Recently I had chronic inflammation in my body that resulted in numerous health problems including the worst eczema I’ve ever seen. One of the most effective things to address this was an anti-inflammatory diet, which happens to be basically vegan.
Inflammation (or too much acidity in the body) is thought to be the root cause of many diseases including impaired immune functioning (i.e. susceptibility to colds and flu), arthritis, auto-immune disorders, cognitive decline, mental health problems (including depression) and even cancer. Normally this inflammation is kept in check by the body, but if your diet and lifestyle are consistently off, you can easily end up with more inflammation than your body can handle, eventually resulting in disease. If you have any of these illnesses, or if you’re just not feeling energised and vital, give it a try. It doesn’t cost anything (in fact your spending on food will go down) and there are no side effects except feeling great!
I knew a lot about diet already and had some idea about which foods were inflammatory (or acid forming in the body) and which were anti-inflammatory (alkaline forming in the body), however there was so much misinformation to dig through. Going through different lists of what was and what wasn’t anti-inflammatory (and of course they all differed!), I narrowed it down to the things that were definitely anti-inflammatory.
There were a few things I thought would be ok, but my body told me otherwise by breaking out in a rash. They were things like salmon - which is anti-inflammatory due to the healthy dose of omega 3 fats, however the inflammatory effect of the protein outweighed the anti-inflammatory effects. Even bone broth (made from beef bones) set my body off. I thought tamari (fermented soy sauce) would be ok, but even fermented soy is inflammatory.
This isn’t a diet you’d want to follow for long periods of time, but I still mostly eat this way and I feel fantastic! Of course you don’t have to be super strict if you have no reason to. So here it is:
Everything except potatoes. Eat lots of green leafy vegetables. Vegetables should be the bulk of your diet in terms of volume, but not calories (that will be oils, nuts and seeds).
Nightshades may also contribute to pain and inflammation and some people are sensitive to them, especially those with auto-immune disorders, and should try reducing or removing them. . Nightshade vegetables are potatoes (not sweet potatoes or yams), sweet and spicy peppers (chilli, paprika, excluding peppercorns), tomatoes and eggplant. Other members of the nightshade family are goji berries, ashwagandha and tobacco.
All of them, except nightshades if you suspect you are sensitive.
Everything, especially berries. Don’t eat dried fruits. Limes and lemons are the most alkaline – squeeze them over salads and veggies.
Use coconut, olive, avocado, fish, sesame, flax, hemp and almond – all unrefined or virgin. Vegetable oils, along with soy, go through a lot of processing and refining and end up inflammatory.
Lentils. Yep, that’s all. All other beans and legumes, and even brown rice, were listed as either mildly inflammatory or neutral, depending on the source I looked at. Be sure to soak them before using to remove anti-nutrients and to ensure they produce less gas during digestion!
Almonds, sesame, pumpkin/pepitas, sunflower, hemp, chia, flax, coconut – make sure you eat a good amount of these every day for protein, healthy fats, zinc and iron. Most of these can also be found as butter or flour to use in baking. It's best to soak and roast almonds, pepitas, and sunflower seeds to remove anti-nutrients.
The only vegetarian source of omega 3 is from hemp, chia and flax, so be sure to consume adequate amounts of them. Hemp is a great source of protein and it can be used as seeds, butter, flour or even protein powder. Chia can be made into chia puddings or sprinkled on salads or put in smoothies. I don’t recommend men eat large amounts of flax as it contains phytoestrogens (as does soy) which mimic the effect of estragon in the body.
None – that includes whey or anything derived from dairy. Replace milk with coconut or almond milk.
None. To replace eggs in baking (and pancakes!), you can use psyllium, chia or flax plus bi-carb soda and apple cider vinegar to make it rise.
Mushrooms (even though some sources say they are acidic), raw honey, maple syrup, stevia, apple cider vinegar, bi-carb of soda, sea/rock salt, non-dairy kefir & yoghurt, nutritional yeast (no other yeasts).
Avoid all preservatives, colourings, flavourings – read labels and don’t eat anything with a number next to it.
Eating plenty of nuts, seeds and vegetables (especially green leafy ones) will give you enough protein - I even put on significant muscle on this diet. It will also ensure you are not deficient in any nutrients with the exception of B12. B12 seems to be found in mushrooms and may be found in nori seaweed and fermented foods such as kefir, however it may be insufficient or not bioavailable for the body. It’s best to supplement B12 unless you’re also eating some form of animal protein or fish.
Try and eat some fermented foods such as sauerkraut, non-dairy kefir and non-dairy yoghurt. This diet will also provide lots of food to feed good gut bacteria. Our billions of gut bacteria play a huge role in the functioning of our physical and mental health – they even produce the feel good neurotransmitter serotonin!
Yes, this will involve a lot of cooking – cook big batches and store it in the fridge/freezer. There are meal replacement shakes, recipes ideas and support in the 30 days to healthy living program (contact me for details) which make things a lot easier, but it’s definitely not required.
It can take 30 days for the effects of a diet like this to be apparent, but you should notice less symptoms of your illness, along more energy and better mental clarity after just one week. Add foods back in slowly to see if they trigger a response – it can take up to 72 hours for such a response to show up in the body.
If you need some help? Drop me a line