high-sugar diet and sleep are steadily mounting. Many don’t realize that there is a connection with your insulin and circadian rhythm. The fluctuations in cortisol and melatonin affect how your body processes insulin while you sleep (much less effectively) which creates a higher blood sugar level during sleep.

If you’re diabetic you probably already pay attention to this as you check your fasting blood sugar levels upon waking. But people that aren’t diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes should be conscientious of this as well.

High blood sugar levels throughout the day will carry over into our sleep time, creating higher blood sugar while we sleep–even for people that do not have diabetes.

Higher blood sugar levels during sleep have been shown to create less quality sleep and shorter sleep. And the reverse is true as well, less quality and time sleeping creates worse insulin sensitivity in the body–which becomes a vicious cycle.

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and weight gain

I think a big misconception people have when it comes to weight gain is that eliminating sugar means they’ll have to go low carb or keto. Sugar intake has been connected with weight gain, for sure, but there is still a huge gap in understanding where sugar falls when it comes to carbohydrates.

Sugar is a carb. But it’s not the only carb.

If you split carbs into categories, it would fall into the ones you should avoid. Carbs that give energy in a healthy diet include vegetables, fruits (NOT fruit juice, which is straight fructose-another form of sugar), and whole grains.

It’s also really helpful to understand how refined grains behave in the body the same way that sugar does.

Both have been shown to contribute to weight gain. And both can be replaced in a healthy diet with some of the other forms of carbs I just mentioned to round out a fantastic basis for letting your body shed excess weight gain naturally.

Bottom line is that high sugar intake has been connected with weight gain and obesity in numerous studies.

Sugar and the energy rollercoaster

Aside from the conditions listed above, keeping added sugars out of the diet helps keep you on a steady energy plane all day.

This is because when you consistently have too much sugar in your diet, your body will consistently try to balance your blood sugar while using what it can for immediate energy, but will store the rest (either in the liver or as fat–or both).

But when the body gets used to the added sugar as its primary fuel, you get blood sugar spikes, and then crashes a little while later. This is because normally, sugary foods displace complex carbohydrates, and there’s nothing left for energy.

So essentially those meals high in added sugar are causing an energy rollercoaster all day long.

This is, unfortunately, how many of us get sucked into the caffeine habit that can include loads of added sugar in the form of fancy coffee-shop drinks (cough-Starbucks-cough).

Staying on an energy rollercoaster sets the stage for anxiety, depression, and a vicious cycle of loading up on unhealthy foods that give a temporary energy hit just to crash later and go back to the same foods for another boost just to get through the day.

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and depression and anxiety

The connection with sugar intake and depression and anxiety is really two-fold:

  • Sugar causes an imbalance of good and bad gut bacteria, which has an affect on mental health. This is because serotonin (the feel good neurotransmitter) is primarily generated in the gut. But it needs appropriate bacteria to help do that. When that bacteria is too low, we don’t get the serotonin we need to feel good and manage anxiety. When the condition stays chronically low, we begin to fall into the realm of depression and anxiety attacks.
  • Sugar also affects blood sugar ups and downs (as stated previously in reference to energy levels). But when blood sugar crashes, we get feelings of anxiety and depression as well. This usually triggers a major stress response, causing a nasty cycle of going straight to more sugar to feel better.

What types of sugar should I eliminate?

Refined is absolutely the worst. This includes granulated sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, syrups, and definitely high fructose corn syrup.

It’s important to realize that desserts aren’t always the primary source of sugar intake in the diet. In our day and age, you also have to check that you aren’t buying things you wouldn’t expect to have sugar in them, like spaghetti sauce, flavored yogurt, and ketchup. Your peanut butter sandwich is even probably loaded with sugar.

Which is why it’s really important to be able to read and understand nutrition labels. This will tell you how much sugar is in the food, but also all the other ingredients used.

why you should quit sugar

Sugar-sweetened beverages are also a primary source of sugar, usually high fructose corn syrup. There’s been a lot of buzz about this in the past few years as more studies are connecting high fructose corn syrup with chronic illnesses, including insulin resistance.

This is because high fructose corn syrup has a particular ability to alter insulin signaling. But recent research also shows that it increases the surface area of the gut lining, allowing for even greater intake of calories from the food or drink ingested.

For all these reasons, for your health and especially for reducing weight gain, foods and drinks that contain added sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup) should be avoided as a first-line defense.

why you should quit sugar

What types of sugar are ok?

When it comes to including natural sugars in your diet, the types that are ok are the occasional honey, pure maple syrup, and agave. But don’t forget that these are still sugar.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are not a good choice when it comes to alternatives for sweetness. Studies have shown that they wreck gut bacteria, they have an effect on blood sugar levels, and they trigger food cravings.

These are primarily found in diet sodas and foods listed as ‘low sugar’, ‘sugar free’, and some keto-type packaged foods.

Noncalorie Natural sweeteners

The non-calorie natural sweeteners that are recommended are stevia, monk fruit, and sugar alcohols like erythritol (if you can tolerate them–sometimes they’re hard on the stomach).

why you should quit sugar

Fruit

Fruit is always a confusing topic when it comes to eliminating added sugar since sugars found naturally in fruit aren’t inherently bad. But it depends on the format. Here’s how to know what’s what:

  • Fresh fruit is ok (you should still aim for a much higher ratio of vegetables to fruit) as it contains lots of fiber and is on the list of resistant starchy foods. Examples are fresh berries and other low-glycemic fruits.
  • Cooked fruit isn’t as good an option as the heat starts breaking down those starches into sugars.
  • Fruit juice should be avoided. All fiber and resistant starches have been removed, and what’s left is straight fructose. (Fruit juice is in many juice drinks, and often the ‘cocktail’ version of fruit juices has even more sugar added into the final product.)

More and more studies and data are opening our eyes to the harmful effects of high sugar diets and how global health has suffered for the bad data presented decades ago touting sugar as a health food.

This has created an epidemic of related conditions, including many people becoming dependent or addicted to sugar. This can make it feel nearly hopeless to truly quit sugar and get away from the incessant cravings that usually lead to binges.

My advice is to start with a sugar detox to get off added sugars altogether and see how good you feel every day with energy from healthy fuel and a healthy lifestyle instead!

Take the quiz to see which type of sugar detox you need based on your sugar addiction probability! 👇

why you should quit sugar
why you should quit sugar

Does Alcohol Cause Inflammation?

After a long day at work (which is pretty much most days), many people aren’t too keen on hearing they can’t have a drink when trying to stick to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet. After all, stress triggers inflammation, but a drink after work should help alleviate that.

A little contradictory, no? This begs the question: does alcohol cause inflammation or does alcohol use help stress, which thereby reduces inflammation?

does alcohol cause inflammation

This is a fantastic question since most people are drinking alcohol to ‘take the edge off’ on a regular basis. But also because the Mediterranean guidelines (which are the basic blueprint of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet) stipulate that moderate alcohol consumption is ok.

So let’s break these down to understand the relationship between inflammation and alcohol consumption, and if it’s possible to reduce inflammation while drinking alcohol, or if you should stop drinking alcohol altogether.

does alcohol cause inflammation

What is the cause of inflammation?

Your immune response is activated when your body is exposed to harmful agents such as viruses, bacteria, poisonous substances, or when you are injured.

Inflammatory cells and cytokines are sent out by your immune system as first responses, stimulating additional inflammatory cells called c reactive protein (crp), which is acute inflammation.

These cells initiate an inflammatory response to trap microbes and other harmful substances or start recovering the wounded tissue. Pain, swelling, bruising, and redness may happen due to this.

Chronic inflammation

However, inflammation has an impact on physiological systems that are not visible when poor lifestyle habits turn into low-grade and chronic inflammation.

During chronic inflammation, the immune system keeps an alert state. Under these pressures arterial walls and organs could collapse, creating diseases. This is an extremely broad occurrence that can include asthma, inflammatory arthritis, ulcers, periodontitis, inflammatory arthritis.

The gut inflammation that occurs during prolonged alcohol consumption may also cause inflammation throughout the person’s system.

Prolonged chronic inflammation has been shown to increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and even autoimmune conditions.

How does drinking alcohol contribute to chronic inflammation?

The increase of gut microflora-derived lipopolysaccharide is just one way that drinking alcohol can cause inflammation.

This is because excessive alcohol consumption triggers the release of LPS, which are normally kept in check by a feedback loop in the central nervous system in conjunction with other organs in the body. Alcohol can thereby throw all of these systems out of whack, leading to systemic inflammatory effects.

However, it has also been shown that alcohol reduces other inflammatory markers in the body, including c-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and TNF-alpha receptor 2.

What health conditions can develop from alcohol inflammation or be exacerbated?

Alcohol inflammation in certain people is associated with numerous health concerns. These can manifest as symptoms made worse when a condition is present, or can actually develop due to chronic alcohol use. Alcohol-related medical conditions include:

  • Alcohol-induced fatty liver disease occurs most frequently with long-term alcohol misuse. Since alcohol is processed in the liver, it’s recommended that anyone with liver disease abstain from alcohol consumption.
  • Gout is a condition more frequently found in those with other chronic conditions, but can be significantly worsened with alochol use. Excessive alcohol consumption is thought to be a prime contributor of symptoms of gout attacks because of the increase in uric acid from alcohol. This can cause increased joint inflammation and pain.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) have been shown to significantly increase the occurrence of stomach bleeding and breeching the intestinal barrier due to alcohol consumption. Intestinal inflammation in these two conditions are the primary cause of pain and triggering flare-ups of symptoms.

Is alcohol bad for your health overall?

Obviously, alcohol abuse is one of these health factors that could tip either way depending on whether there is excessive alcohol consumption or not. But studies have shown specific effects alcohol consumption can have on systems in the body.

Alcohol and the brain

Alcohol can be an addictive chemical depending on several factors for each person.

In the brain, it blocks the neurons and blocks the body’s essential behavior to maintain the regular and healthy status, which alcohol interferes by blocking the neurons and leaving the person vulnerable. The interplay of all these factors in addition to genetic components is what makes certain people more prone to alcohol addiction.

Alcohol leads to intoxication, nausea, slurred speech, slower reflexes, and poor performance, with terrible memory blocking the myriad nerves controlling different body functions.

It also affects how decisions are made. So if someone is trying to stay away from certain foods (for example, to stay on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet), alcohol can affect decisions in refraining from certain foods that could make inflammation worse.

How alcohol affects the liver

The liver plays the most important role in removing alcohol from the body. The prolonged use of alcohol affects the liver regeneration ability and can leave scarring in the liver by disturbing the scar tissue removal enzymes from prolonged usage.

The first signs of liver damage through alcohol usage are abdominal pain and mouth dryness. Other accompanying symptoms include fatigue, jaundice, increased thirst, loss of appetite, and nausea.

Alcohol and blood sugar

Although alcohol intake has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels, this can actually be rebounded with alcohol use. This can be dangerous for those with insulin resistance or other metabolic disorders (especially when taking medications that affect blood sugar levels.)

When there are issues with blood sugar regulation, adding alcohol to the mix can cause spikes or drops in blood sugar that can become an immediate health threat.

Alcohol and lipid markers

Although many people don’t connect alcohol use with lipids, it actually has a big connection. Especially if alcohol use is heavy.

Alcohol can elevate triglycerides and have a negative effect on the HDL to LDL cholesterol in the blood.

How much alcohol is bad for you?

This is where alcohol and inflammation get tricky. Studies have been done in terms of amount consumed and the amount of inflammatory markers in the body.

What was found was interesting, considering the physiologic cascade of inflammatory events that can happen with alcohol intake.

On the contrary, what was found is called a bell curve effect (or J-curve effect).

The bell curve effect in studies

The bell curve effect in studies refers to data showing that no-to-limited consumption of alcohol can be inflammatory, and excessive drinking can also be inflammatory, but moderate alcohol consumption actually has anti-inflammatory effects.

The data shows these to be healthy ranges for alcohol intake daily in regard to inflammation:

  • 1-2 glasses on a day or around seven drinks per week for women or those above 65,
  • 2-3 glasses per day or more than fourteen glasses a week until of age 65 of men is considered to be within the safe limits

Guidelines when consuming alcohol

Aside from the number of drinks per day, here is more information you should consider when deciding on alcohol consumption for your body, situation, and long term health:

Enjoying alcohol with friends and family

Although the ‘bell curve effect’ seems to be a paradox for some in the scientific community, one suggestion is that it actually doesn’t have anything to do with the physical effects of alcohol.

It has been suggested that alcohol intake with friends and family and in social situations having a positive effect on health has more to do with the actual socialization factor. Being around people you love and care about is a really effective way to reduce stress, which could be the primary factor in moderate alcohol consumption having anti-inflammatory benefits.

Relieve stress

Alcohol in a limited and controlled dose has been shown to trigger dopamine release and lift the mood. Although this tends to be the number one reason people generally partake in alcohol consumption, this can be a slippery slope leading to alcohol abuse, so it’s advised to take precautions when using alcohol for this purpose.

Healthiest Types of alcohol

Although there are particular guidelines available for specific conditions regarding alcohol use, these tend to be the least benign choices for alcohol:

  • Red wine
  • Champagne
  • Tequila
  • Rum
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • Whiskey

I would like to point out that for the liquor options, drinking straight, on the rocks, or with unsweetened sparkling water (or club soda) is always the best option since cocktails frequently have high sugar content, which is highly inflammatory.

Counteracting the effects of alcohol

Even while drinking alcohol within Anti-Inflammatory Diet guidelines, you may want to do what you can otherwise to counteract the effects of alcohol.

Stay hydrated

As alcohol dehydrates, it is imperative to drink lots of water while consuming alcohol. The day after drinking alcohol it’s important, but it’s also imperative to keep hydrated while drinking alcohol as well.

One reason more people pay attention to this now is that dehydration plays a major part in the hangover feeling the next day.

A good rule of thumb to avoid this is to have one glass of water per alcoholic beverages.

Exercise (at least 20 minutes)

Although working out has been shown to reduce inflammation anyway, studies are also showing exercise has the ability to cancel out the effects of alcohol on the system.

Working out even for 20 minutes can increase metabolism by the liver of the compounds that can otherwise be oxidative.

Make healthy food choices

Make sure to eat healthy even during drinking alcohol or when you are going through a hangover. It’s all too easy to fall back into unhealthy habits from alcohol-induced poor choices in the moment.

This includes getting enough and quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

Drink soy milk to counteract a hangover

Interestingly, soy milk has been shown in studies to counteract a hangover. This is due to compounds called asparagines that bind to oxides formed from alcohol metabolism.

Options other than alcohol

Many people who have determined that alcohol has enough of an inflammatory effect on their bodies commonly begin to seek different alternatives to help ‘take the edge off’ after a long day, or even when socializing.

A wide range of more flexible and relatively healthy options can help you opt for a healthy lifestyle and excellent mental health, like:

  • Supplements like valerian root, ashwaganda, or schizandra
  • CBD oil
  • Mocktails (sugar-free)

Takeaway

Although many forms and quantities of alcohol have been shown to have negative effects on the body, studies have also shown the bell curve paradox. This information allows for a few drinks per day (moderate alcohol consumption) as a benefit to healthy individuals, as long as no conditions are present in which the risk outweighs the benefit.

With that, I say, “Be responsible, know your body, and Cheers!”

Get started on your Anti-Inflammatory Diet with the Quick-Start Guide! 👇

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does alcohol cause inflammation

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad with Ground Turkey

roasted brussels sprouts

Even though brussels sprouts alone are one of my all-time faves for veggies (which is saying something since we never had them growing up!), merging a basic roasted brussels sprouts recipe with the added protein of ground turkey, a spicy crunch of sliced radishes, and topping it off with a caesar flair is an amazingly simple and downright delicious upgrade!

roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad with Ground Turkey

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb ground turkey extra lean
  • 5 cups brussels sprouts halved
  • 1/2 cup radishes sliced
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice or 1/2 lemon
  • 2 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt/pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, toss brussels sprouts with a splash of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss well and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.
  • Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Brown the ground turkey.
  • Add olive oil, lemon juice mustard, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste into a blender. Blend until creamy.
  • Once brussels sprouts are finished cooking, remove from oven and let cool a few minutes.
  • Then place brussels sprouts, turkey, and radish into large mixing bowl. Add dressing and toss well.
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, nightshade-free, Sugar-Free

Anti-Inflammatory Overnight Oats

anti inflammatory overnight oats

When it comes to overnight oats, nothing is more simple for a delicious, easy, and anti-inflammatory breakfast.

It is, however, a little harder to find one that’s sugar-free, as sugar is inflammatory. That’s why this basic overnight oats recipe has replaced the sugar for an option that’s just as yummy, but without any added sugars.

anti inflammatory overnight oats

Anti-Inflammatory Overnight Oats

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs
Course Breakfast
Servings 1

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats gluten-free (or steel-cut)
  • 1/2 cup milk dairy or dairy-free
  • 1/4 cup yogurt Greek, or dairy-free option
  • 1 TBSP monk fruit granulated
  • 1 TBSP chia seeds

Instructions
 

  • Add all ingredients to container with a lid. Stir until well combined.
  • Seal the container, and let sit in the fridge a minimum of 2 hours. (Best to prepare the night before and let it soak overnight.)
  • Top with fresh or frozen fruit, and add other spices like cinnamon for a flavor boost!
  • *If you prefer warm, pop in the microwave in the morning for 30-60 seconds.
  • *Tip: For even more efficiency, double the recipe for 2 days worth of breakfasts. 🙂
Keyword anti-inflammatory, Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, nightshade-free, Vegan

List of Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Reduce Inflammation

Any given Google search can give you a thousand and one list of anti-inflammatory foods. Specific foods here, herbs and teas there, and the occasional supplement thrown in for good measure.

As the Anti-Inflammatory Diet is my jam and I walk the walk, this tends to be frustrating for me, because committing to this type of diet isn’t just for kicks. If it’s not for the general good health benefits and disease prevention, it’s because you’re trying to control or decrease inflammation in the body. That comes with a condition that you could pay big time for if you don’t manage it, or chronic pain. Neither are fun.

Which is why the half-ass efforts on the parts of those lists give me endless grief.

Instead, let’s delve into the science-backed most anti-inflammatory foods list.

list of anti inflammatory foods

What causes inflammation?

Let’s start out with what actually causes inflammation.

Your immune response is activated when your body is exposed to harmful agents such as viruses, bacteria, poisonous substances, or when you are injured. Inflammatory cells and cytokines are sent out by your immune system as first responses, stimulating additional inflammatory cells, which is acute inflammation.

These cells initiate an inflammatory response to trap microbes and other harmful substances or start recovering the wounded tissue. Pain, swelling, bruising, and redness may happen due to this.

However, inflammation has an impact on physiological systems that are not visible when poor lifestyle habits turn into low-grade inflammation that leads to chronic inflammation.

If left untreated, chronic inflammation can cause your immune response to attack your body’s surrounding cells and organs, causing an increased risk of diseases including autoimmune conditions, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.

list of anti inflammatory foods

How to protect yourself from chronic inflammation

Although we’re still hopeful in this day and age that there’s a magic pill to solve any health woe, the truth is that most health issues, and maintaining good health come down to a myriad of factors. The same is true for managing chronic inflammation.

In my practice, I promote what I call the CORE 4. These are the four factors of promoting a healthy lifestyle that help protect yourself from chronic inflammation and promote phenomenal health.

These are:

  • Calm: stress management
  • Oscillation: daily movement
  • Rest: your sleep, and
  • Eat: consume healthy foods

As a nutrition specialist, I primarily focus on what we eat, but the other 3 are extremely important factors as well since they all work synergistically.

That being said, since you gotta eat to live, and you eat 3+ times a day, I advise making healthy changes in this arena as a first step.

This includes dietary interventions like cutting pro inflammatory foods. These are highly processed foods, (which include processed meats, partially hydrogenated oils–also known as trans fats, and refined carbohydrates) and replacing those with a diet rich in nutrients like whole grains, lean protein, a ton of fruits and vegetables.

Also, since blood sugar regulation affects so many other systems in the body (including energy levels), I truly feel a diet comprised of anti inflammatory foods is the first and best place to start in protecting yourself from, or managing, inflammation.

list of anti inflammatory foods

Foods that fight inflammation

As an Anti-Inflammatory Diet at it’s core is based on the Mediterranean Diet, you may notice that this is the first place to start. It’s become one of the most studied diets of the last two decades and has, by far, gained favor by the medical community for its ability to reduce inflammation and manage blood sugar levels, not to mention the plethora of other conditions it can either manage or help prevent.

These include managing rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, preventing cardiovascular disease and heart disease and even alzheimer’s disease.

So let’s get into the list of foods that contain the most anti-inflammatory compounds by category.

(*Note that this is not an all-inclusive list of foods on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. It is a list of the MOST anti-inflammatory foods from each food category.)

list of anti inflammatory foods

Healthy fats

Monounsaturated fats

The typical Mediterranean foodstuff is made from extra-virgin olive oil that has anti-inflammatory effects in some areas. High monounsaturated fat (74% fat total) does not cause plaque in the arteries like saturated fat and contains anti-inflammatory chemicals.

Avocado oil (like olive oil) is also mono-rich and packed with nutrients and vitamins. Avocados also give the added benefit of fiber, which can also help control inflammation.

*In choosing olive oil and avocado oil, look for expeller-pressed. Extra virgin olive oil is a great choice, and its recommended that you find a brand that is sourced from California.

Polyunsaturated fats

Polyunsaturated fats have also been shown to reduce inflammation at a therapeutic level. These are your omega 3 fatty acids that have become such a popular topic, as they balance inflammatory omega 6 when in the correct ratio in our diets. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in:

  • fatty fish like mackerel, tuna, sardines, and salmon
  • walnuts and many other nuts
  • flax seeds
  • chia seeds
list of anti inflammatory foods

Healthy proteins

Proteins that are anti-inflammatory can come from one of two sources: animal-based or plant-based.

  • Cold-water, fatty fish: anchovies, tuna, salmon, mackerel (wild-caught, not farmed)
  • Eggs (organic)
  • Soy (organic): Non-organic soy is heavily sprayed with glyphosate which has been shown to be toxic and inflammatory.

Healthy carbohydrates

There are many sources of carbohydrates that fight inflammation. Listed in the general Anti inflammatory diet you’ll find that whole grains and many other vegetables are included. Although whole grains do have anti inflammatory benefits, the science is still a bit conflicting of their ability in fighting inflammation. (This is not to say that they promote inflammation.)

Non-starchy vegetables

As blood sugar levels can affect inflammation in the body, I always advise choosing loads of non-starchy vegetables first when planning meals. These vegetables are whole foods that have nutrient-rich polyphenols and phytochemicals that are potent antioxidants and fight inflammation.

It’s always recommended to ‘eat the rainbow’ because each color in plants is indicative of different groups of polyphenols. Getting a variety of these helps your body get the different types that it needs to keep your systems healthy.

list of anti inflammatory foods

Here are the top-recommended non-starchy vegetables:

  • Dark leafy greens: kale, spinach, arugula, collard greens, mustard greens
  • Red vegetables: tomato, red bell pepper, beet, radish
  • Cruciferous: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, bok choy

Starchy Plants

Starchy vegetables are ones that contain resistant starches. These food are packed with nutrients and fiber. The fiber combined with resistant starch is what creates this magical environment in the gut that reduces inflammation.

Caution should be given in overdoing it with fruits, though: They do still contain natural sugars that can cause a rise in blood sugar levels. Higher blood sugar is inflammatory, so it’s important to find a balance of satisfaction while being prudent.

list of anti inflammatory foods
Colorful fresh berries

The antioxidants found in berries help maintain a healthy immune system, and the resistant starches and fiber in fresh berries give an even bigger boost of anti-inflammatory power. The best choices are fresh, as the resistant starches break down as soon as they are cooked:

  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries
  • tart cherries
  • pomegranate seeds (not technically a berry, but a fruit with really powerful anti-inflammatory compounds)
Nuts and seeds

Nuts contain a great deal of nutrition including vitamins and ellagitan (a kind of tannin). They also contain a combination of monounsaturated polyunsaturated fats that decrease inflammation. The best options include:

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Seeds like chia and flax (already mentioned)
list of anti inflammatory foods
Mushrooms

Mushrooms have antiseptic properties, are full of fiber, and are one of the few dietary sources of Vitamin D. Although chaga mushrooms are thought to be the most anti-inflammatory, they can be difficult to find in the grocery store. If you’re adding mushrooms to a dish, any type at the grocery store will be beneficial.

Herbs and spices

Some herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory properties and can block inflammatory cytokine activity. The most anti-inflammatory options are:

Turmeric

Probably the most well-known anti-inflammatory spice, this ingredient contains curcumin, along with over 300 other active compounds, that acts as an anti-inflammatory nutrient.

Holy Basil

Also known as a delicious and fresh herb to cook with, holy basil also has potent anti-inflammatory properties. It has a slightly bitter and spicy flavor, so if that puts you off, it’s also available in supplement or tea form.

Ginseng

Typically considered a more Asian supplement, ginseng has been used for thousands of years for a myriad of health issues, including the reduction of inflammatory markers.

The thing to know about ginseng is that there are two main types: Asian (Panax ginseng) and American (Panax quinquefolius). If you need more energy, Asian ginseng is more beneficial, while the need for relaxation would call for American ginseng.

list of anti inflammatory foods

Garlic

Not only is garlic delicious, but its compounds are also highly effective at boosting antioxidants as well as pulling inflammatory markers down.

Cardamom

Cardamom has been shown to be highly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in multiple studies. Although cardamom is traditionally used in Asian-flavored dishes, it can also be found in supplement form.

Black pepper

Although black pepper is a staple seasoning in most households, it actually holds powers beyond flavor. Its main compound is called piperine, which reduces inflammation in the body. As an added bonus, black pepper also increases the bioavailability of other beneficial supplements, making it a must for every meal.

list of anti inflammatory foods

Rosemary

Delectable fragrance aside, rosemary contains a dense combination of polyphenols shown to be beneficial for many inflammatory conditions (including joint pain and stiffness, asthma, arthritis, and skin conditions) due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Cinnamon

Although there are two most well-known types of cinnamon (Ceylon and Cassia), only Cassia (the kind you can find in the grocery store) was found to reduce both inflammatory markers CRP and MDA.

list of anti inflammatory foods

Ginger

Last but not least in herbs and supplements is ginger. This spicy but sweet ingredient contains over 100 active compounds that squash inflammation in the body. It’s prevalent in Asian dishes, but can be taken in supplement form as well.

Dark chocolate

Dark Chocolate contains antioxidants compounds. Flavonols are a tasty ingredient that helps to reduce inflammation and can also be useful for brain health. Choose 70% cacao to get the best benefits while avoiding added sugars.

Beverages

Coffee and tea contain many agents known for lowering inflammation, including EGCG (green tea) and chlorophyll.

Here are some things to remember about beverages:

  • Note that adding milk (dairy) will erase those benefits as the proteins bind to those antioxidants rendering them ineffective.
  • When consuming coffee or teas, be wary of turning a beverage with anti inflammatory agents into pro inflammatory compounds by creating sugary beverages. If you need these sweetened, add natural calorie-free sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol.

Some insight on how an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Works

As previously mentioned, an Anti-Inflammatory Diet is based on the Mediterranean Diet at its core but goes a few steps further to refine it based on your unique needs that may include losing weight, preventing weight gain, managing a specific condition, as well as any intolerances, sensitivities, or allergies you may have.

The first best general recommendations to reduce inflammation in the body in order to prevent chronic diseases are to cut out sugarand processed foods, then move on to refine your dietary style further. For some this may mean an elimination diet.

Get started refining your Anti-Inflammatory Diet with the Quick-Start Guide! 👇

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list of anti inflammatory foods

Does dairy cause inflammation

Many people trying to manage inflammatory conditions read food list after food list to avoid on the Anti-Inflammatory Dietary style, and come to wonder… Does dairy cause inflammation? And believe me–their confusion is completely warranted.

Years of marketing from the dairy industry have undoubtedly ensured that you’re taught that milk consumption is incredibly healthy for your bones and yogurt for your gut. Milk is rich in calcium and vitamin D, which are beneficial to bone health, while the probiotics in yogurt keep your digestive system strong.

The problem is that there are conflicting recommendations based on conflicting scientific evidence. So let’s dive into what the science says and how you can determine if dairy is inflammatory for your unique needs.

Don’t forget to grab the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Quick-Start Guide! It’s a free guide to get started with foods that are and aren’t on the Anti-Inflammatory dietary style, how to know, and a 3-day Meal Plan! Snag it at the bottom of the post–Keep reading! 😉 👇

does dairy cause inflammation

What is inflammation?

Your immune response is activated when your body is exposed to harmful agents such as viruses, bacteria, poisonous substances, or when you are injured. Inflammatory cells and cytokines are sent out by your immune system as first responses, stimulating additional inflammatory cells, which is acute inflammation.

These cells initiate an inflammatory response to trap microbes and other harmful substances or start recovering the wounded tissue. Pain, swelling, bruising, and redness may happen due to this.

However, inflammation has an impact on physiological systems that are not visible when poor lifestyle habits turn into low-grade inflammation that leads to chronic inflammation.

If left untreated, chronic inflammation can cause your immune response to attack your body’s surrounding cells and organs, causing an increased risk of diseases including autoimmune conditions, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis.

does dairy cause inflammation

Do we need dairy?

As mentioned, we’ve been fed the line that we need dairy for specific vitamins and minerals in our diet for decades. Consuming milk or other dairy foods can, in fact, provide some health benefits in the way of important nutrients that we may be missing elsewhere.

However, this is just marketing that’s been given to us by the national dairy council and association. We don’t need to eat dairy-containing foods for our survival. In fact, no adult mammal needs milk by the time it’s reached adulthood.

We can absolutely get calcium and Vitamin D from other sources than dairy. For example, an 8 oz glass of milk has 300 mg of calcium in it. You can get the same amount in a glass of soy milk, 3/4 cup of almonds, 1 1/2 cups dried figs, 2 cups of cooked kale, 2 cups of bok choy, or 6 oz of tofu. There are also many other options for a slightly smaller amount of calcium, but when they’re added up, you can obviously go without dairy to get your RDA of calcium.

As far as Vitamin D sources, from late March to September, you can get your daily dose by spending about 10 minutes a day outdoors. Year-round good sources of Vitamin D include:

  • Oily fish
  • Egg yolks
  • Red meat (that is organic and grass-fed)
  • Anti-inflammatory foods that are fortified
  • A Vitamin D3 supplement

A Vitamin D supplement (if you choose not to consume dairy) may be a really good decision since it’s estimated between 59% to 77% of the population is Vitamin D deficient.

So, no, we don’t need dairy, but it has become a staple ingredient across the globe. The surge in dairy-free diets, however, has prompted food companies to step up and start producing many other dairy substitutes that rival taste and texture of traditional dairy products.

does dairy cause inflammation

The link between dairy and inflammation

The connection between dairy and inflammation has been established by some clinical evidence in the past. However, many studies have also shown decreases in inflammation with dairy intake as well.

Also, many of these studies don’t take into account that multiple variables may contribute to the possible inflammatory effects of dairy products. Some factors exacerbate it, while some may help combat inflammation. The primary components of dairy products are given below.

Saturated fats and sugar content

When it comes to dairy, the main 2 initial factors in inflammation are the sugar (lactose) and saturated fat in cow’s milk. According to research, saturated fats can promote inflammation in the body (although it’s been shown in newer research that this largely depends on the quality of the source, ie, organic grass-fed vs feed-lot cows.)

Sugar has been found to be inflammatory in and of itself, but it also causes a dramatic spike in blood sugar levels, which also increases inflammatory markers.

Even though saturated fat may not be as inflammatory as previously assumed (again, depending on the quality), certain conditions can be exacerbated by consuming dairy because of the saturated fat.

Milk proteins: casein and whey

Dairy-containing foods have two proteins present from the milk it was derived from: casein and whey. Whey is a very popular type of protein powder in the fitness world because of its ability to induce protein synthesis after workouts.

However, both proteins have been vilified in the past as pro-inflammatory due to some studies showing they increased inflammatory markers.

A very recent systematic review of these studies says these beliefs are simply not true. That the literature reviewed indicates that dairy has either a neutral effect or beneficial.

Another factor brought up in the last several years is that different cow breeds produce milk with different types of protein: A1 or A2. Studies have shown that A2 milk does not promote inflammation in the ways that A1 was shown.

does dairy cause inflammation

What are dairy inflammation symptoms?

Certain types of dairy products may trigger inflammation.

Signs and symptoms of a possible dairy sensitivity include:

  • bloating
  • changes in bowel motions, or
  • any other form of digestive distress after consuming dairy
  • changes in your skin, such as an increase in acne or skin rashes such as eczema and psoriasis
  • joint pain or inflammation

Dairy intolerance or sensitivity

A dairy sensitivity does trigger an immune response, but it’s usually a delayed reaction. Dairy intolerance is when allergen markers are not present for milk allergy but there is still an inflammatory response in the body with dairy consumption.

Dairy allergy

Milk and milk-containing foods provoke an inflammatory, immunological response in those with a milk allergy, even if the reaction is moderate.

People who are allergic to milk are sensitive to either casein or whey, the proteins found in dairy products. According to prior studies, more than half of the individuals with celiac disease also have a casein sensitivity because casein has a similar molecular structure to gluten.

So if you have an adverse reaction to gluten, you are more likely to have the same with milk and dairy products because milk proteins frequently cross-react with gluten in the gut.

Milk drinking or intake of milk-based products causes a direct inflammatory reaction from the immune system in people with a true dairy allergy, with symptoms that vary from minor to life-threatening.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is not life-threatening. Lactose intolerance is caused by an inadequacy of the enzyme (lactase) needed to digest lactose. As a result, when lactose intolerant individuals consume milk, they experience mild gastrointestinal issues such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. (These problems are caused by undigested lactose, not by a dairy allergy.

does dairy cause inflammation

What dairy foods can I have on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Here are your best options for dairy intake:

Yogurt

Yogurt can be a good choice for dairy as long as it’s purchased in plain, unflavored form, and also organic. Yogurt is thought to reduce inflammation by enhancing the impartiality of the intestinal lining via probiotics and also has nearly all the lactose (sugar) removed naturally via the fermentation process.

Probiotics provide several health advantages, including improved immune function and a robust and less porous intestinal gut lining. Consequently, it would reduce the odds of inflammation owing to the entrance of toxins and chemicals into the body through the stomach lining.

Fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir are the primary sources of probiotics. Studies reported that consuming them frequently may prevent or limit inflammation by strengthening gut health.

Cottage cheese and ricotta cheese

Cottage and ricotta cheese are good choices in their most natural form (these frequently have thickeners added). And the best choice is from organic grass fed cows.

does dairy cause inflammation

Other cheeses

As with all other dairy choices, cheeses that are organic and from grass fed cows are the best option due to the balanced ratios of omega 3:6. Cheeses also have considerably less lactose than other dairy products, and some that are lactose sensitive have found they can consume some cheeses and not have symptoms.

Goat cheese and feta

Although goat cheese (which includes feta) isn’t from cows, and therefore doesn’t contain the same proteins, it is a good choice to substitute in on recipes when cow’s dairy foods aren’t an option.

Feta doesn’t typically have the same strong flavor that other goat cheeses do, and it’s a staple in Mediterranean fare.

does dairy cause inflammation

How do I choose dairy products?

Dairy has long been a contentious issue in nutrition, and whether it is beneficial or causes inflammation could largely depend on the sources of dairy and the quality consumed.

Full fat, grass-fed, raw dairy is the best choice in nutrients, digestibility, and bioavailability, whereas pasteurized fat-free milk is heavily processed and has very little nutritional value.

The lactase enzyme is one of the vital enzymes lost when raw dairy is cooked and pasteurized. It results in the symptoms of lactose intolerance because of the inability to digest the dairy sugar lactose without it.

Many people believe that raw dairy products are better tolerated than pasteurized dairy products, with many experiencing improved skin and immunological function and relief from dietary intolerances.

I will also add that per the Mediterranean Diet guidelines (which are like the basic blueprint to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet), dairy is allowed, but in moderation.

Bottom line: Should I have dairy?

Although dairy may have anti-inflammatory advantages in certain people, type and quality are essential factors to consider when evaluating dairy’s involvement in inflammation.

So to determine if you should include it in an anti-inflammatory diet, answer these questions:

  1. Are you lactose intolerant? (If yes, exclude it.)
  2. Do you have a milk allergy? (If yes, exclude it.)
  3. Do you have celiac or skin conditions like rashes and eczema? (If yes, exclude it.)
  4. Do you have IBS or IBD, or even stomach or digestive issues? (If yes, I recommend an elimination diet to know if you should exclude it for sure.)

As always when it comes to questions about allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities to food, the best place to start is with your doctor.

And the combination of anti-inflammatory lifestyle choices and an elimination diet with the guidance of a nutritionist is the best way to get answers for your specific needs when it comes to building your personal Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

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does dairy cause inflammation