When I first started diving deeper in health, wellness and nutrition, the topic of inflammation kept cropping up time and time again. Until I started studying again, I hadn’t really come across ‘inflammation’ in terms of our health as a whole. This idea that it’s inflammation in our bodies that in the root cause of most illnesses was a whole new concept to me and I’d only ever thought of inflammation in terms of cuts and bruises!
Well, inflammation is the body’s response system when it encounters something that may potentially harm it. When the body is exposed to harmful stimuli, it triggers this inflammatory response to remove it and start the healing process – in short it’s our bodies protection mechanism. However, chronic inflammation is where this protection mechanism goes too far and starts to affect the health of our bodies. The trouble with chronic inflammation is that it can lead to other chronic diseases like obesity, it can trigger auto-immune conditions and inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
When it comes to protecting your body from chronic inflammation, your diet plays a massive role. It can help to decrease that inflammation and protect our tissues from inflammatory damage. Foods that have a lower GI, that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and high in antioxidants are great for decreasing inflammation in our bodies and limiting your intake of animal and processed foods can also help. The most important thing in my opinion though, is to think about the quality of the food you’re eating – buying high quality products, in-season produce and organic fresh produce whenever you can is a great place to start!
I have been following the work of Dr Andrew Weil for a while now – I discovered my favourite relaxation breathing technique (the 4,7,8,4 breath) from listening to one of his lectures. As I learned more and more about inflammation, it made me want to research more into how nutrition and nourishing our bodies can play an important role within all of this. As I started to do my research, I came across Dr Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet that he developed to reduce inflammation levels and promote ‘robust health’.
I don’t believe in ‘diets’ or ‘one size fits all’ guidelines, however, this anti-inflammatory diet that he developed really appealed to me because it’s not a weight loss diet or focussed on calorie restricting. His guidelines are flexible and approach nutrition from a point of balance, which is what I try to promote to all of my clients I work with. In short – it’s a non-restrictive approach, focussing on balance and increasing your intake of foods that will nourish your body, as well as decreasing your intake of foods that inhibit the health of your body. So really, everything that HUG is about.
With this in mind, I thought I would share some of the advice that Dr Weil gives when it comes to his anti-inflammatory diet and the following tips are based on just that. Remember bio-individuality when it comes to what you eat and enjoy and figure out what works for you.
Dr Andrew Weil suggest has 4 main tips when it comes to your diet and they are:
These are some of the main guidelines I promote in all of my work, and already you can see how there is no restriction or limiting going on and how flexible these tips are to cater for your own individual needs. He also says to focus on including all the macro-nutrients in every meal so that you’re eating a balanced meal and nourishing your body with all the nutrients it needs.
The main tips here are:
When it comes to carbohydrates, he’s basically saying moderation is key! Did you notice how there was no mention of limiting your carbs or cutting them out all together? YES! Good news, right?
Wheat can cause gut irritations in many people, which is probably why he suggests you reduce it. But again, the key word here is ‘reduce’ and not ‘avoid’. When it comes to reducing your intake of refined sugars, it’s mostly about limiting the amount of processed sweet foods and snacks you eat.
Whole grains are amazing for our health and refers to the grain being ‘whole’ or ‘intact’ rather than processed or broken down. Whole grains provide a richer source of fibre, B-vitamins and even some protein. They are also digested slower than refined grains so help to promote feelings of fullness after a meal. Grains include: Barley, basmati rice, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, steel-cut oats and wild rice – and aim for 3-5 servings per day.
Fats are one of the macronutrients that so many people get concerned and confused about, that in the end, it almost seems easier to run away from them. Diet culture seems to have shamed fats when in actual fact, our bodies need them in order to survive and function! The media has portrayed fats as something that causes illnesses, but they are also essential for optimum health and can help to reduce inflammation if eaten in the right amounts. The tips here are:
If you want to know more about fats, then click here as I have written an article all about them. Monounsaturated fats are the heart healthy fats that our bodies love and are found abundantly in the Mediterranean diet. They are found in foods such as avocados, nuts and olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is high in polyphenols with antioxidant activity.
Polyunsaturated fats are also considered to be ‘healthy’ and we need to get these in our diets as our bodies can’t produce Omega-3 and Omega-6 and are considered to be the essential fatty acids. It’s so important to get the ratio of these 2 fats right as consuming too much Omega-6 can actually cause inflammation, so for the purpose of this diet he focuses on increasing your intake of Omega-3 fatty acids though eating salmon, oily fish like sardines, or even hemp seeds and flaxseeds.
Saturated fats are linked with high blood cholesterol, which is a risk factor of heart disease, as are all the vegetable and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats).
2 main tips:
Sources of animal proteins include: Alaskan black cod, herring, sardines and wild salmon – aiming for 2-6 servings per week as these are rich in those essential Omega-3 fatty acids.
Vegetable protein sources include: Adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas and lentils – aiming for 1-2 servings per day. These are filling, low glycaemic foods and are high in iron, calcium, magnesium and soluble fibre (which supports healthy digestion).
He also recommends soy foods such as: edamame, soy milk, soy nuts, tempeh and tofu – again, aiming for 1-2 servings per day. Whole soy foods provide the body with antioxidants that help to fight against free-radicals.
Nuts and seeds also contain protein such as: almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. These are rich in those ‘healthy’ monounsaturated fats and in some cases omega 3 fatty acids.
Different fruits and vegetables provide our bodies with different minerals, nutrients and vitamins. Therefore, eating a variety of them will ensure that we are getting enough of all those essential micronutrients and avoid deficiencies. They also help to prevent against age related diseases and environmental toxicity.
When it comes to mushrooms, Dr Weil suggests eating Asian mushrooms as they have immune enhancing compounds. He does recommend cooking them because he believes it helps destroy toxins but that it may not be necessary for all mushrooms.
To get a rainbow of vegetables in your diet, opt for: Beets, carrots, cruciferous vegetables, dark leafy greens, onions, peas, sea vegetables and squash in unlimited amounts. They are great sources of vitamins A and C and also flavonoids that help to reduce inflammation.
In terms of fruit, opt for lower glycaemic fruits such as: Apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, pink grapefruit, plums, pomegranate, raspberries, red grapes, strawberries – again try to get a rainbow of colour as they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Instead of drinking coffee, he suggests switching that to green tea. In particular, green, white or oolong tea as these also contain flavonoids.
If you choose to eat dark chocolate, then this should be eaten in moderation and choose pain dark chocolate (70%) raw cacao. The raw cacao provides polyphenols and antioxidants.
Water was OF COURSE going to be part of the anti-inflammatory diet as it is so essential for not only optimum health but is needed for our survival.
Think about the quality of your water and make sure that it’s in its purest form ie: Not in fruit juices, squashes, teas, coffees etc. Drink it throughout the day as it helps the body to flush out the toxins.
Herbs and spices are one of my favourite things when it comes to cooking and eating. I love how they can transform the flavour of your cooking and transform each dish into its own unique experience!
Lucky for us, after listening to another lecture of his, he gave a list of some herbs and spices with natural anti-inflammatory agents:
Finally, he does also give a list of supplements that he suggests taking. I’ve decided not to share them on here, just because supplements are something so unique to each individual but click here if you want to find out more.
As with everything when it comes to your diet, think about bio-individuality. I’m not saying one diet is better than other, I’m just passionate about sharing what I learn so that you can see the whole picture and make those decisions that feel right for you!
Click on the links below to listen to the podcast episode: