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!”

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does alcohol cause inflammation

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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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

Does gluten cause inflammation?

Go to any restaurant these days and you’ll find that most menus now have ‘gluten-free’ as an option, testifying to the surge in popularity of going gluten-free. When it comes to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle, however, gluten consumption can be an even more controversial topic, prompting the question: “Does gluten cause inflammation?”

does gluten cause inflammation

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein that is present in certain grains, most notably wheat. Each molecule is comprised of two components: glutenin and gliadin (more on those later.)

Gluten has been shown to be a key ingredient for breads as well as bakery goods because it helps to maintain stability as it has a certain ‘stretchy’ quality to it.

Grains that contain gluten

Gluten is not present in all grains. The grains that contain gluten are:

  • Wheat
  • Varieties of wheat: durum, semolina, spelt, farro, KAMUT, einkorn wheat, emmer,
  • Rye
  • Barley
does gluten cause inflammation

Cross-contamination or cross-contact

Cross-contamination is when a food doesn’t inherently contain gluten (like wheat, barley, and rye), but the manufacturing company where it is packaged or processed could also process gluten-containing foods.

For this reason, people that must strictly avoid gluten must read the food label to confirm that the facility it was processed at does not also process gluten-containing foods.

Foods that frequently have cross-contamination or cross-contact possibilities are:

  • Oats
  • Pizza (even if they are gluten-free pizzas)
  • Bulk bin foods at the grocery store
  • Any food that is fried in oil that other foods containing gluten are fried in (ex: french fries)
  • Foods from bakeries that are not strictly gluten-free (wheat flour can float in the air for hours and land on other surfaces)
does gluten cause inflammation

Other products that regularly contain gluten

Many packaged products contain gluten, and it takes a lot of investigating to find this out.

Typical (not-so-obvious) products that contain gluten are:

  • Malt
  • Brewer’s Yeast
  • Starch (from any of the above listed grains)
  • Beer
  • Seitan
  • Soy sauce
  • Many other processed foods not labeled as ‘gluten-free’.

Is gluten inflammatory?

When you look at how gluten affects people who suffer with celiac disease and are gluten sensitive you can see if this also impacts other people. Studies have shown that gluten triggers zonulin (a protein found in the small intestine that acts as a gateway to the intestinal barrier lining), whether in people who have celiac, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or neither of these conditions.

When the intestinal lining is breached, it lets in harmful bacteria and food proteins, triggering the immune system.

What this means is that gluten is causing an inflammatory response in everyone, but there may be no visible or tangible symptoms.

For those with undiagnosed celiac disease, as well as a gluten sensitivity, eating gluten causes chronic inflammation and has been shown to be involved in chronic inflammatory diseases.

does gluten cause inflammation

Why is gluten bad now but not in the past?

Many people think this is nonplausible because ‘we’ve been eating gluten for hundreds of years and this has never been a problem.’ That’s true. But back then, the grains that were grown were from traditional varieties. This is why many people who have issues on grains and gluten in the States can go to Europe and have no symptoms. The grain is different.

In the past I dove into this research, and according to Dr. William Davis, in his book Wheat Belly, this is due to the process the food industry has taken in creating a genetically modified wheat stalk that resists buckling from wind. What you see in the grocery store is a hybrid of a hybrid of a hybrid that has essentially altered the glutenin to gliadin ratio inside the gluten protein.

Does gluten cause leaky gut?

Leaky gut is a fairly new term that refers to the intestinal wall cells being breached because of increased permeability. When this happens, immune cells are triggered and food sensitivities and food allergies can develop. It is well known that a leaky gut can cause intestinal inflammation for those with celiac disease.

But for those that aren’t diagnosed, increased intestinal permeability and damage can still be caused in the gut. This means gluten can be problematic for everyone, potentially.

This is usually caused by a molecule called zonulin, and science shows us that zonulin is the culprit in triggering that intestinal permeability.

Leaky gut is, in and of itself, problematic because it’s been shown to be the precursor to food allergies and sensitivities (which cause inflammation) as well as autoimmune disease.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a severe autoimmune condition in which your small intestine and villi are damaged, which doesn’t allow you to absorb nutrients from food due to your immune system’s reaction to gluten.

Gluten causes inflammation damage to the small intestine in those with celiac disease. Celiac disease can also be triggered by rye, barley, and some oats in certain people (the oats can be contaminated by gluten-containing grains in the manufacturing process.)

The only treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Even if someone eats gluten in a modest quantity severe intestinal damage can occur if you have celiac disease.

How celiac disease is diagnosed

Celiac disease is usually suspected when certain markers come back in blood tests. Many GI specialists are now also including a DNA blood test that show the gene responsible for celiac probability.

It is widely believed that if the gene is positive, celiac is suspected and a GI scope is recommended to obtain a biopsy of the intestinal tract to confirm celiac.

If the gene is negative, celiac disease is probably not present, but it does not rule out non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

does gluten cause inflammation

Signs and symptoms of celiac disease

  • Stomach problems: diarrhea, constipation, smelly feces
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness in arms or legs
  • Other autoimmune disorders
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Skin rash or other issues (eczema or even allergic-feeling reactions)
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Iron-deficiency anemia
  • Joint pain and muscle pain

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) or intolerance

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is when celiac disease is not present, but gluten inflammation is still occurring, causing symptoms.

The resulting chronic inflammation can still interrupt the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients, even when celiac disease is not diagnosed.

How gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance is diagnosed

When your physician orders blood tests, they will be looking for a certain marker for celiac. If this comes back negative, (and especially if the DNA marker is negative) they can also look for antibodies to gliadin. If those are present, it usually indicates non celiac gluten sensitivity, sometimes refered to as gluten intolerance.

The best way to confirm this for yourself, however, is an elimination diet.

Common signs of gluten intolerance

You may notice similar symptoms to celiac disease, like:

  • Stomach pain
  • Other stomach issues (diarrhea, constipation)
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Brain fog
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Pain
  • Skin rash or other issues
  • Joint pain
does gluten cause inflammation

Gluten allergy

There is no such thing as a gluten allergy, but you can have antibodies to gliadin, which is present in gluten. Many people do find themselves allergic to specific grains– whether they contain gluten or not.

Allergy testing

Testing for specific grains can be done at an allergist’s office. There are two types of tests normally done: blood tests (which would show a reaction from the immune system) and/or skin prick tests.

Depending on who you ask, there are many opinions on which of the two tests are accurate. Some believe that neither are totally accurate. (I can attest to this personally as we’ve been through the gamut of these for myself and two of my daughters.)

Symptoms and signs of allergic reaction to grains

  • Anaphylaxis (obviously)
  • Sinus issues and nasal congestion
  • Skin rashes or eczema
  • Stomach symptoms and digestive issues, including vomiting

Should I eliminate gluten in an anti-inflammatory diet?

I personally think that if you have no underlying conditions, don’t need to lose weight, and are simply on an anti-inflammatory diet for good health and disease prevention, then you may be ok with gluten in your diet. Just keep in mind that the Anti-Inflammatory Diet only allows whole grains in their whole or cracked forms.

If you have certain conditions, I recommend a gluten-free diet.

Conditions that would warrant eliminating gluten

  • Thyroid,
  • Adrenal fatigue (or other adrenal issues),
  • Autoimmune diseases,
  • IBS, IBD,
  • Arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis for sure, possibly osteoarthritis)
  • Basically any chronic inflammatory condition, including heart disease

*The Arthritis Foundation has a stance currently that whole grains are part of a healthy diet, even for those with arthritis. However, these standards may soon change based on new recommendations of what’s called the ITIS Diet, which eliminates gluten and dairy.

Try an elimination diet

If you don’t know, but suspect an allergy or sensitivity, an elimination diet is always the best way to be sure. My best advice for that is to be VIGILANT and DETAILED and use a food journal.

An elimination diet is when you eliminate certain food groups for approximately 21 days then add foods back systematically one at a time to see if you react to them.

does gluten cause inflammation

How to start a gluten-free lifestyle

Eliminating gluten-containing foods

Obviously, the first step is to eliminate gluten-containing foods. Start with the list at the start of this article.

Determine if you need to eliminate ALL grains

Not to be Captain Obvious, but a gluten-free diet can be really hard. That being said, I recommend testing (through an elimination diet preferably) to see if you react to ALL grains, or just a few.

Whole grains can be a really key part of reducing inflammation because of the fiber and resistant starches. So if you can include some that are gluten-free, that would be ideal.

For example, if you are determined to have a wheat allergy or intolerance, you can eliminate wheat but possibly still have other whole grains listed above.

Be vigilant depending on the severity of conditions and symptoms

One thing many doctors recommend is varying your vigilance on your severity of symptoms. Obviously, we want to eliminate them altogether, but ultimately you’ll have to be the judge of what you can tolerate. I say this because it can be exhausting being the food police.

If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, for the love of Pete– don’t cheat! Stay away from gluten because it’s damaging your body every time you eat it.

does gluten cause inflammation

Also consider eliminating dairy to help alleviate symptoms

Studies have shown that those with conditions that warrant a gluten-free diet are more likely to react to dairy products as well, whether from lactose intolerance, an allergy or just a sensitivity.

For this reason, many people diagnosed with celiac disease, digestive symptoms and conditions, autoimmune disease should also eliminate dairy from their diets as well. People diagnosed with these conditions have been shown to have a sensitive digestive system.

does gluten cause inflammation

HEALTHY options for going gluten-free

  1. Avoid refined grains. Food companies just substitute gluen-containing grains for refined grains and potato starch the majority of the time. This goes against guidelines on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet, so be wary of packaged gluten-free foods that replicate the gluten-containing version (like pasta, breads, bagels, pastries, etc).
  2. Avoid corn. Corn is inflammatory and is usually loaded with glyphosate (the chemical in Roundup) which is toxic and very inflammatory as well.
  3. Consider veering towards Paleo or Whole 30 options because they emphasize more vegetable replacements and lower carbs that are more healthy. You don’t have to be actually following these dietary styles, but take advantage of the hard work bloggers or nutrition pros do that specialize in those diets. They always tag their recipes for which ones they follow guidelines for, making it super easy to search up.
  4. Learn to cook whole, gluten free grains. If you’re ok with other grains that don’t contain gluten, learn to cook those to replace pasta and bread.

All in all, I believe gluten-containing grains could be ok in an Anti-Inflammatory Diet if there are no underlying health concerns and you’ve proven with an elimination diet that you don’t have reactions to gluten. However, seeing the data on gluten and the effect it has on the gut lining of people even without celiac or intolerance has personally veered me away from gluten.

A good read on the subject (of specifically wheat and how modern-day gluten reacts in the body) is the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. It explains the process of hybridization and how it’s affected the gluten protein in modern wheat, and the effect it has on the human gut.

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does gluten cause inflammation

Does Red Meat Cause Inflammation

Ever wonder what those juicy ribs or lamb chops do to your health? This is a really great question when embarking on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet, because it’s always helpful to know which are inflammatory foods to our body, and which are anti-inflammatory foods.

Many people are being diagnosed with chronic disease and, in their quest for the perfect diet, have questions as to whether they should eat red meat, or animal products at all. This is understandable with the rise in popularity of the plant-based diet that eliminates animal protein and animal fat, and touting the huge health benfits.

So let’s start out by quickly reviewing what chronic inflammation is, why it matters to our health, and figure out how red meat may or may not fit into your personal anti-inflammatory diet.

does red meat cause inflammation

What is chronic inflammation?

Inflammation occurs as the body’s natural immune response when an injury occurs or when the body senses a viral or bacterial attack. This is acute inflammation, and indicates the body is doing its job. Low grade inflammation, however, is a different story.

Chronic inflammation is when lifestyle choices (including a poor diet, weight gain, no exercise, severe stress, smoking, and drug use) create low grade inflammation in the body with an increase of inflammatory markers like c reactive protein. When left unchecked, this low grade inflammation contributes to chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, inflammatory disease and conditions, cancer, and autoimmune conditions.

The number one way to counteract chronic inflammation is to embark on a journey of an overall healthy diet via anti-inflammatory eating.

This generally includes eliminating processed food, fried foods, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, and increasing vegetables (especially green vegetables and other brightly colored veggies), whole grains, and healthy oils that contain anti-inflammatory compounds like olive oil and avocado oil.

Which meats are red meats?

There are several benefits of eating red meat, from minerals and vitamins to proteins. But every once in a while there’s a little confusion on which meats are technically red (anybody else grow up hearing the pork commercial calling it ‘the other white meat’??)

There are different types of meats available in the food market so let’s define which meats are red meat.

Mammals

Mammals are the basic source of red meat protein that we eat. Mammal red meats include cattle, buffalo, sheep, lamb, deer, and goat.

Non-red meats

The alternative to red meat is non-red meat (sometimes called white meat): poultry meat and fish meat. Nowadays, poultry meat (mostly chicken and turkey) is a popular alternative to red meat in many dishes.

Fish is gaining popularity as well, as wild-caught fatty fish have been shown to be a vital part of an anti-inflammatory diet.

What does the science show?

This tends to be a loaded question because many outlets claim that studies have shown red meat to be inflammatory, but there were nuances to each study that don’t necessarily translate to humans, or to your specific body and lifestyle.

Part of the problem is that studies have relied on personal food intake diaries, which are historically inaccurate. A second problem is that these studies aren’t specifying what form the meat is in (ie, processed, grilled, baked, etc). And lastly, the quality or source of the meat isn’t being factored in these studies.

So let’s start with the elephants in the room:

Neu5Gc

N-Glycolylneuraminic acid (Neu5Gc) is a sialic acid molecule present in mammals except for humans. This molecule is not synthesized in humans and is taken up by humans from other mammals in their diet.

This molecule is present in red meats such as lamb, beef, and pork. This theory is that the Neu5Gc molecule triggers the inflammatory process as humans may have an antibody against it.

The problem is that there still isn’t conclusive evidence on this as many of the studies are speculative, or aren’t translatable to the human body.

 Arachidonic acid

Arachidonic acid (AA) is the polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acid present all over the body, starting from liver and muscle cells to brain cells. Arachidonic acid has a critical role in the body’s inflammatory process.

In regular metabolic cycles, arachidonic acid does not cause inflammation. The metabolism of the arachidonic acid predicts its role as pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory.

Red meat does contain AA, but in much smaller amounts than other meats. But studies have indicated, regardless, that higher levels of AA and omega 3 PUFAs in the blood correlated to lower inflammation in the body.

Saturated fats

As red meat contains saturated fats, an automatic assumption is that red meat is an inflammatory food. However, the source is just as important, as studies have shown that grass fed beef actually has balanced ratios of saturated fat, omega 3 and omega 6.

In addition, the type of fatty acids- particularly stearic acid–is much higher in grass fed animals, which does not contribute to high cholesterol levels.

Source and How It’s Prepared

Sources and the effect

The source of saturated fats decides whether the fats will cause inflammation in the body. This is due to grain-fed animals (feed-lot animals) being fed high amounts of grains to fatten them up. These usually consist of lots of omega 6 fats in addition to being heavily sprayed by chemicals (which are inflammatory in themselves.)

Studies in the past have never distinguished between the source of the red meat, nor the way it was cooked or prepared. Newer research is showing that this, does, in fact have a huge effect on the way red meat reacts in the body once consumed.

Grass-fed vs. grain-fed

One of the most exciting things in newer research is evidence that organic grass fed beef actually has a balanced ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 PUFAs. The studies show that the omega 6 doesn’t increase, but the omega 3 is significantly increased.

We already discussed the difference in saturated fat from grass fed vs grain fed animals, but grass fed animals also are higher in vitamins and nutrients.

Why do omegas matter?

Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fatty acids that have a beneficial effect on the human body as it manages inflammation levels. Omega 3s should be balanced with omega 6s to ensure proper balance of inflammation in the body.

How red meat is prepared

A secondary factor to take into account with red meat is how it’s prepared.

Cutting the fat

Although grass fed beef can have more favorable fat ratios, studies are still indicating that lean red meat is more beneficial to health overall than high fat red meat.

Recent studies have even gone as far as to compare a diet with lean red meat added back into the diet of those with hyperlipidemia and have shown that this addition doesn’t increase lipid levels.

Processed meats

Let’s get into the details of the inflammatory property of processed meats. Processed meats are cured, salted, mechanically separated, smoked for flavors, and artificially preserved to protect their taste and increase their lifespan.

Meat in processed forms like this are highly inflammatory and should absolutely be avoided. Examples of processed meat are cured bacon, meat jerkies, salami, and hot dogs.

Charred meat

One discovery in the past decade is that when meat is charred, it produces advanced glycation end products (or AGEs). Although these are present in many foods we eat, the body is able to rid itself of AGEs unless there are really large amounts.

Adding high heat to meats can create these larger amounts, which have been connected with developing or worsening chronic diseases.

Studies have shown that cooking with wet heat, lower heat, or adding acidic marinades like vinegar or lemon juice can drastically cut the AGEs produced when cooking meat.

Conditions that should possibly avoid red meat

Gout

It is a painful joint disease caused by the uric acid crystal deposition in the toe and other joints of the body. Gout attacks are the episodes of pain experienced by the individual suffering from that disease. Red meat has a higher quantity of purines which is the cause of the high levels of uric acid crystal in the body. Consuming red meat increases the chance of gout attacks.

Arthritis

Although some anecdotal evidence suggests red meat may cause flareups for those with rheumatoid arthritis, currently no studies give conclusive evidence of that. One of the main factors suggested to cause the correlation is the saturated fat content.

If you have arthritis, a safe option would be to try an elimination diet (or period) where you take all red meat out for a period, assess how you feel, then reintroduce lean cuts to test for flareups.

Allergies or intolerances

Aside from specific conditions that may trigger inflammation, it is possible to have an allergy to red meat (with a true reaction from the immune system) or even a sensitivity. Either will trigger inflammatory processes.

If you find that you are allergic to red meat (or other meat) you may decide to look into a plant based diet, or even a plant forward which limits animal products.

Heart disease or cardiovascular disease

This one can be tough to determine, again because of the variation in biochemistry and DNA. There is a mutation that causes certain people to break down fats differently, causing a much higher increased risk factor for heart damage and artery damage. This is a concern with red meat consumption because of the concentration of saturated fat.

Aside from that, multiple studies have shown that lean red meat can actually have favorable effects on lipid panels, which lowers risk of heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

If these conditions are a concern for you, having bloodwork run before and after an elimination period and then reintroduction of red meat can give you a much better idea of how lean red meat will react in your body and your biochemistry.

Choosing red meat

From where can you get the idea of the contents of the meat that you are consuming? Of course, if you are consuming packaged red meat, all the information is available on the packaged product.

Labeling

Understanding what food labels mean can be really important in choosing your meats. This is because food companies are notorious for using loopholes in labeling laws to make foods ‘appear’ to have more healthy qualities than they actually do sometimes. Here is what to look for and avoid when looking for red meat options.

Organic

This means the animal has not been given growth hormones or antibiotics, it was given feed and/or forage that was 100% organic, and were raised in living conditions similar to their natural habitat. Like a field of grass.

Grass-Fed or Pastured

This label means that the animal only consumed grass and forage its whole life, but per the USDA label, it has nothing to do with whether or not that animal had antibiotics or hormones. The American Grassfed Approved label, however, means that they were raised in a pasture, were 100% grass or forage fed, and were never given antibiotics or hormones. (Look for ‘100% Grass-Fed’ on the label.)

Natural

This means that the finished packaged meat has been minimally processed and isn’t allowed any artificial ingredients added in. It has nothing to do with how the animal was raised, what it ate, or if it was given antibiotics or hormones.

No antibiotics ever or Raised without hormones

This label indicates that the animal was never given added hormones. However- adding hormones to poultry is illegal anyway. Growers are permitted to give hormones to cows and sheep, though, unless certified organic or grass-fed or grass-pastured.

Fed vegetarian diet

All this means is that the animals weren’t fed animal byproducts. Instead they were fed grains, usually covered in pesticides, and usually soy and corn, which are high in omega 6s.

For more information on labeling, check out this site.

What if I can’t find organic or grass-fed?

If your store or butcher doesn’t have organic or grass-fed, grass-finished is the next best option. If that’s not available, look for ‘Natural’ but with the least amount of added ingredients. (It’s not uncommon for companies to pump meat full of liquid, including added sugars.)

Takeaways and Recommendations

Considering the information we have regarding potential inflammatory pathways of the Neu5Gc molecule, it is still unclear how this, along with saturated fat content, affect total inflammation in the body. Especially when we factor in the differences in each person’s biological makeup.

Other factors like quality of meat and preparation being studied would give much more valid information, as would a randomized, controlled trial.

That being said, multiple studies regarding lipid profile have concluded that consuming lean red meat (most of the fat trimmed away) produced similar lipid profiles as consumption of lean white meat.

Further, many studies are concluding that there are distinct differences in the way inflammation is induced in the body when the person is within target BMI vs overweight. The evidence suggests that body fat could be a primary driver of inflammation triggered by foods when the same foods don’t elicit the same inflammatory response in those who are at target BMI.

This is obviously different for everyone, however, when also factoring in conditions that also increase sensitivity to certain components in food, including red meat.

Again, the bottom line recommendation is to perform a strict elimination diet to discern if red meat is inflammatory to your body, on a personal level.

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does red meat cause inflammation

Top Inflammation Foods List | A guide on What Foods to Avoid on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

When starting a diet to reduce inflammation, it doesn’t matter how many anti-inflammatory foods you use if you’re priming your body with the most inflammatory foods every day. It’s really essential to eliminate the cause of the problem in the first place.

top inflammation foods list

What is chronic inflammation?

Inflammation is the body’s defense system kicking into gear when it senses something has gone awry. Inflammation can be a good thing if you’ve had an injury or an infection. But it becomes a bad thing when chronic inflammation is present from poor diet and lifestyle choices.

Chronic inflammation is linked to certain disorders and may cause plaque buildup in arteries, which causes stroke and heart disease.

How do unhealthy foods cause inflammation?

What I’ve determined after years of research is that there is no one-size-fits-all Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

What that means is that there are some foods that cause inflammation and there are other foods that are pretty controversial. This is because when we have different types of studies and different ways of interpreting those (with a little bias thrown in), you come up with different outcomes unless most of the science points in one direction.

That being said, there are actually three main categories of food that causes inflammation:

  1. Foods that are KNOWN and SHOWN to be inflammatory by science,
  2. Your PERSONAL KNOWN allergies or intolerances to foods,
  3. Those foods that are CONTROVERSIAL that you will need to eliminate if a condition you’re managing contraindicates it or if you’re unsure.

So let’s discuss each category and unpack what those are and what it means for YOU.

KNOWN inflammatory foods

These are the foods that the overwhelming majority of scientific studies, trials, and reviews have determined to be inflammatory to the body.

top inflammation foods list

Sugar

Sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods, and I listed it first because there’s a pretty large population of people (especially those trying to get on an Anti-Inflammation Diet) that are hooked on sugar and refined carbohydrates and feel completely stuck and hopeless.

Why sugar is bad

First and foremost, the majority of sugars available at the grocery store and in processed foods is highly refined. Each different form (especially high fructose corn syrup) is dangerous in its own right. Sugar causes a blood sugar spike and then crash, which has been shown to damage our metabolism, leading to weight gain and chronic disease with repeated use. This can also lead to chronic inflammation, cancers, obesity, chronic kidney disease and fatty liver disease.

Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) has been shown to induce and increase the inflammatory response. What that means is that if you have regular excessive sugar intake, you have a constant rollercoaster of hyperglycemia and then subsequent blood sugar crashes all day long.

Natural Sugars vs Added Sugar

Many people who start an Anti-Inflammation Diet want to know what the difference is between ‘sugar’ and ‘added sugar’.

Added sugar (on a food label) indicates the amount of additional sugar that was added into the packaged food. When you have a food that has natural ingredients that inherently have carbohydrates then it will show ‘sugars’ on the label. Food companies must now distinguish between which of those sugars are natural sugars in the product and which ones have been added.

Be aware that even natural sugars can be inflammatory foods even if they’re in fruits. Also be wary of natural sugars from maple syrup, honey, and agave. They’re still sugar.

Most common places to find sugar

Honestly anything that’s processed or packed these days will most likely have sugar in it. Obvious foods are breakfast items, snacks, and desserts. Lately several natural food companies have been introducing snack and breakfast bars with minimal ingredients that are promising.

Hidden sources of sugar

Where sugars get overlooked is 2 different places:

  • Disguised sugars: This is when they’re listed as the 50-something and growing different variations of sugar on the food label.
  • Not-so-obvious foods: This is where sugar is getting added into foods that you’d never expect (like bacon, spaghetti sauce, BBQ sauce, etc).

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have been under fire a lot the last few years, and with good reason. Aside from anecdotal accounts, studies have shown that the compounds in artificial sweeteners wreck gut health and induce pro-inflammatory changes, which is vital to a diet that will reduce inflammation.

**These are NOT the same as natural zero-calorie sweeteners.

Examples of artificial sweeteners are:

  • saccharin (brand name Sweet N Low- the pink packet)
  • aspartame (brand name Nutrasweet- the blue packet)
  • sucralose (brand name Splenda- the yellow packet)
top inflammation foods list

Trans fats

Artificial trans fats are highly inflammatory and should be avoided at all costs. They’ve been connected with hardening of the arties and heart disease. These are fats that have been chemically altered to stay fresh for longer and are banned in many countries.

Sources of trans fats

Most trans fats are found in bakery-type items but can really be in anything processed.

How to recognize trans fats

On food labels, you’ll know if trans fats are present because the label will use the word ‘hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated’ or ‘partially hydrogenated oils’ (something to that effect).

One thing to look out for is labeling on the package that says, “0 grams trans fats per serving”. What that usually means is that they’ve made the serving size on the label so small that they’re using a labeling loophole to be able to state that there are no trans fats when in fact there are. Read the ingredients list always.

Refined grains

Refined carbohydrates in the form of grain flours are inflammatory foods because of the effect on blood sugar levels. In fact, they can raise glycemic levels as much as a candy bar. They also have all the nutrition stripped away, leaving very little in its place except a substance that will put you on the same rollercoaster as sugars.

Where to find refined carbs

Refined grains are in bread, bakery items, cereals, and even things you wouldn’t think about like breaded (and especially breaded and fried) foods.

top inflammation foods list

Alcohol

Alcohol is an interesting inflammatory food because studies have shown that moderate consumption can have a more positive effect depending on the source. Usually this is limited to red wine.

But alcoholic drinks can have a two-fold punch. If the drink is a cocktail full of sugar, you’re getting a double dose of inflammatory foods in a single drink.

CRP is an inflammation-associated marker showing elevated inflammatory levels among people who drink more than safe amounts.

top inflammation foods list

Processed meats

Processed meat refers to meats that have been mechanically ‘put together’. Processed meat consumption has been linked to chronic inflammation and disease, including cancer.

These include deli meats, beef jerky sticks, and other processed meats that you’d expect to find on a charcuterie board.

Vegetable oils and seed oils

These types of oils are highly inflammatory because they’re super refined, and then are usually oxidized by the time they make it into processed foods, or get reheated many times over which also causes oxidation. Oxidation induces the inflammatory response.

Vegetable oils and seed oils to avoid include corn oil, vegetable oil, peanut oil, cottonseed oil, and canola oil that isn’t organic and expeller pressed.

top inflammation foods list

Saturated fats

Although most data until the last few years has indicated saturated fats trigger inflammation, all the studies done (apart from recent ones) never differentiated between sources of the animal saturated fats.

Animal based saturated fats

Saturated fats from animals have different omega 3:6 ratios depending on how they were raised and fed, which can offset the inflammatory response. What this means is that occasional consumption of saturated fat may be ok when the source and quality is taken into account.

Sources of animal-based saturated fat includes meat and dairy products.

Plant based saturated fats

Saturated fat from plant sources includes palm oil and coconut oil. Again- the quality of these is what matters as refined sources have been shown to have inflammatory compounds. (Read more about these below) 👇.

KNOWN foods that you have an allergy or intolerance to

These fall into two different categories really: Foods you already know you’re allergic to, and foods that science has shown you should avoid if you have certain conditions.

top inflammation foods list

Allergies and intolerances

Foods that you know you’re allergic to absolutely promote inflammation in the body. The same goes for foods you have an intolerance or sensitivity to because they induce inflammatory markers when ingested, and you have a subsequent reaction to the food.

If you’re not sure if you’re allergic or intolerant to any given food, this can be determined with a blood test, a prick test, or by doing an elimination diet.

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Foods to avoid based on condition

Depending on your given condition that you’re trying to manage, several have studies backing up avoiding certain foods that cause inflammation. These would include:

  • metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes, PCOS, and insulin resistance
  • GI conditions like IBS and IBD
  • respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD
  • rheumatoid arthritis or other inflammatory arthritis
  • autoimmune conditions/disease (like celiac disease)
  • endocrine/hormonal conditions like thyroid or adrenal conditions

That being said, there are specialty subsets of foods that could cause inflammation for some of these conditions. These include lectins, FODMAPS, and fructans.

CONTROVERSIAL foods that could cause inflammation

These are the foods where science has studies showing results that are inconclusive.

This could be because the study size was very small, it was done on animals instead of humans, funding of the study creating bias on the outcome, or the data collection methods relied on study participants remembering things versus having a more concrete data collection method (for example).

top inflammation foods list

Whole grains

With the slurry of new dietary styles comes criticism for different food groups for one reason or another. With low carb diets and keto picking up the pace in the last decade or so, this means carbohydrates are getting a lot of flack. Especially whole grains.

Science shows that when in their whole or cracked forms, whole grains are full of nutrients and needed fiber (because gut health is crucial on an Anti-Inflammatory Dietary Style), but that doesn’t mean that any given grain won’t disagree with you.

Legumes

Also in line with new dietary styles, especially Paleo or the caveman diet, legumes have also come under fire. Again, studies show that these are full of nutrients, protein, and fiber. But legumes can absolutely disagree with some people.

top inflammation foods list

Soy

Soy has come under fire because of the connection to hormones, specifically- estrogen. Soy has been shown to have effects on hormones, but the changes have been fairly small. Again, studies on this go back and forth in that aspect, but in regard to inflammation specifically, the science shows that soy can fight inflammation.

The variable that could make it promote inflammation is for it to NOT be organic (because it is heavily sprayed with glyphosate if not organic), and when it’s in oil form because it’s most likely to also not be organic, and also is heavily refined and oxidated.

Dairy

Historically, studies on dairy products have been heavily criticized because of the amount of lobbying done by the dairy association in the last few decades. Some studies show no change in inflammation when consuming dairy, and others show inflammatory markers increase, especially with GI conditions like IBS.

So here’s the breakdown: milk has lactose (which is a sugar) and should be avoided.

But other dairy foods like plain, unsweetened yogurt have been shown to be beneficial in boosting gut health, and also have a few studies showing anti-inflammatory effects. Especially when they come from organic grass-fed sources as the dairy products from those animals have the same balanced omega 3:6 ratios as red meat that comes from organic grass-fed sources.

Red meat

This was covered a bit under saturated fats, but red meat has been shown in the past to trigger and affect inflammatory markers. The problem with these studies was that the quality and source of the meat wasn’t considered.

Recent studies have shown that there is a difference based on those factors. When the sources are organic grass-fed, there was an increase in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

top inflammation foods list

Nightshades

Nightshades have been villainized heavily because of claims that they create an inflammatory response. Studies have shown this isn’t actually the case (except in some GI conditions), and in fact, the Arthritis Foundation actually recommends including them in your diet because of their high nutritional value.

Saturated fats

Again, saturated fats now have more recent studies backing them up if they come from organic, grass-fed, pastured sources. This is because it balances the omega 3:6 ratios, which controls inflammatory markers.

How to know if these are foods that cause inflammation for me

Really the only way to know for sure if these foods promote inflammation in your body is to do an elimination diet. This is when you eliminate certain food groups (listed above) all at once, or even if varying chunks, then add them back one at a time to see how you react.

top inflammation foods list

All in all, you should absolutely eliminate the obvious offenders (the foods shown to induce inflammation and your personal food allergies and intolerances).

But the remainder are up to you. The foods listed in the last category of controversial foods have been shown to have a ton of nutrients, but that’s not to say you won’t personally react to them.

Again, the bottom line recommendation is to adhere to the basic Mediterranean diet guidelines, do an elimination diet if you’re having symptoms still, and then create an eating plan from there.

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top inflammation foods list

What is a Resistant Starch and Is It Anti-Inflammatory?

When it comes to carbohydrates for an Anti-Inflammatory diet, confusion abounds–so I’m here to answer the question: What is a resistant starch, is it anti-inflammatory, and is resistant starch good for me?

I think this is a really important topic to cover in this dietary style because there’s a lot of confusion over whole grains and carbs in general when it comes to reducing inflammation in the body.

A lot of this is because of the constant battle regarding carbs in the last two decades. People have a hard time distinguishing between sugars and complex carbohydrates and what they should or shouldn’t be eating. This becomes especially complicated when you’re trying to manage a condition that really relies on an anti-inflammatory diet as a basis for controlling the symptoms and pain of that condition.

So let’s start out with answering what a resistant starch is first.

what is resistant starch is resistant starch good for you anti inflammatory

What is the difference between starch and resistant starch?

The three forms of carbohydrates that we consume are (1) sugar, (2) starches, and (3) resistant starch.

Sugar is pretty obvious, besides the limitless disguises it’s given on food labels. But let’s take a look at the difference between starch and resistant starch.

what is resistant starch is resistant starch good for you anti inflammatory

Starch

Starches are long chains of sugar molecules, and come from those plant foods that we consider refined carbohydrates that are not straight sugar. Those would be refined flours that are used to made breads, crackers, pasta, and bakery items.

Even though these foods aren’t straight sugar, they’ve been broken down and have so much starch degradation that they are absorbed extremely fast into the bloodstream to have the same effect of straight sugar.

The foods that contain these non-resistant starches usually contain no fiber and are frequently paired with sugar and unhealthy fats to create a trifecta of inflammatory triggers in the body.

Most starchy foods in this category are ones that should be avoided for a variety of negative effects on human health. Alongside sugar, they’ve been shown to induce insulin resistance, inflammatory conditions, and contribute to heart disease.

what is resistant starch is resistant starch good for you anti inflammatory

Resistant starch

Resistant starches are still considered starches and carbohydrates, but they are slowly digested starch and also act as a prebiotic. Instead of breaking down into sugar for energy, they resist digestion and pass through the small intestine and into the large intestine.

Once they’re in the large intestine bacterial fermentation occurs and assists the colon in producing short chain fatty acids, including butyrate.

Short chain fatty acids matter because they help blood flow and absorption of minerals while blocking the growth of harmful bacteria and toxins. And butyrate suppresses colonic inflammation.

This nifty job is what helps generate a posh home for our good gut bacteria, which is why we should promote an increase in resistant starch intakes while eliminating regular starch and sugars.

Various varieties of resistant starch is found within many foods, and the addition of these into the diet is beneficial to digestive health.

Resistant starches also contain less calories than normal starchy food: we extract approximately 2 calories per gram of resistant starch, while regular starch is absorbed at approximately 4 calories per gram. That’s DOUBLE!

This means that the higher resistant starch is in food the less calories it contains. This helps tremendously if trying to lose weight or maintain it but have problems with appetite and feeling full.

These types of resistant starch do, however, still contain vitamins and minerals that are available for absorption.

(Note that this is not permission to go crazy with pasta. It’s still a good idea to reduce calories from these types of foods and increase your vegetable intake when your goal is weight loss or increasing insulin resistance.)

Is resistant starch good for you?

The resistant starch is also known as soluble starch and is considered an insoluble dietary fiber. These varieties of resistant starch offer many health benefits and have lower calories than non-resistant starch.

Several human studies show resistant starch can improve insulin sensitivity and blood pressure, decrease hunger and can help support a healthy digestive system, which has many health benefits in and of itself, including:

  • Improved gut health
  • Preventing colorectal cancer and colon cancer
  • Lower risk of depression and anxiety
  • Assistance in weight loss or maintenance
  • Appetite reduction
  • Lowered blood sugar levels
  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Prevention or treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases

All of these factors, individually and cumulatively, add up to anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Is resistant starch good for diabetics?

Although those with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and PCOS (and other conditions with poor insulin sensitivity) are generally told to shift into a low-carb or even ketogenic diet which severely limit all starch including resistant starch, studies have shown numerous health benefits of resistant starch intake for these conditions by following and Anti-Inflammatory Diet in the form of the Mediterranean Diet.

Since resistant starch (especially when fiber is paired) helps blunt a blood sugar spike, improves gut health, and triggers short chain fatty acids, it can be especially helpful at improving overall health, including increasing insulin sensitivity.

Since many people with metabolic issues like type 2 diabetes are also overweight, including more resistant starch in their diet will also help with feeling full and satisfied to assist in weight loss (which is what many doctors recommend to those who are diagnosed with these conditions.)

What are types of resistant starch?

There are five types of resistant starch (a fifth category was added to include those produced by food manufacturers), aptly named, “Type 1”, “Type 2”, “Type 3”, and “Type 4”, and “Type 5”. Let’s discuss where you can find each one and what their pros and cons are.

Resistant Starch Type 1:

This refers to starchy food that has a seed or germ as its outer coating.

Can be found in grains, seeds and legumes. Type 1 resistant starch is unable to broken down by our digestive enzymes. This means our digestive system does not absorb its nutrients due to them being attached to fibrous tissue walls, as long as it is intact or just cracked (ie, not ground down into flour.)

Resistant Starch Type 2:

This type of resistant starch is naturally found within the starches of certain foods. The more raw these foods are, the more resistant the starches are. Once they are heated, the starch is more easily digested. These include:

  • raw fruits
  • potato starch from raw potatoes
  • corn
  • some legumes
  • hi-maize resistant starch products
  • green (unripe) bananas
  • plantains

Resistant Starch Type 3

Type 3 resistant starch is referred to as retrograded starch. This is starchy food that is cooked, then cooled. This heat and cooling application increases the resistant starch content.

These would include foods like sushi rice, and pasta or potatoes that are cooked and then cooled for a salad (for example.)

Resistant Starch Type 4

This type of resistant starch is chemically modified starch created by food manufacturers from starchy foods. The end products are resistant to digestion, but start out as rice, raw potatoes, or corn. These are created so that food companies can increase thickness or improve texture by adding resistant starch.

Resistant Starch Type 5

This is a new category that was recently added. This is another type of resistant starch that manufacturers also produce, but they heat and cool the starchy foods with fatty acids, waxes, or other lipids.

What is the best source of resistant starch?

Although types 2 and 4 have been shown to increase levels of good bacteria in the gut, the types of bacteria are different. This, along with the fact that each person is so different, makes it difficult to determine which would be better from a gut health perspective.

Aside from that, the most feasible options we have come from types 1-3. These include the resistant starches we can cook whole intact (or cracked) grains like:

  • rice,
  • farro,
  • oats,
  • amaranth,
  • barley,
  • quinoa,
  • teff, and
  • wheat berries

Also lentils; soybeans; and legumes.

And lastly, this includes raw fruit, green bananas, and plantains.

what is resistant starch is resistant starch good for you anti inflammatory

How do you increase resistant starch in food?

A great way to increase resistant starches if you’re not able to find whole or cracked grains (like the ones listed above), but must make do with whole grain pastas or even potatoes in a recipe is to plan ahead.

If you start out with whole grains (or even lentil pasta), you can create dietary resistant starch in those foods if it’s cooked and cooled.

Further research done on resistant starch at the University of Surrey showed that blood sugar levels can be even further controlled when those foods are then reheated again.

Their study showed that it reduced blood sugar spikes by a whopping 50% when food was then reheated again! This has been confirmed with a study published by researchers in 2019 in the journal Foods.

All in all, resistant starches and the fiber that’s present in these types of foods have been shown to be immensely beneficial to gut health, prevention of certain diseases, blood sugar control, and assist in weight loss. Based on the data we have, resistant starches’ ability to do all these things has mega anti-inflammatory benefits.

That being said, as long as there are no food allergies or sensitivities to any of the foods listed as resistant starches or those where resistant starch could be made or increased, these are definitely foods that are recommended on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

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what is resistant starch is resistant starch good for you anti inflammatory

Are Saturated Fats Inflammatory and Can I have them on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

are saturated fats inflammatory

As the last two decades have increased interest in dietary styles like Paleo and keto, questions and criticism surrounding their healthfulness have followed. After all, they promote a significant increase in meats and are considered a high-fat diet.

We’ve been fed the line that fats make you fat and unhealthy, but sugar is ok since a published study (funded by the sugar industry) in the ’70s infiltrated every health outlet available, shaping the dramatic (and detrimental) increase in sugar consumption. This myth alone has been suggested to be a huge contributor to the rise in insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and other metabolic disorders.

are saturated fats inflammatory

A typical high-fat Western diet has been linked to potential harm by academics for years. A low-fat diet had long been recommended in the past as the healthiest strategy to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, diet-induced obesity, insulin resistance, and other inflammatory conditions.

In reality, your body requires dietary fats from nutrition to function correctly.

Dietary fat is a significant energy source that aids in absorbing specific vitamins and minerals. Fat is utilized in cell membranes, each cell’s essential exterior, and the sheaths surrounding nerves. It is required for blood clotting as well as muscular action.

are saturated fats inflammatory

As mentioned before, saturated fat is no longer seen as an evil character. In reality, some fats, such as monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids (which is a polyunsaturated fatty acid), are necessary for a healthy diet. On the other hand, some fats may exacerbate chronic inflammation and impair your general health.

Trans fats are, by far, the worst. They are a byproduct of the hydrogenation process, which is used to transform saturated oils into liquids and keep them from going stale. There are no proven health advantages associated with trans fats, and there is no safe ingestion threshold. As a result, trans fats have been banned in many countries.

According to new research, saturated fat is not necessarily harmful and may be incorporated into a health-promoting diet. In addition, saturated fats are often being replaced with a diet rich in unsaturated fatty acids (including monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fatty acids) to improve cardiovascular health and decrease coronary risk.

It’s not surprising to be perplexed as a result of decades of contradictory information. Let’s discuss saturated fatty acids and highlight the most recent findings of saturated fats in nutrition research to know the truth and debunk the myths. But also to understand if it has a role in chronic inflammation and even has a place in the anti-inflammatory diet.

are saturated fats inflammatory

What are saturated fats?

The molecular structure of all fats is the same: a chain of carbon atoms connected to hydrogen atoms. However, the length and form of the carbon chain and the number of hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atoms distinguish one fat from another.

Apparent slight structural variations result in significant differences in function and appearance.

Saturated fats are abundant in our daily diet. These fats have only single bonds between carbon molecules and are saturated with hydrogen molecules, as the name implies. Therefore, they are solid at normal temperatures due to the saturation of hydrogen molecules.

Saturated fat may be found in red meat, whole milk, whole-milk dairy dishes, cheese, coconut oil, and many commercially prepared baked goods.

Saturated fats have commonly referred to as “bad fats” by healthcare practitioners and academics. Keeping saturated fat consumption to a minimum and substituting it with nutrient-dense food alternatives has been suggested by health organizations throughout the world for decades to help reduce heart disease risk and boost general health.

However, a flurry of new research has complicated the link between saturated fat and heart disease. According to a systematic review of 21 studies, there is insufficient evidence to prove that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease. However, replacing saturated fat with polyunsaturated fat may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Additional studies indicated that replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fat in healthy oils (such as olive oil, expeller-pressed canola oil, and avocado oil) while reducing unhealthful oils (like peanut oil, corn oil, and sunflower oils) and increasing high-fiber carbohydrates is the best way to reduce heart disease risk.

This issue lacks concrete solutions. Although saturated fat increases some heart disease risk factors, there is no solid evidence that saturated fat is the sole cause of cardiovascular disease.

What is the saturated fat-inflammation link?

Processed meals high in saturated fats, such as fast food and fried foods, have been related to several health problems, including an increased risk of obesity.

As per the researchers, inflammation in obesity can be induced by a fundamentally different system from the one that regulates normal immune responses. According to a 2010 study, saturated fats “short-circuit” both mouse and human immune cells, resulting in an abnormal inflammatory response.

This potential inflammatory mechanism can be stopped without interfering with immune cells’ normal response to infection-like signals, implying that medications to lower inflammation and diabetes risk in obesity might be developed without inhibiting the immune response.

To resolve a problem, we must first identify its core cause. This relation provides a completely new way to learn about how to prevent metabolic diseases caused by excess saturated fatty acids, which may be prevented by reducing their consumption.

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How could saturated fats increase inflammation?

Saturated fat consumption influences a significant inflammatory cell type in the immune system, which then affects inflammatory gene expression.

Macrophages are often regarded as the immune system’s first-responders to infection or injury. For example, when fat-storing cells get loaded with fat and start to fail in the case of obesity, macrophages jump in to clean up the mess.

The researchers revealed that saturated fatty acid activates a different set of genes in macrophages than those responsible for infection detection. They discovered that one gene, which produces the protein IRE1alpha, is particularly sensitive to the presence of saturated fats in macrophages.

IRE1alpha detects the buildup of saturated fats and reacts by interacting with the inflammasome, a protein complex within the cell. This protein complex causes the generation of a major inflammatory signal known as IL-1beta, which has long been studied in diabetes.

The additional saturated fats that macrophages must quickly digest under obesity-like conditions effectively short-circuit IRE1alpha, whose typical function is to provide quality control and remodeling in the endoplasmic reticulum.

The researchers observed that blocking this fat-sensing function of IRE1alpha inhibited macrophages from activating this inflammatory pathway in response to dietary fat but had no effect on macrophages’ capacity to release IL-1beta in response to infection-related signals.

are saturated fats inflammatory

Do saturated fats fit in an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Although saturated fats have long been considered harmful, newer research has shown that it really is more about quality than strictly labeling all saturated fat as bad or inflammatory.

That being said, if you’re considering including them in your anti-inflammatory diet, it’s recommended that you do so with those quality guidelines in mind.

What foods contain saturated fats?

The following are some examples of common foods high in saturated fats:

Full-Fat Dairy Products

A 1-cup portion of whole milk has 4.5 grams of saturated fat, while the same quantity of 1% milk comprises just 1.5 grams. Creams have the highest content in this case, having 28 g of saturated fat per cup. (Also in this category are full-fat sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta).

Butter

The high saturated fat content of butter is one of the reasons why many baked items have been considered unhealthy. A spoonful of butter contains around 7 grams of saturated fat.

Tropical oils

Even though there are certain medical advantages to tropical oils (which include palm oil and coconut oil), they are also heavy in saturated fat. Saturated fat in coconut oil is higher than in butter, beef fat, or lard. It contains around 90% saturated fat, with one tablespoon providing 12 grams.

Red Meat

Saturated fat levels are high in beef, lamb, and pork. Moreover, even the lean slices of beef comprise 4.5 grams of saturated fat per 100 grams.

However, red meat does contain other sources of fats. And depending on the source, that can balance the omega 3 to 6 ratio, which has an effect on whether or not that cut of meat is inflammatory. (Keep reading to see why!)

Recommended sources

Grass-fed beef

When most people hear the word red meat, they typically think of beef, which is often thought to be unhealthy as part of a high fat diet, but it can bring certain advantages when consumed from the right sources.

According to research, an animal’s diet can influence the nutritional value of the meat on the consumer’s plate.

Grass-fed beef has been demonstrated to be lower in fat, higher in healthy fatty acids, higher in vitamins, and a rich source of a range of minerals. According to 2009 research, consumers benefit substantially from grass-fed beef.

Organic butter or ghee

As newer research is indicating that quality is the main differentiating factor, butter or ghee can be consumed when from organic and grass-fed sources. This is because the milk fats contain those balanced omega 3:6 ratios that help control inflammation.

are saturated fats inflammatory

Coconut oil

Although coconut oil is nearly completely composed of saturated fat, it has the reputation of being a healthy alternative, especially in the Paleo diet. It is commended for its health advantages, which include antibacterial and antioxidant capabilities, enhanced skin and oral health, and the possibility of weight loss.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a kind of saturated fatty acid, are abundant in coconut oil. Consuming MCTs may boost the number of calories your body burns, and consequently, it may aid in weight loss.

Research has shown that virgin, unrefined coconut oil is able to reduce inflammation, whereas refined (possibly because of the refining process) has the opposite effect.

Palm oil

Palm oil has a comparatively high saturated fat content compared to other liquid oils at around 34%.

However, palm oil is high in antioxidants, including vitamin E. This vitamin is essential for maintaining the function of your immune system and allowing your cells to communicate with one another.

According to research, consuming enough vitamin E in your diet can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

It is worth noting that reheating changes the chemical composition of the oil. It is recommended that these tropical oils not be reheated because, if consumed, they increase free radicals in the body, which can cause inflammation.

are saturated fats inflammatory

Replacements

As per Mediterranean diet guidelines, sufficient replacements would depend on how you’re using it. For example, olive oil has a lower smoke point, so if you plan to saute something, avocado or grape-seed oil may be a better option.

To avoid oxidation of olive oil, choose extra virgin from trusted sources and reserve its use for non-heated foods like salad dressings or vinaigrettes.

Guidelines for the Mediterranean Diet also confirm that consuming saturated fatty acids in moderation and consuming them from the right sources can bring many health benefits and minimize the risk of inflammation, obesity, heart disease, chronic diseases, and other health complications.

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are saturated fats inflammatory

Are Nightshades Inflammatory and Can They Be Part of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

When researching an anti-inflammatory diet, many people’s first question is: Are nightshades are inflammatory and should they be avoided? Most will find contradicting lists of foods to include, and foods to avoid that cause inflammation, and become very confused.

Some lists include nightshade vegetables, wheat, dairy, sugar, and soy, (among several others) while others firmly stand against it. This can make it very hard to determine which foods you should include or exclude from your diet.

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Although the answer isn’t cut and dry, this guide may help determine if you should avoid them or continue eating nightshades due to possible inflammation.

Inflammation is considered to be your body’s normal immunological reaction to ailments, promoting healing. However, persistent and chronic inflammation causes serious health problems. It is clear from various peer-reviewed studies that certain meals exacerbate the inflammatory process.

Anecdotal evidence has led to widespread misconceptions concerning the nightshade family of vegetables. Common conditions that are connected include rheumatoid arthritis, other autoimmune conditions, inflammatory diseases like IBS and IBD, and other chronic diseases.

As a result, many people have eliminated them from their diets because of claims that they are pro-inflammatory.

With all of the conflicting information about nightshades and inflammation out there, it’s no surprise that many individuals doubt whether nightshades are healthy or not. So, let’s discuss what nightshades are and how they could be harmful–or beneficial–to your health.

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

What are nightshades?

Nightshades are plants of the Solanaceae family that contain over 2500 species, most of which are not edible and poisonous.

Many foods that are nightshades are consumed worldwide and are a mainstay in many cuisines.

Common edible nightshades include:

  • potatoes (white and the other colored varieties, but NOT sweet potatoes)
  • tomatoes
  • peppers (which include bell pepper, pimentos, chili peppers and other hot peppers, and seasonings such as chili powder, cayenne powder, cayenne powder, and red pepper)
  • Paprika
  • curry powders
  • eggplant
  • goji berries
  • ground cherries
  • ashwagandha
  • tobacco

All of these are highly nutritious and are frequently recommended to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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Toxic chemicals found in the nightshade family

Although many edible nightshade vegetables are highly nutritious and provide several advantages, nightshade vegetables also include certain toxic substances that may cause health issues for some individuals.

Alkaloids, nitrogen-containing compounds present in the leaves, stems, and edible parts of the plants, are found in all nightshades. These are poisonous substances produced by the plant to defend it against mold and pests.

Solanine, nicotine, and capsaicin are prominent alkaloids found in nightshades. Solanines, a toxic alkaloid that causes cancer (solanine poisoning is lethal), have made nightshades contentious. Numerous individuals have been reported to have solanine allergies, which intensify when they eat nightshade vegetables.

The plant stems, leaves, or unripe fruits or tubers have the highest concentration of alkaloids. Green potato consumption has also been linked to solanine toxicity in certain individuals.

Some nightshades may have a genetic relationship to deadly chemicals, notably the deadly nightshade, belladonna.

Lectins, which have been attributed to inflammation, are another potentially harmful chemical present in a few nightshades.

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Health advantages of nightshade vegetables

Eating nightshade vegetables provide tons of nutrients that are high in antioxidants and have several health advantages.

The following are potential health benefits of some of the most often consumed nightshades:

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Tomato

Tomatoes are high in biotin, potassium, iron, and zinc, among other vitamins and minerals. Tomatoes also contain potent compounds, such as the antioxidant lycopene and anthocyanins, which reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Eggplant

Eggplant is used in many diets, like the Mediterranean diet. It is high in fiber, potassium, and vitamins B-1, B-6, and K.

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Pepper

Peppers are high in vitamin A and C, potassium, and folic acid, promoting iron absorption.

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Potatoes

Potatoes offer potassium, which acts as powerful stroke prevention, enhances bone health, and reduces stress. Potatoes also provide nutritional value in the form of fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6.

Why do people avoid nightshades?

One of the most prevalent reasons people avoid nightshades is a fear that the meals may promote inflammation. Although there are no conclusive studies to back it up, some people experience decreased joint pain when they avoid eating them.

Potatoes were connected to digestive troubles in animal experiments and some short research, which were primarily applicable when the potatoes were fried; this was especially true in animals prone to Gastrointestinal inflammation, as some people with diseases like Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD) are. It may cause intestinal irritation in humans as well.

The alkaloids present in some nightshades can be harmful. Some feel that nightshades aggravate inflammatory disorders by exacerbating associated symptoms such as joint pain, inflammation, and digestive difficulties.

Alkaloids are bitter compounds present in the leaves and stem and sometimes in the edible parts of nightshades, and they act as a natural insect repellent. As a result, many people with autoimmune disorders cut nightshades out of their diets, believing they cause inflammatory damage. However, there is no scientific evidence that nightshade plants cause autoimmune disorders.

However, it is crucial to note that regularly consumed nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplants have exceptionally small quantities of these chemicals, making them safe to ingest. Whereas, to acquire alkaloid poisoning, a healthy adult needs to consume a whole pound of totally green potatoes to acquire alkaloid poisoning, as the green areas possess the most alkaloids.

Who should not consume nightshades?

Modern nightshades cause sensitivity in some people, but nightshades are not intrinsically inflammatory; it is only that certain people are intolerant of them.

Nightshade plants may cause a mild intolerance in some people due to their inability to digest them thoroughly. Gas, bloating, and diarrhea are standard in people with food intolerance. They may endure weariness and joint discomfort in more challenging situations.

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Allergies due to nightshade plants are pretty uncommon.

Solanine, a substance found in nightshade vegetables, is thought to increase arthritis pain and inflammation by some people. Although it has not been scientifically proven, if a person believes that specific foods, including nightshades, cause their arthritis symptoms or worsen them, they should avoid consuming them.

If you have an autoimmune disorder such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a group of autoimmune diseases marked by inflammation of the digestive system, you should consider eliminating them (as well as grains that have gluten) from your diet to see if your symptoms improve.

The protective membrane of the gut does not work effectively in patients with IBD, allowing germs and other hazardous chemicals into the bloodstream.

When this happens, the body’s immune system attacks the toxic chemicals, causing further gut inflammation and a slew of other gastrointestinal issues. A few studies show that the alkaloids in nightshades may worsen the intestinal lining in patients with IBD.

How to know if you’re intolerant to nightshades?

A nightshade sensitivity is not the same as an actual food allergy. Instead, it is essentially an intolerance, which means your body is unable to properly digest particular foods, resulting in a variety of symptoms.

If you suspect you have a nightshade sensitivity or allergy, consider maintaining a food diary and regularly tracking your symptoms.

If you feel intolerance to nightshades, then eliminate nightshade foods for at least four weeks from your diet. You can then add them into your diet for 1–2 days to observe whether the symptoms reappear and evaluate the changes.

If you have a severe nightshade allergy, you should not consume them again, and in rare circumstances, you should consult a doctor or a dietician.

A doctor can diagnose a nightshade allergy via diagnostic tests like a skin prick test by injecting a minimal quantity of the prospective allergen into the skin with a needle to see if there is a reaction, or a blood test like RAST or ELISA, in which a doctor takes a blood test to check if there are IgE antibodies associated with the particular allergens.

What are the symptoms of nightshade food sensitivity?

Symptoms of an intolerance or food allergies to nightshades can include:

  • digestive problems
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • hives
  • skin irritations
  • excess mucous production
  • painful joints
  • inflammation

This list isn’t all-inclusive. It’s important to know your body and understand the symptoms that could be occurring.

How to know if you are sensitive to nightshade foods

The best way to begin an anti-inflammatory diet and know if you have a food sensitivity or food allergy is to do an elimination diet.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN ALL ABOUT THE CHEAT CODES TO WELLNESS FRAMEWORK TO GO ANTI-INFLAMMATORY WITHOUT IT TAKING OVER YOUR LIFE.

An elimination diet can help you eliminate any potentially inflammatory foods for a few weeks, then add each one back in one at a time to see if any food is creating symptoms.

Also, note that just because one vegetable in this family may prove to be an allergy or sensitivity does not mean that all vegetables in this family will.

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Fruits and vegetables that are alternatives to nightshades

If you eliminate nightshades from your diet for an extended period, you might lack the nutrients they supply. However, there are a variety of other foods that offer almost the same nutrients and health advantages.

Leafy green vegetables

Numerous vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber can be found in leafy green vegetables, including spinach, kale, and collard greens, providing similar health advantages as nightshades.

Green pesto

Green pesto is a delectable substitute for tomato sauce for many dishes that do not contain nightshades.

Sweet potatoes

Consider eating sweet potatoes instead of white (or colored) potatoes to get sufficient vitamin A while avoiding nightshades.

Citrus fruits

Even though many nightshades include vitamin C, citrus fruits such as oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits are also good sources and can help fill up the gaps.

are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Takeaway

Nightshade vegetables are high in nutrients, and more research would be needed to consider them as the causative agents for increased inflammation or other arthritic symptoms.

There are, on the other hand, certain people who have a medical history or have dietary allergies. From a scientific perspective, even the Cleveland Clinic, as well as the Arthritis Foundation, have taken the stance that nightshades are a nutritious addition you should keep in your diet unless you have a known intolerance or allergy to them.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners
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are nightshades inflammatory what are nightshades

Are Grains Inflammatory and Can They Fit into an Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

When searching the Anti-Inflammatory Diet, it’s not uncommon to come upon conflicting information regarding grains and if they’re ‘allowed’, as many ask, ‘Are grains inflammatory?’.

Part of this is due to some types of anti-inflammatory diets like Paleo and keto that restrict grains altogether. But the truth is there is no one-size-fits-all anti-inflammatory diet. And in that, there is also no one-size-fits-all answer for whether you should include grains in your anti-inflammatory diet.

So let’s talk about grains, their health benefits, and other factors to determine if you should exclude grains from your anti-inflammatory diet completely.

are grains inflammatory anti inflammation grains

Grains vs. pseudo-grains?

Grains are one of the few dietary categories that practically everyone is familiar with. Cereals are grass-like plants that produce grains, which are tiny, rigid, and edible dry seeds. They’re a staple meal in almost every country and supply significantly more food energy than any other food category on the planet.

Grains are consumed in large quantities by humans and cattle, and they are processed into a variety of food items. Unfortunately, refined grains are rich in harmful antinutrients and some include inflammatory protein concentrations like gluten, making them potentially unhealthy.

When refined, grains have also been shown to contribute to insulin sensitivity, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, cardiovascular disease, and increased body weight.

Pseudograins mimic grains from the perspective of the person consuming them, but they are not members of the same biological group.

Pseudograins have grown in popularity in recent years as more individuals become aware of the seriousness of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. In numerous areas, pseudo-grains tend to be superior to cereal grains. For starters, they do not contain gluten, which is one of the primary issues with wheat, rye, and barley being considered inflammatory foods by some.

are grains inflammatory anti inflammation grains

Common pseudo-grains

Some common pseudo-grains include:

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa

Grains vs. legumes

Public health organizations across the globe recommend whole grains and legumes. The advice to consume legumes is based on the fact that they are high in protein, fiber, and various micronutrients such as iron and zinc. They are both recommended in an anti-inflammatory diet as well as, specifically, the Mediterranean diet.

The whole grain is recommended because of the supposed health advantages of consuming whole grain over processed grain products. Compared to refined grains, whole grain products are higher in phytochemicals and fiber and numerous micronutrients such as certain B vitamins, magnesium, and selenium.

Although there is lots of controversy around grains and legumes, they both fall into the carbohydrate macronutrient category. And as long as the comparison is whole grains vs legumes, they both contain a considerable amount of dietary fiber, which has been shown to reduce inflammation and help improve insulin sensitivity.

are grains inflammatory anti inflammation grains

What is the difference between whole grains and refined grains?

According to nutritional standards, whole grains should be preferred over refined grains, but what is the difference between the two?

As cultivated by the grain plant, most of the original grain is preserved in whole grains. Grain that has been refined has had some of the outer coating or inner seed (and most of the nutrients) removed.

The original grain components include fiber and other vital nutrients that are beneficial for you but are eliminated during refining, which is why health experts recommend that individuals consume whole grains.

In contrast, whole grains provide a comprehensive set of health advantages…if in the correct form.

Whole grains

In whole grains, the bran, germ, and endosperm are all present in whole-grain kernels. Each part contains nutrients that promote good health.

B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals are all in the bran, a fiber-rich top covering. The germ is the seed’s center, where development takes place, and it is packed with healthful fats, vitamin E, B vitamins, polyphenols, and antioxidants.

The endosperm is the inner layer that contains carbohydrates, protein, and trace amounts of B vitamins and minerals. Also, since the outer portion of the grain are intact, it contains lots of beneficial fiber.

Refined grains

During the refining process of grains, the bran and germ are removed during milling, leaving just the soft, easily digestible endosperm. The grain is simpler to chew without the tough bran. Although, due to the fat content of the germ, which might shorten the shelf life of processed grains products, it is removed.

The nutritional content of the highly processed grains that result is significantly reduced. Although refining grain produces fluffy flour for light, soft bread, it removes more than half of the B vitamins, almost all vitamin E and fiber. While fortification can substitute some nutrients, it cannot replace some nutrients of whole grains like phytochemicals and fiber.

are grains inflammatory anti inflammation grains

Why should we not consume refined grains?

Refined grains start out as whole grains, but they have all the valuable things removed. Nothing is left but high-carb, high-calorie endosperm with many carbohydrates and little protein. Also, because fiber and minerals have been removed, processed grains are considered empty calories.

They are also a staple ingredient in many processed foods and fried foods (which usually contain corn syrup or some other sugar derivative as the sweetener)–all of which have been proven to promote inflammation.

Since the carbohydrates have been separated from the fiber and ground into flour, the body’s digestive enzymes can now readily reach them. As a result, they are quickly broken down and can cause rapid rises in blood glucose levels, which is pro-inflammatory.

When grains are consumed in whole or cracked form, they do not lead to inflammation or damage to the intestine in people who do not have celiac disease. However, when they are processed into flour, the starch becomes an ingredient that is usually made into processed foods with a high glycemic index.

This makes it quickly convert to glucose, generating fast blood sugar spikes that stimulate the creation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), considered pro-inflammatory sugar-protein pairings.

In addition, refined grains have been associated with several metabolic illnesses. For example, they have been related to type 2 diabetes and heart disease because they can induce metabolic syndrome, cause weight gain, and are dangerous as they heavily promote inflammation and chronic disease.

That is why most anti-inflammatory diets contain moderate amounts of whole or cracked grains while avoiding flour-based products.

What does the research say regarding whole grain intake?

Researchers found the link between eating whole grains, processed grains, and inflammatory levels in a 2010 report. The researchers used diet diaries to track whole grain consumption and linked it to three known inflammatory indicators in the blood. They discovered that consuming more whole grains is proven to lower inflammation. They also found that consuming refined grains can exacerbate inflammation.

Furthermore, since this study relied only on diaries to assess whole grain consumption, it is unclear if the observed benefits are due to whole grain-rich meals, the grains themselves, or other variables.

Other research has looked into the possibility of grain foods on inflammation. In large multi-ethnic population research, eating a diet rich in whole grains was linked to reduced levels of inflammatory markers.

However, examining these extensive population studies revealed no link between whole grain consumption and inflammation, although research found some health advantages such as lowering diabetes and heart disease risks.

A few researchers have suggested that grains like wheat may be pro-inflammatory. It can directly contribute to inflammation by allergens like gluten, impairing the gut barrier’s function and triggering immunological and inflammatory responses.

are grains inflammatory anti inflammation grains

Who should avoid grains?

First and foremost, everyone should avoid refined grain foods.

As far as whole grains, I recommend avoiding gluten-containing grains unless you have confirmed you don’t have any type of allergy, intolerance, or inflammatory reaction to gluten-containing grains.

I go so far as to say this because if you DO have an inflammatory condition or issue like this, leaky gut will only make your symptoms worse. And since gluten has been connected to leaky gut, the prudence lies in avoiding it until you’ve confirmed there is no reaction.

Ready to start your Anti-Inflammatory Diet? Grab your Anti-Inflammatory Quick-Start Guide below! Keep reading!! 👇👇👇

Conditions that would warrant avoiding grains

Several conditions make it necessary to avoid grains. Some of these may be specific to a particular type of grain.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a severe autoimmune condition in which your small intestine and villi are damaged, preventing you from absorbing nutrients from food due to your immune system’s reaction to gluten.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat and several other grains. Gluten causes inflammation damage to the small intestine in those with celiac disease. Celiac disease can also be triggered by rye, barley, and some oats in certain people (the oats can be contaminated by gluten-containing grains in the manufacturing process.)

The only treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. Even a modest quantity of this protein can induce severe intestinal damage if you have celiac disease.

are grains inflammatory anti inflammation grains

Those with metabolic disorders involving blood sugar

People with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, PCOS, or diabetes should avoid processed and ground grains. This is because of the lack of glycemic control that comes with consuming flour-based foods, even if they are whole grain.

Making choices surrounding whole grains in smaller quantities can be helpful to get in needed fiber, but only for those who are able to eat small quantities without it triggering overeating (which is common in these conditions due to being hooked on sugar and carbs for long periods of time.)

Thyroid and adrenal issues

Those with thyroid and/or adrenal issues could also benefit from avoiding gluten-containing grains. These conditions are related to hormones, but can also develop into autoimmune conditions, which would also benefit from a gluten-free diet.

IBS and IBD

Those with Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) may be particularly sensitive to grains, especially gluten-containing ones. There is a fair amount of cross-contamination in grains, making it hard to avoid gluten in certain grains that are naturally gluten-free otherwise.

IBS and IBD tend to go hand-in-hand with leaky gut, which can cause nutrient deficiencies.

Of note, however, it has been suggested that some people may actually be sensitive to fructans, FODMAPS, or lectins, specifically, not just grains in general.

An allergy, intolerance, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity

Some people have a confirmed allergy or even non-celiac gluten sensitivity (or gluten intolerance), and removing wheat and other gluten-containing grains is a must.

Allergies are usually confirmed with a blood test or skin prick test (although there is controversy as to how valid some of these tests are), or through an elimination diet.

are grains inflammatory anti inflammation grains

Inflammatory skin conditions

People who suffer from inflammatory skin conditions may benefit from avoiding grains. These may include eczema, psoriasis, and related skin conditions. This is also one where the elimination diet will tell all.

How to know if you should avoid grains on an anti-inflammatory diet

It can be hard to weed through the information and know which foods may be contributing to inflammatory symptoms. Especially when many nutrition gurus and health sites claim intake of most grain food can worsen inflammation and joint pain from conditions from rheumatoid arthritis, to ADHD, to leaky gut.

Another problem is that many people promoting an anti-inflammatory diet online give contradictory information on inflammatory foods.

Many health outlets, including The Arthritis Foundation, still maintain that whole-grain intake is better than refined grain intakes, but concur that there isn’t enough data to say whether or not grains should be avoided altogether, especially with the potential of the nutrients and phytochemicals containing anti-inflammatory properties, as well as the fiber content.

The only true way to know if grains are affecting you and causing inflammation is to perform an elimination diet by eliminating all grain intake and adding back in one at a time. This is the best way to pinpoint if any one food, or entire food group, doesn’t agree with you.

are grains inflammatory anti inflammation grains

What form to eat grain in

Whether or not you decide to include gluten-containing grains, stick with the in-tact or cracked grains, avoiding flours. Many foods have labeling that is extremely confusing and will state that it contains whole wheat flour, when in fact, it contains wheat flour as well, which is refined.

Cooking the whole grain, or cracked grain, is the best way to ensure you’re getting the fiber and nutritional benefits of grains without the inflammatory glucose spike and crash.

Some examples are:

  • Barley (contains gluten)
  • Rice (all kinds except quick-cooking)
  • Bulgur
  • Millet
  • Oats (steel-cut or rolled– NOT quick oats)
  • Wheat berries (contain gluten) (these are also available from Einkorn wheat, which is said to not trigger some who feel sensitive to wheat, as they are the ancient variety of wheat)
  • Farro/ Spelt
  • Freekeh/ Farik
  • Sorghum
  • Rye (contains gluten)
  • Teff

Take Away

The link between whole grain consumption and inflammation is still a question. It’s also unclear if any anti-inflammatory benefits of whole grains are attributable to the grains themselves or other variables like the fiber content.

However, substituting whole grains for refined grain intake has a slew of additional health benefits, as does increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory foods.

Furthermore, people that aren’t negatively affected by whole-grain foods should consume grains in whole or cracked forms since ground grains (flour) comprise a high glycemic index, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and inflammation.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners
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are grains inflammatory anti inflammation grains

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

What Anti Inflammatory Diet is Best for Me? Ultimate Guide and Roadmap

what diet is best for me

As a nutrition specialist, this is by far the most commonly asked question. And I get it– your dietary style has a lot to do with how you feel every single day.

I wasted so much time trying to lose baby weight after my second and third kid using a dietary style that didn’t support my body type and allergic condition.

It was a miserable multitude of months seeing weight go up and down while relying on daily antihistamines and asthma medication that made me feel like I was in outer space.

I felt like a failure, and I didn’t get why my allergies, hormones, and energy levels seemed to get worse even though I was eating ‘healthy’.

(In my defense, I didn’t understand food labeling or what even food intolerances can do, at the time–that came much later as I completed my formal education in nutrition.)

what diet is best for me

How do I know what diet is best for me?

So when people ask this question, the thing to know first of all is this:

Whether your goal is losing weight, maintaining weight loss, managing a condition, or looking for steady energy and emotional stability, finding YOUR perfect dietary STYLE, first and foremost, is where you should start.

This means a dietary style that supports your conditions in addition to your health goals.

*If you’re looking to lose weight, START with a dietary style that supports your body first, then calculate your daily energy needs and do things to boost your metabolism. Another option is reducing portion sizes, which inherently reduces calories or carbs (or both).

What is the number 1 healthiest diet?

Studies from the last decade or so have consistently deemed the Mediterranean diet a top global recommendation because of its lack of junk food and calorie dense foods, and focus on healthy foods that have been shown to reduce disease risk. This includes heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and inflammatory conditions, among others.

Instead of it being in the shrinking lot of low fat diets, or even a low carb diet, it focuses on fiber and resistant starches (healthy carbs) in the form of lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans, legumes, and lentils, and also promotes healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, and even coconut oil.

It also limits red meat and unhealthy forms of saturated fats while eliminating added sugars and processed foods.

Other examples are the paleo diet and a more plant-forward dietary style. The common factor is that these are all anti-inflammatory diets, which is what TRUEWELL is all about.

what diet is best for me

How do I know what diet is best for me?

Most people want to know this as if there’s a magic answer. But there’s a lot more that goes into this question. Here’s why.

First, every single body is different. Meaning your metabolism is different. Your body type is different. Yes, your DNA is different. But also, your tastes, environmental factors, lifestyle, and habits are all so very different!

So what I aim to do is give you some guidance on where to start based on what your goals are. Then you can further research different dietary styles with the resources listed below.

And keep in mind that many people have more than one health issue that needs to be addressed with diet. When you’re looking at your issues, notice recurring dietary style recommendations. These are where you should start.

But I cannot stress enough 2 important things:

1) EATING CLEAN will do more for you right off the bat than counting anything. If you’re eating starchy or sugary junk (sugar + processed junk foods), refined carbs and flours, and processed foods, eliminate those first.

2) It will probably require you TRYING a few styles to get the one that’s BEST FOR YOU. There’s almost no way around that. But there are some guidelines to which ones you SHOULD try. So let’s get started.

Start with your conditions, intolerances, or food allergies

What I like to guide clients and readers to do is figure out which goals they have based on their medical issues FIRST.

Do you need to avoid foods you’re allergic or intolerant to, pull down blood sugar levels, decrease inflammation, get your gut health back on track, get energy levels steady all day, get blood pressure under control, or something else? This is not all-inclusive, by the way–there are many, many other health issues that could be leading the way on this.

Bottom line is that starting with the Mediterranean framework (or basic anti-inflammatory dietary style), then eliminating possible foods inflammatory to YOU can be accomplished with an elimination diet. This is the best way to find the anti-inflammatory dietary style unique to YOU and your needs.

Next think about your habits

Unfortunately, some dietary styles are harder to maintain until you get the hang of it.

Some will start a dietary style only to quit because they get in the habit of listening to friends or family members giving advice or push-back.

Some get in the habit of going in hard and strong, only to lose interest in a couple of weeks.

And yet others are in the habit of trying simply to see ‘how hard’ this is gonna be before throwing in the towel.

My whole-hearted advice is to:

  • Go into this with the attitude that this is going to be a life-long change for you (and maybe your family), so instead of worrying about if it’ll be ‘too hard’ or ‘too boring’, look at in through the lens of you and your family’s lifelong health and well-being.
  • Just be prepared up front for some work on your part. The sad truth is the diet industry has purposely made this as complicated as possible. Honor yourself by being ready for some work, but seeking the truth for YOU, and being prepared to put in that work up front to make massive gains for your life.
  • Don’t brush off the idea of CHANGING your habits to ensure you can stick to your perfect dietary style. Of course it’s easiest to just keep your current habits and figure out how to work within them. But you wouldn’t be reading this article if you believed your current habits were keeping you healthy. So be ready to learn about modifying or eliminating habits when it comes to behavior change that will benefit your health for life.
what diet is best for me

Which type of diet is best to lose weight?

Since studies have shown that the best diet is the one you’ll stick to, I recommend following the above process to nail down a dietary style perfect for you FIRST, then working on your metabolism.

As far as what works with your body type, some people do much better on low-carb or keto styles where you severely limit carbohydrates. Others do better when limiting total calories.

This is a lot of information overall, and it can be confusing to figure out overall.

So really dig into what diets you’ve tried in the past and how you’ve FELT on each.

Think about your past attempts to lose weight

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did I lose weight in a healthy, steady way?
  2. Were the recipes and types of food easy to find, cook, and choose when out (eating out/drive-thru)?
  3. Did I have enough energy to do my work AND exercise?
  4. Did the diet disrupt any gut issues? Or solve any?
  5. Were there any other noticeable changes (good or bad) regarding skin, mood, and brain fog/focus?
  6. Why did you quit? What were the barriers that made it unsustainable for you?

Here’s a flow chart to get an overview of what this means so far:

what diet is best for me for weight loss

How to Choose a Diet or Dietary Style

Now that you’ve looked at the options for each dietary style, see which recurring ones come up for your conditions.

And now comes the fun part: Trying different things.

Yes, this is a pain in the butt. Yes, it takes time. But this is the way to finding the *perfect* diet or dietary style for you. You wanna be in the group of people that actually lose weight because you stick to it? Then quit asking, ‘what is the best diet for me’ and actually do the work to find it!

YOUR NEXT STEPS –> Get started with an Anti-Inflammatory Diet as your FIRST STEP with the Quick-Start Guide! 👇

anti inflammatory diet for beginners
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what diet is best for me