Hoffman Centre for Integrative & Functional Medicine

Anti-inflammatory Food Principles

Anti-inflammatory Food Principles

It is now well established that food is far more than just the sum total of calories, macronutrients, micronutrients and phytonutrients. Food provides the key signaling switch for our genetic code. We ignore its extreme value and significance at our peril.

The food you eat and the diet you follow is the key healing factor in your journey to wellness. Do not take this information lightly or skip over it.

Do not delegate the task of eating well and making food choices to other individuals in your family or workplace. You will need to educate yourself about food choices, recipes, and healthy choices when shopping. You will need to throw out many foods in your kitchen and spend hours looking over recipes and food choices.

In most cases, patients who do not take this stage of healing seriously and make radical changes will not succeed in their journey to optimal health. If you believe that you can continue to eat inflammatory, nutrient-poor, high-glycemic, non-organic, genetically-modified junk food while still achieving an optimal weight for your size, you are deluding yourself and probably wasting your time and money in the process.

Good food choices involve more than just calories, macronutrients (i.e., protein, fats, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols/phytonutrients; food is converted into energy and information in the body. The mitochondria transform food to energy—ATP—which directs DNA to produce RNA, the machinery of life.

Supplements and further remedies are useless unless they are supported by a foundational healthy eating plan. They simply will have no effect if the underlying nutrient support is missing or inadequate.

“We can no longer view different disease states as distinct biochemical entities. Nearly all degenerative diseases have the same underlying biochemical etiology; that is a diet-induced pro-inflammatory state. Although specific diseases may require specific treatments such as beta blockers for hypertension, chemotherapy for cancer, the treatment program must also include nutritional protocols to reduce the proinflammatory state.[1]”

Principles of Healthy Eating

Phytonutrient density. Focus on the diversity of food and colour. Eat 8–12 servings of whole, colourful, unprocessed vegetables, and fruits, with a focus on vegetables; bitter foods such as watercress, arugula, or cruciferous vegetables are the most beneficial. The polyphenols contained in these foods decrease inflammation, decrease vulnerability to oxidative stress in aging, enhance neuronal communication, and may help to increase life span.

Low glycemic impact. Stabilize blood sugar with low-glycemic foods. Maintaining a consistent and stable insulin level is the key to mitochondrial health (higher energy/higher ATP). Minimize grains and use vegetables and fruits as the main source of carbohydrates. Sucrose, grains, high-glycemic foods, and dairy products promote the overgrowth of abnormal bacteria in the small bowel and are proinflammatory.

Anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants. A low-calorie, high-phytonutrient density diet is considered to be anti-inflammatory. All spices have antioxidant qualities. While gold-coloured spices are beneficial, it is important to use a variety of colourful spices to experience new tastes; turmeric is cited as having the highest qualities. Use spices and phytonutrients to enhance the production of glutathione and other antioxidants critical for cells’ protection from free radicals. Glutathione production is dependent on cysteine, which is supplied by cruciferous vegetables.

Fats and oils. Consume adequate amounts of omega‐3 fats (as well as some omega-6 fats) and phosphatidylcholine to support the mitochondrial membrane. Use coconut oil or ghee for medium‐heat cooking, as they incur less oxidation; coconut oil improves mitochondrial function. Use phytonutrient‐dense, unfiltered, extra-virgin olive oil to dress salads and veggies. Avocado, nuts, and seeds such as flax, hemp, and chia are healthy fat sources. DHA, which is necessary for brain health, is found in cold-water fish, especially salmon and seaweed.

Cooking impact. The browning of foods causes the Maillard reaction, which encourages the formation of advanced‐glycation end products (AGEs). To reduce the formation of inflammatory AGEs, avoid high‐heat cooking, especially with meats, and always include greens when consuming meats cooked over high heat. Using additional spices when cooking over high heat may reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic hydrocarbons. The chlorophyll in greens binds with HCAs.

Fasting, calorie, or carbohydrate restriction. Reduce calories when possible, consuming around 20%–30% less than the basal metabolic rate requires. Eat every five to six hours. Do not snack. When possible, fast for 12 hours from dinner until breakfast the next morning. Consider limiting carbohydrates to less than 100 grams per day; stricter parameters are 60 g–80 g or less per day. A mild ketotic state offers the best fuel for the brain. Test your urine in the morning with Ketostix strips to check ketone levels. The greatest fat loss occurs when the body is in mild ketosis.

Eating consciously. Food’s transformation to energy and information requires the cooperation of the vagus nerve, the main parasympathetic nerve in the body. Parasympathetic dominance enhances rest, relaxation, healing, and digestion. Follow these guidelines whenever possible:

Avoid allergens, food sensitivities, or food intolerances. These foods increase leaky gut, increase abnormal gut flora and associated conditions, and form immune complexes leading to increased inflammation.

Article to follow: How to assess, test, and treat food allergies and sensitivities.

[1] Seaman D. The diet-induced pro-inflammatory state. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2002; 25:168–179
[2] Energy Food Plan for Healthy Mitochondria – A Companion Guide for Clinicians. Barb Schiltz, RN, MS, CN and Kristi Hughes, ND