Diet is the new religion. In an age where science is making more and more people question their religious views, many have turned to diets to identify themselves. From vegan to paleo to carnivore, we seem to be picking teams and using diet to define our identity. We are preaching our team’s message and we are slinging hate at any who dares oppose our dietary guidelines.
I’m staying out of this war and just looking for the foods that make me happy, regardless of what fad diet they are in. Long term happy, not instant, sugar high happy.
I’m looking to stay away from foods that have a negative impact on my mood and searching for foods that are healthy for my body and mind.
Inflammation is the the underlying cause of most disease. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, arthritis, alzheimers and diabetes. A recent meta-analysis (Review combining the results of multiple studies) looking at the cause of depression has reported significantly higher concentrations of pro inflammatory markers in depressed subjects compared with control subjects. In short, depression is a symptom of chronic inflammation.
So what do we do with this information? We find every way possible to reduce inflammation in all aspects of our lives in order to reduce the likelihood of disease and get the depression monkey off our back.
Foods that are causing inflammation
- Sugar – Observational data reports consistently show that dietary sugar stimulates inflammation in the body, as measured by C-reactive protein. See studies listed in resources below.
With the mountains of evidence delivered in books, documentaries and internet articles, we are well aware that sugar is bad for us. But are we aware of all the places sugar is hiding. Soft drink, confectionary, baked goods and snacks. Yes, we know they are full of sugar. What about peanut butter, milk, all reduced fat dairy. Pretty much anything that comes in a packet has sugar in it. If you really want to avoid sugar and reduce your inflammation, you need to stay out of the isles at the supermarket and do your shopping on the outside walls. Fresh fruit, veg, meat and seafood on one wall. And cleaning products on the other. The middle is where the sugar hides.
- Refined flour – Yes, that means bread, pasta, pastries and pies. These “foods” have been striped of any fibre, the one good thing that whole grains had going for them. They destroy your good gut bacteria and inflame your entire digestive system. If you enjoy these things as treats, go nuts, but be aware of what they are doing to your body. They are increasing inflammatory markers, increasing your likelihood of depression and they should not be a staple in your diet.
- Trans fats – Rapidly being outlawed by most western food authorities for its link to increased LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and increased inflammation. Not outlawed in Australia yet but we are a little slow when it comes to health regulation. Trans fats are found in anything deep fried, most high carb frozen foods (Pizza, pies etc) and in margarine. If you can take one thing away from this blog, NEVER eat margarine again. Stick with natural, grass fed butter.
Foods that are anti inflammatory
If you really dig deep, this list can be a long one. The planet really is full of healthy, nutrient rich, anti inflammatory wholefoods. We just need to move the processed garbage out of the way and know what to look for. Here are some good ones to get you started.
- Green vegetables – Leafy and cruciferous. This is spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower (yes you cut the green part off but its still cruciferous.) These vegetables should make up 50% of your plate. Setting these as the base of every meal will have an immediate impact on your inflammation and your overall health.
- Fatty seafood – Salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, oysters. To help reduce inflammation in our body we should aim to keep our omega 6 to omega 3 ratio at 1:1. Unfortunately, with the standard western diet, most people are closer to 40:1 or worse. The high omega 3 fatty acid content in these fish will help restore balance and reduce inflammation in your body. Be sure to check where your seafood is being sourced though. Farmed fish will not have the same health benefits. Farmed fish, like all factory produced animals, are prone to disease which in turn leads to the need for antibiotics. You don’t want to be eating sick animals. Search for fish labeled “wild caught” to ensure you get the fish with the healthiest fats.
- Olive and coconut oils – The are a few other oils that have been shown to exhibit anti inflammatory qualities but these two are the most commonly used in food preparation. Good flavour profiles and high smoke points allow these oils to be used in all forms of cooking. Both oils will increase the healthy fat content of food, meaning you can get more calories from fat instead of refined carbohydrates, while you reduce inflammation.
- Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts, macadamias, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds. While many of these nuts and seeds have a higher omega 6 to 3 ration, they also contain monounsaturated fats, fibre, vitamin B6, vitamin E, minerals and phytochemicals which have been shown to reduce inflammation.
- Berries – Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries. These berries contain antioxidants called anthocyanins which have great anti inflammatory properties. And they are delicious.
- Probiotics – Sugar and processed carbohydrates are killing our healthy gut bacteria. This can lead to leaky gut, among other gut issues, allowing endotoxins to leak into the blood. Again, this increases inflammation. To stop this, we not only need to reduce our intake of sugar and refined carbs, we need to increase our intake of healthy gut bacteria. Enter probiotics. Kombucha, Kimchi/fermented vegetables, and yoghurt are a great way to do this.