Blueberry Paleo Pancakes

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

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

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

blueberry paleo pancakes

Blueberry Paleo Pancakes

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

Ingredients
  

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

Instructions
 

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

The Best Diet for Anxiety: Ultimate Guide

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

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

best diet for anxiety depression

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

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

best diet for anxiety depression

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

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

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

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

Anxiety and depression symptoms

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

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

And this isn’t an exhaustive list.

best diet for anxiety depression

The Gut-Brain Link

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

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

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

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

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

best diet for anxiety depression

The best diet for anxiety and depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

best diet for anxiety depression

What foods can I eat for anxiety and depression?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

best diet for anxiety depression

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

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

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

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

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

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

Anti Inflammatory Meal Planning Mistake #1: Being overly ambitious

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

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

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

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

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

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

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

Mistake #3: Not setting enough time aside

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

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

top 3 mistakes in anti inflammatory meal planning

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

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

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

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

Bonus points!

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

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

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

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anti inflammatory meal planning mistakes

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

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

anti inflammatory diet would change my life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The wake-up call

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

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

A new plan

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

Major breakthrough #1:

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

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

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

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

Major breakthrough #2:

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

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

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

Lesson 2: Even without food allergies food intolerance is real

Major breakthrough #3:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putting the new plan into action

New plan step 1

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

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

New plan step 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New plan step 3

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

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

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

Takeaways

Takeaway #1: 

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

Takeaway #2:

Change 1 daily meal at a time to prevent overwhelm.

Takeaway #3:

Make lifestyle changes one at a time to prevent overwhelm.

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

What changed my life?

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

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

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

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

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

And the first place to start is your food.

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

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

anti inflammatory diet for beginners
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anti inflammatory diet would change my life

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

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

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

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

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

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

Mistake #1: not knowing how to read food labels

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

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

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

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

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

Know your sugars

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

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

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

Know your grains and flours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

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

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

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

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

Read next: Are Grains Inflammatory?

Gluten-containing grains

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

Grains that have gluten include:

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

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

most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

Mistake #3: Not cooking enough

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

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

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

Take away #1:

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

Takeaway #2:

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

Take away #3:

Learn to cook and learn to love it.

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

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

anti inflammatory diet for beginners
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most common mistakes when starting an anti inflammatory diet

Anti Inflammatory Spring Charcuterie Board

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

anti inflammatory spring charcuterie board

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

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

anti inflammatory spring charcuterie board

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

anti inflammatory spring charcuterie board

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

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

AND

Build a super cute Anti Inflammatory Easter Charcuterie Board! 🐇

anti inflammatory spring charcuterie board

Anti Inflammatory Spring Charcuterie Board

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

Ingredients
  

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

Instructions
 

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

Anti-Inflammatory Easter Charcuterie Board

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

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

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

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

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

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Decide your pattern

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

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Divide fruits and veggies

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

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

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Disperse color throughout

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

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

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Garnish

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

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

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Final decor

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

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

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

💖

easter charcuterie board anti inflammatory

Anti-Inflammatory Easter Charcuterie Board (or Platter)

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

Ingredients
  

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

Instructions
 

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

How to Build an Anti-Inflammatory Charcuterie Board

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

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

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

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

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

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

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

What exactly makes this an anti-inflammatory charcuterie board?

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

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

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

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

So let’s get to it.

STEP 1: Choose your base

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

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

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

Here are some great options:

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

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

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

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

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

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

STEP 2: Layering and levels

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

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

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

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

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

STEP 3: Ingredients

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

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

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

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Fruit and Veggies

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

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Cheese

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

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

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

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Nuts

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

Crackers and breads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Protein

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

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

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

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

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Sauces and spreads

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

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

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

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

Consider color

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

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

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

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

STEP 4: Design and place

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

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

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

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

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

STEP 5: Containers

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

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

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

STEP 6: Decor and garnish

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

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

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

Garnish can also be as simple as fresh herbs.

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

The possibilities are endless.

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

STEP 7: Plates and serving

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

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

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

STEP 8: Timing

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

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

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

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘Easter’ anti-inflammatory charcuterie platter:

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

The ‘Spring Anti-Inflammatory Charcuterie Board’:

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

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

💖

anti inflammatory charcuterie board

Turmeric Milk | Golden Milk | Turmeric Latte

turmeric milk golden milk turmeric latte

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

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

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

turmeric milk golden milk turmeric latte

Turmeric Milk | Golden Milk | Turmeric Latte

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

Ingredients
  

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

Instructions
 

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

The Real Reasons Why You Should Quit Sugar

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

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

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

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

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

why you should quit sugar

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

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

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

Is sugar bad for you?

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

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

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

why you should quit sugar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sugar and Processed Foods

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

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

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

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

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and Inflammation

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

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

Sugar and your skin

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

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

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

The end result is much faster aging on the skin.

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and hormones

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

Sugar and aging

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

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and insulin resistance

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

Sugar and heart disease

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

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and high blood pressure

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

Sugar and sleep

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

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

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

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

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and weight gain

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sugar and the energy rollercoaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

why you should quit sugar

Sugar and depression and anxiety

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

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

What types of sugar should I eliminate?

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

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

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

why you should quit sugar

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

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

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

why you should quit sugar

What types of sugar are ok?

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

Artificial sweeteners

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

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

Noncalorie Natural sweeteners

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

why you should quit sugar

Fruit

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

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

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

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

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

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

why you should quit sugar
why you should quit sugar

Does Alcohol Cause Inflammation?

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

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

does alcohol cause inflammation

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

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

does alcohol cause inflammation

What is the cause of inflammation?

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

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

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

Chronic inflammation

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

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

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

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

How does drinking alcohol contribute to chronic inflammation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is alcohol bad for your health overall?

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

Alcohol and the brain

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

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

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

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

How alcohol affects the liver

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

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

Alcohol and blood sugar

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

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

Alcohol and lipid markers

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

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

How much alcohol is bad for you?

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

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

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

The bell curve effect in studies

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

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

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

Guidelines when consuming alcohol

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

Enjoying alcohol with friends and family

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

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

Relieve stress

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

Healthiest Types of alcohol

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

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

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

Counteracting the effects of alcohol

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

Stay hydrated

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

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

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

Exercise (at least 20 minutes)

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

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

Make healthy food choices

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

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

Drink soy milk to counteract a hangover

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

Options other than alcohol

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

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

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

Takeaway

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

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

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

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does alcohol cause inflammation

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad with Ground Turkey

roasted brussels sprouts

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

roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts Caesar Salad with Ground Turkey

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

Ingredients
  

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

Instructions
 

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

Anti-Inflammatory Overnight Oats

anti inflammatory overnight oats

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

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

anti inflammatory overnight oats

Anti-Inflammatory Overnight Oats

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

Ingredients
  

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

Instructions
 

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

List of Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Reduce Inflammation

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

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

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

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

list of anti inflammatory foods

What causes inflammation?

Let’s start out with what actually causes inflammation.

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

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

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

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

list of anti inflammatory foods

How to protect yourself from chronic inflammation

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

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

These are:

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

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

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

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

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

list of anti inflammatory foods

Foods that fight inflammation

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

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

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

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

list of anti inflammatory foods

Healthy fats

Monounsaturated fats

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

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

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

Polyunsaturated fats

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

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

Healthy proteins

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

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

Healthy carbohydrates

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

Non-starchy vegetables

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

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

list of anti inflammatory foods

Here are the top-recommended non-starchy vegetables:

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

Starchy Plants

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

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

list of anti inflammatory foods
Colorful fresh berries

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

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

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

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

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

Herbs and spices

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

Turmeric

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

Holy Basil

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

Ginseng

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

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

list of anti inflammatory foods

Garlic

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

Cardamom

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

Black pepper

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

list of anti inflammatory foods

Rosemary

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

Cinnamon

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

list of anti inflammatory foods

Ginger

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

Dark chocolate

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

Beverages

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

Here are some things to remember about beverages:

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

Some insight on how an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Works

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

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

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

anti inflammatory diet for beginners
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list of anti inflammatory foods

Does dairy cause inflammation

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

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

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

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

does dairy cause inflammation

What is inflammation?

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

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

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

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

does dairy cause inflammation

Do we need dairy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

does dairy cause inflammation

The link between dairy and inflammation

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

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

Saturated fats and sugar content

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

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

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

Milk proteins: casein and whey

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

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

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

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

does dairy cause inflammation

What are dairy inflammation symptoms?

Certain types of dairy products may trigger inflammation.

Signs and symptoms of a possible dairy sensitivity include:

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

Dairy intolerance or sensitivity

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

Dairy allergy

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

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

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

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

Lactose intolerance

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

does dairy cause inflammation

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

Here are your best options for dairy intake:

Yogurt

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

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

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

Cottage cheese and ricotta cheese

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

does dairy cause inflammation

Other cheeses

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

Goat cheese and feta

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

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

does dairy cause inflammation

How do I choose dairy products?

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom line: Should I have dairy?

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

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

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

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

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

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does dairy cause inflammation

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.

anti inflammatory diet for beginners
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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.

Get your free ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET 🌿 QUICK-START GUIDE! Keep reading!! 👇👇👇

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.

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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.

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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