Dr. Higginbotham’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Understanding inflammation: Inflammation is a natural and healthy reaction we use to heal. We need inflammation or we could never properly heal, some of you have noticed when you use ice for a prolonged length of time, weeks or even months later you still have not fully healed. So, what do you do? Keep icing of course because the pain goes away and yet you don’t think to try heat, which will increase the blood flow, therefore nutrients and will result in more swelling… and faster healing. Note you should only do heat 3 days after the initial injury but that is covered in Stopping the hurt” blog. Yet sometimes one of the BIG three (chemical, physical, emotional) gets you and you can’t get out of the inflammatory cycle, this is when I suggest trying an Anti-Inflammatory Diet. The main reasons I know for a chronic inflammation cycle are chronic stress, lack of sleep and exercise, genetic predispositions and toxin exposures.
Don’t think of this as a diet, this is a new way to look at food. When you pull up to the gas station to fuel up you don’t put diesel in your gas-powered car. When fuel up your body you would do well to understand that putting the wrong fuel in means your engine will bog down and won’t put out as much horsepower as you need or want.
The following are a list of choices you that may help decrease your overall inflammation. Please note you should seek medical advice before trying any of these suggestions especially if you’re on medications or have any medical conditions.
You can drink half your body weight in ounces every day. Building up slowly is a good rule of thumb. Many people tell me they don’t like the taste, try drinks which are mostly water like tea, very diluted juices, or add lemon or cucumbers.
Load up on 3-4 servings a day. A good rule of thumb is 1 serving is about the side of 1 medium sized piece of fruit. If your worried about sugar content try apples, blackberries, cherries, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pink grapefruit, plums, pears, strawberries and raspberries which will have a milder effect on your glycemic load. They are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. We were taught in school you should try to get five different colors of fruits a day, and that fresh (in season) or frozen are best. I always try to buy organic myself.
Aim for 4-5 servings a day minimum. One serving is ½ cup cooked, raw or juiced with salad greens being 2 cups. For green leafy veggies try spinach, collard greens, kale and Swiss chard. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, bok choy, cabbage, carrots cauliflower, carrots, onions, peas, squash and edible seaweed. Same rules as for fruit, 5 colors, fresh or frozen, raw or cooked, and if you can try organic.
BEANS AND LEGUMES
1-2 servings a day, which is ½ or 1 cup cooked. Try Anasazi, adzuki, black, black-eyed peas, lentils, or chickpeas. They can be eaten cooked or pureed like hummus. They are full of folic acid, magnesium, potassium and soluble fiber.
2-3 servings a week with each serving being ½ cup cooked pasta. Try organic pasta, rice noodles, bean-thread noodles, and part whole-wheat part buckwheat noodles like udon or soba. Always shoot for al dente when cooking, this lowers the glycemic index.
WHOLE AND CRACKED GRAINS
3-5 servings a day, ½ cup cooked is one serving. Try brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice, buckwheat groats, barley, quinoa, or steel-cut oats. Again these are sugars which digest at a slower rate (lower glycemic load) which slows the raise of blood sugar.
5-7 servings a day, 1 oz avocado, 1 teaspoon of oil, 1 tablespoon flaxseed, or 2 walnuts equals one serving. For cooking use extra-virgin olive oil and/or expeller pressed grapeseed oil. Or eat avocados, and hemp or flaxseed or nuts like walnuts. For omega-3 fats try eggs, cold water fish, or soy-based foods. You use like to try sunflower, safflower, walnut or hazel oils for salads, and sesame oil for meat, soups or stir-fries.
FISH AND SHELLFISH
2-6 Servings a week, 1 serving being 4 oz. Try wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, black cod, herring, or sardines. These are your omega 3 powerhouses, if you chose not to eat fish a molecularly distilled fish-oil supplement may be used instead. It should provide 2-3 grams of both EPA and DHA combined a day.
1-2 servings per day, read the serving size on the containers as these vary depending on what your eating. Edamame, soymilk, soy nuts, tempeh, or tofu are options. Always try to go whole-soy over soy isolates. Ask your doctor before starting as soy may increase your estrogen levels and may be detrimental to your health if you’re a man with low-T or fighting certain cancers.
COOKED ASAIN MUSHROOMS
You can enjoy as many of these as you like. Try to limit the number of commercially grown button mushrooms like cremini and portobello. Good choices are enokitake, maitake, oyster, shiitake. Always eat them cooked.
1-2 servings a week. Read the labels as these serving sizes vary. Organic omega 3 rich eggs, natural cheese or yogurts, skinless poultry, and grass-finished lean meats. In general, with the anti-inflammatory diet you should limit animal products (and try to remove the skin and fat), eat organic dairy products, and eggs from hens raised with flax-meal enriched diets and are free-range.
HERBS AND SPICES
Again, these are unlimited. Some great choices are basil, cinnamon, curry powder, chili peppers, ginger, garlic (fresh or dried is best), rosemary, thyme, and turmeric, Turmeric and ginger being the best for anti-inflammatory. Try to always use fresh in season herbs and spices when you can.
2-4 cups a day, green, oolong or white. Buy high quality products and make sure you follow the directions to brew.
High quality multivitamin and minerals that include vitamin C, E, mixed carotenoids and selenium. Also add in Coenzyme Q10, 2-3 grams fish oil, and 2,000 IU vitamin D3. Take them daily. If your going to skimp here please don’t waste your money, poor quality chemical vitamins do not do you justice.
1-2 glasses a day, organic. If you don’t drink alcohol now, don’t start. Also if you really, really like to drink alcohol… STOP NOW. The benefits don’t outweigh the risks.
Use these only as a treat and unsweetened. Dried fruit, dark chocolate, and fruit sorbet if you want a frozen dessert.
Remember this is a lifestyle change, it takes time and persistence. If you cheat, then cheat and forgive yourself but tomorrow your back on track. Diets fail, lifestyles don’t. Always seek medical advice before making any changes, and continue to work with your doctor as you go. They are there to help you! If your doctor says your okay to start the changes, give these foods a try for 6 months, keep a journal (fit bit or similar apps are powerful tools). Most importantly surround yourself with people who are what you aspire to be. If food is a crutch for you, you may need someone to help you find a healthy way to deal with your emotions.
My best wishes,
Dr. Chance Higginbotham