Paleo, keto, low carb, high fat, intermittent fasting, vegan, raw food and the list goes on. Whatever happened to good old healthy eating? As I say in my book The Forensic Nutritionist, I have yet to meet anyone that has lived to 100 years of age that has followed one of these diets. So what really is the key to longevity? The evidence and research keeps coming back to the Mediterranean style diet being rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory natural compounds being predominantly made up of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, and extra virgin olive oil.
The anti-inflammatory diet has many health benefits and is of particular interest to those on the quest for longevity. Several large studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study (a well-known study to examine whether adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with longer telomere length, a biomarker of aging) have found that people who follow a Mediterranean pattern of eating have lower levels of the inflammatory markers C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 in their blood compared with those who don’t.
What is inflammation?
The inflammatory process is naturally designed to be protective in the body however sometimes the immune system triggers inflammation when there is no infection. Chronic inflammation can be a major cause of free radical damage and can perpetuate and aggravate a number of health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, acne, heart disease, endometriosis, premature ageing, sinusitis and even some cancers.
There are some foods which can cause inflammation in the body. Knowing which foods may trigger inflammation and eliminating these foods from your diet can assist with the prevention of many inflammatory conditions.
The following foods can be pro inflammatory in the body
Refined Sugar - Too much sugar can triggers inflammation, weight gain, ageing, and possible diabetes. It is important to avoid refined sugars like white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrups, jams, chocolate, lollies, confectionary, etc. Avoid artificial sugar sweeteners which can be full of chemicals.
Options for natural sweeteners include honey, stevia and fresh fruits.
Reduce intake of refined white flour, cakes, pastries, cookies, durum wheat, refined breakfast cereals (e.g. nutrigrain, coco pops), and choose wholegrain options as an alternative such as oats, brown rice, rye and buckwheat.
Oils like sunflower, corn, soy, safflower and peanut contain high linoleic acid, which can have an inflammatory influence on the body. Also, many vegetable oils contain a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids, and very less of omega-3. Too much of omega-6 and less of omega-3 in body promotes inflammation and increases the risk of chronic diseases.
Artificial Trans Fats increase the level of bad cholesterol, promote inflammation, and obesity. Most processed foods contain some amount of trans fat e.g. burgers, pizzas, hot dogs, hot chips etc. Avoid any food products which contain trans fat, vegetable shortening, margarine or hydrogenated oil in them.
Avoid deep fried, fatty foods, fast foods, junk foods
Processed meat and meat products.
Cut back on processed meats such as salami, bacon and ham. Processed meat is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen to humans. Eating red meat once to twice a week is ample. A lot of commercially produced poultry and meat eat corn and soy in their diet. This means a lot of omega-6 which can be pro inflammatory. Where possible choose grass fed meat which is higher in anti-inflammatory omega 3’s and free range or organic poultry.
Alcohol, fizzy drinks
Processed and packaged foods can be high in sodium and sugar, low in nutrients and high in food additives such as artificial chemicals, flavours and preservatives. These can all trigger inflammation within the body.
Dairy. – Dairy products contain valuable nutrients and when eaten in moderate amounts make up a balanced healthy diet. Milk and milk products may trigger inflammation in the body if you have an allergy or intolerance so if your diet is very high in dairy and you are experiencing inflammatory conditions such as acne, eczema or IBS you may do well in cutting back and monitoring symptoms. It is important to only cut out food groups if there is evidence of allergies and always under the guidance of a qualified health care professional.
Natural live Yogurt tends to be more gut friendly due to containing beneficial bacteria and is well tolerated by most people. Fermented products help to reduce inflammation in the stomach.
Avoid self-medicating and pill popping. Only take medication that is prescribed by your G.P or health care professional.
Substitute inflammatory foods for fresh, nutrient dense wholefoods.
Anti-inflammatory vegetables such broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, garlic, green leafy vegetables, spinach, leeks, green beans, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, spring onions, etc.
Choose antioxidant rich foods such as blue berries, blackberries, raspberries, grapeseed, coloured fruits and vegetables.
Include freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices such as beetroot, carrot, celery and ginger or simply take 2 teaspoons of vita-sol Infinity powder www.vita-sol.com in water or fresh juice every morning.
Include extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil and avocado oil. These oils have a good ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Also, these oils help to reduce cholesterol level. Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains potent antioxidant compounds and is the only plant oil to contain a potent anti-inflammatory compound making it the healthiest oil choice.
Include fresh anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric, garlic and ginger.
Choose grass fed lean meats and organic chicken. Grass fed meat also contains anti-inflammatory omega 3 as opposed to grain fed meat which contains higher levels of inflammatory omega 6.
Fresh fish, particularly oily fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel, are actually a great anti-inflammatory food high in omega 3.
Eat raw nuts and seeds for essential oils and nutrients such as flaxseeds, walnuts, hazel nuts. Avoid roasted and salted nuts which are inflammatory and damaging to our bodies.
Eat whole grains and high fibre foods such as legumes, leafy vegetables, fruits and oats which are rich in vitamins and minerals. Choose 'gluten-free, unpolished and unrefined grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice.
Include herbal teas. Green tea, White tea are Roibus tea are high in cell protecting antioxidants whilst Cammomile is soothing and calming.
Coffee and tea contain polyphenol antioxidant compounds which may have anti inflammatory benefits. Limit intake to 1 – 2 cups of good quality tea or coffee per day.
Get a good night’s sleep. Avoid bright lights, stimulants and loud TV and music right before bedtime. Try a warm mineral rich soothing Flexibility latee before bed to soothe and calm the muscles and nervous system.
Manage stress. Try hatha yoga, gentle walking or deep breathing meditation.
By cutting back on inflammatory foods and following healthy habits, you will quickly notice a healthy difference in your body and reduced inflammation. Do remember that moderation is key, allow yourself the odd treat it is not about NEVER eating inflammatory foods, it is about making the majority of your diet full of fresh, anti-inflammatory wholefoods.