How to eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Podcast 6 – Part 2
Link to Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plans Overvies: Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plans
The two main dietary issues that cause inflammation are a high glycemic load from eating a large amount of high glycemic carbohydrates and a diet high in oxidized oils. Both of these create excess free radicals in the body causing that cellular ‘lightning strike’ style of damage, which causes the inflammation, to let the body know that damage happened and to begin the repair process.
That being said, there are two main strategies to counteract this – lower the amount of inflammation that our diet causes, and eat a diet that is high in anti-inflammatory compounds to soak up these free radicals.
I’ll begin with the foods to avoid in the two main categories of ‘inflammatory compounds’: high glycemic index foods and foods high in oxidized oils.
High glycemic index foods
The Glycemic Index, or GI, is a relative ranking of carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels. A higher Glycemic Index indicates that a carbohydrate is digested more quickly and raises blood glucose levels higher. A low Glycemic Index means that the carbohydrate is digested more slowly and raises blood glucose levels to a lower extent.
The GI value of a food is determined by feeding a group of healthy people a portion of a food containing 50 grams of digestible carbohydrate and then measuring the effect on their blood glucose levels over the next two hours. On a separate occasion, the same group of people consume 50 grams of the sugar glucose (which is used as the reference food to compare all carbohydrates to) and their blood glucose levels are measured over two hours. Glycemic Index is then calculated by comparing the blood glucose response from a food to the response to the pure sugar glucose.
Foods with a high GI score contain rapidly digested carbohydrate, which produces a large rapid rise and and then a rapid fall in blood glucose. Diets chronically high in GI result in a constant blood sugar spikes; this increases the amount of proteins that have glucose attached to them, leading to inflammation like Dr. Brooks talked about. In a clinical setting, this is measured by looking at the percentage of hemoglobin in the blood that has glucose bound to it, or Hemoglobin A1C; this is a common way that diabetes is monitored. It is also a good measurement of how much inflammation is taking place secondary to blood sugar.
Some foods are fairly obviously high on the glycemic index, and these would include anything with added sugar, like icecream, cookies, and sodas. Other foods that are high on the glycemic index include anything made from grain (bread, pasta, noodles), rice, starchy vegetables like potatoes, as well as fruits and fruit juices.
In contrast, foods low in GI score contain slowly digested carbohydrate, which produces a gradual, relatively low rise in the levels of blood glucose therefore keeping blood sugar and insulin stable. Diets that are high in low glycemic index carbohydrates promote stable insulin, consistent energy throughout the day, healthy body fat levels and metabolic health. Examples of low glycemic foods are all meats, most vegetables (especially leafy vegetables), nuts, avocados, and eggs.
Foods high in oxidized oils
As Dr. Brooks mentions in the attached podcast, oxidized or easily oxidized oils that are heated as part of their processing will cause inflammation. Typically these easily oxidized oils are vegetable oils, and are liquid at room temperature due to their high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs for short.
Dr. Brook’s quick chemistry lesson: the unsaturated part refers to carbons in the acid that do not have the full number of hydrogens; this makes the fatty acid chain curved, which doesn’t allow for neat stacking of molecules, and thus a collection of the molecules will form a fluid instead of an organized, tightly-packed solid (like butter).
PUFAs are unstable, and break down rapidly when exposed to heat, bleaching, and chemical stress. These oils oxidize easily, which is exhibited by their commercial use in the finishing of wood, as a varnish. Yes, what carpenters use to finish wood is made from vegetable oils, including soy and linseed. This ends up doing a wonderful job for your floors, but not so much for your brain, your arteries, or your cells.
A small amount of polyunsaturated fatty acid is not toxic, and these molecules are essential to the healthy function of the human body. In addition, our bodies are unable to synthesize some of these molecules, and thus we HAVE to have some of them in our diet. When we get these fatty acids from whole, unprocessed foods (like seeds) we are also getting a healthy dose of antioxidants. When we get these fatty acids from processed foods, we are not getting the antioxidants as these are removed during the processing.
Our commercial refining process not only strips away antioxidants, but it makes PUFAs toxic by exposing them to heat, pressure, metals and bleaching agents. This chemically alters the molecules into a wide variety of potent toxins. These molecules are toxic because they promote free-radical reactions that damage our cellular machinery including mitochondria, enzymes, hormone receptors, and DNA.
Here’s an example of how canola oil is made:
Aside from avoiding the intake of foods that would cause free radical damage, the other way to use diet to decrease inflammation is by eating foods that are high in antioxidants. Antioxidants are able to keep free radicals in check because they are capable of absorbing free radicals without becoming destabilized themselves, thus stopping the free radical chain reaction.
Colorful vegetables and fruits are high in antioxidants (as well as containing many vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin E and Selenium, that are important for the body creating its own anti-oxidant molecules). Interestingly, the compounds that absorb light are generally the ones that are also
able to absorb free radicals! Of course, there are some exceptions, namely the colorless xanthothanthins and the omega-3 fatty acids.
Our body produces some antioxidants on its own, but an insufficient amount given the large amount of free radicals encountered in the environment, diet, or created by normal cellular processes. Oxidative stress becomes a problem when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants.
Alright ladies and gentlemen thank you for staying with me through all this science! I know it can get heavy, but it is empowering to understand the why of dietary advice instead of simply accepting proclamations as fact. Feel free to re-listen to this as much as you want; I certainly didn’t learn all of this on my first time through the material.
For a recap – the two ways that we can use our diet to prevent inflammation are by:
- Avoiding foods that cause inflammation: high glycemic carbohydrates and processed fats
- Eating a diet high in antioxidants
These are the basics for an anti-inflammatory diet. It is one high in colorful vegetables, some fruit, enough protein to sustain the muscle mass needed for a person’s activity level, and healthy fats from seeds, nuts, and avocados. An easy way to accomplish this is to cook vegetables and grass-fed, wild-caught meats in healthy oils and to challenge yourself to develop new recipes using new vegetables or meats that you’ve never cooked before!
All of the meal plans that I create adhere to the anti-inflammatory diet guidelines I have described above, and as a result I’ve seen my clients heal from the inside out. I’ve attached a grocery list from one of my meal plans to show what a week of grocery shopping for an anti-inflammatory diet would look like.
Below is a link to several recent anti-inflammatory meal plans that I’ve made for varying calorie requirements, so if you’re ready to take it a step further, I’m here to help you!
Hope you’ve learned a ton today! I know I did from Dr. Brooks and thank you again for coming on the show to share your knowledge with us.
This is Sarah signing off – Have a happy and healthy week!
Posted in: podcast