What is an “anti-inflammatory” diet?

I am frequently asked about “inflammatory” foods, and what exactly causes inflammation in the body. Diseases that end with “itis” mean it is an ailment which involves inflammation. For example, arthritis is swelling of the joints; colitis is inflammation in the colon; tonsillitis  is when your tonsils become inflamed, etc. People are often surprised to learn that what they are eating affects whether or not their bodies become “inflamed”, and more surprisingly, that by changing their diets they can avoid medication, and the pain associated with being swollen and “diseased”.

Foods such as sugar, gluten, animal protein (including dairy), caffeine, and alcohol all cause inflammation. When I recommend people taking a two week hiatus from eating them–or even just cutting back–they are amazed at how the puffiness under their eyes, fatigue, swelling in their joints, and bloated bellies seem to “disappear”.  Better yet, certain foods can actually help fight inflammation.  Fatty fish such as wild salmon, whole grains (bring on the oatmeal), dark leafy greens, nuts, blueberries, black beans, ginger, green tea, olive oil…and best of all–dark chocolate!–all create healthy bacteria in your gut, which prevents inflammation and also helps to burn fat.

A smoothie for breakfast with frozen blueberries, flax seeds, almond butter, and kale; a big salad for lunch with spinach, quinoa, beets, and pumpkin seeds; and grilled salmon with broccoli, brown rice and beans is an example of what an “anti-inflammatory day” looks like! And don’t forget your green tea and dark chocolate for dessert…

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