Anti Inflammatory Foods For Optimal Health
Updated: Jul 14
Inflammation is a natural process that helps your body protect itself but there are many factors that can contribute to prolonged inflammation, most commonly stress and anxiety. Because you can’t see what is happening on the inside I have compiled a list of foods that reduce inflammation and increase the supply of brain-specific nutrients that decrease anxiety symptoms and improve your overall health.
In this blog post I summarise what inflammation is, the foods to avoid, and the foods that actively reduce inflammation in the body, including some yummy recipes. I’ll also share how you can use Reiki to assist energetically with releasing inflammation in the body.
You don’t have to be sick to try an anti-inflammatory meal plan (we don’t use the word “diet” in our house); it is just a super way of eating for optimal health. The best thing to do with any change to your food intake or to your lifestyle is to try to commit for at least two weeks and check in with yourself during this time. Be honest: do you feel better? Do you have more energy? What is your general mood? And if you see improvements, then perhaps commit to it full-time or work to the 80:20 rule.
Inflammation is a natural process that helps your body protect itself from infection, illness, or injury, and physical symptoms can include fever, chills, pain, swelling, and redness at the site of an injury. However other triggers are less easy to recognise - like stress, microbes, environmental irritants, toxic chemicals, etc. - which could result in an unawareness that inflammation is even present inside the body.
As part of the inflammatory response, your body increases its production of white blood cells, immune cells, and substances called cytokines that help fight infection. Your white blood cells fight off the foreign invaders, and as your body heals itself you will experience an inflammatory response. Chronic inflammation develops when your immune system starts attacking healthy tissues. These attacks cause episodes of inflammation even when your body isn’t injured or sick. Chronic inflammation can also happen when people are obese or under severe stress. Unfortunately, stress and anxiety are common experiences for most people, with reportedly 70% of adults in the United States say they suffer from stress or anxiety DAILY.
This is a serious problem, as over time persistent inflammation can damage your organs and tissues. Many diseases are linked to chronic inflammation, including:
Inflammatory bowel disease
Certain lifestyle factors, especially habitual ones, can promote inflammation. Eating unhealthy foods, drinking alcohol or sugary drinks, and getting little physical activity are all associated with increased inflammation.
So how can Reiki help?
Reiki can help on an energetic level to release inflammation, promoting deep relaxation, balancing the immune system, and providing fuel to heal the stuff we can’t see on the inside. In Reiki terms we call it the “iceberg” - illness or trauma that sits under the surface, which if left too long can manifest as an illness that once the symptoms show, may be more difficult to cure. Reiki is one of the only healing tools that can cure the unseen and be used as a prevention tool.
Foods to avoid
Processed meats like hot dogs, sausage and cold cuts
Processed snacks like chips, cookies and crackers
Overly sweet desserts like candy, doughnuts and ice cream
Sugary drinks like soda and juices
Trans fats like shortening, vegetable oils and fried foods
Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and white pasta
Eating more foods that reduce inflammation and supply brain-specific nutrients has the potential to drastically improve anxiety symptoms. Try adding these ten anti-inflammatory foods to your diet and check out the links to some recipes I love.
Turmeric's main active component — curcumin — is what gives the spice its yellow colour. Curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which may help improve symptoms of depression, arthritis, heart disease and Alzheimer's. It can be used so many different ways, and although I am more of a savoury breakfast person, I really like this Gold Milk Overnight Oats Recipe - I add mixed nuts and pumpkin seeds as a topping, and add a little honey instead of maple syrup. thttps://www.fitmittenkitchen.com/golden-milk-overnight-oats/
Low magnesium levels are associated with an increased likelihood of both anxiety and depression. Research suggests that increasing magnesium intake can ease anxiety, and almonds are a top source (a 1-ounce serving provides 20% of the Daily Recommended Value). Personally, my favourite nuts are walnuts and pistachios, which are also great to help reduce inflammation.
Apart from being a quick quality source of protein, eggs contain the anti-inflammatory nutrient, choline. Choline is a component of acetylcholine, a key neurotransmitter involved in memory and mood, and low choline levels are associated with higher anxiety levels. Two eggs contain 50% DV for choline, as well as other anti-inflammatory nutrients that impact brain communication like vitamin B12, selenium and zinc. Try and source the best organic free range eggs that you can, and remember, labels can be deceptive so its better if you buy as close to the source as possible, such as a farmers market. For something a bit different, try this Israeli dish called Green Shakshuka - great for breakfast, lunch or dinner https://www.purewow.com/recipes/green-shakshuka
Higher intakes of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) are associated with lower risk of anxiety, but may also ease existing anxiety. These fatty acids ease neuroinflammation in the brain, as well as enhance neuron communication. DHA and EPA are only found in fish with a higher fat content like salmon, sardines, mackerel and sea bass, so try to get two to three servings a week of these. Fish oil supplements are another way to get these fatty acids, but research is inconclusive as to whether they are as effective as eating seafood. Our family favourite is salmon fishcakes, but these have potatoes (nightshade) and are fried, so we’ve switched to this grilled version. Admittedly, my vegetarian daughter isn’t quite so happy with this dish, but the rest of the family love them. https://laughingspatula.com/grilled-salmon-burgers-with-avocado-salsa/
5. Probiotic-Rich Foods
Our gut health influences the ability for inflammation to develop in the body, which means it also influences our risk of developing mental health issues like anxiety. Strengthening the gut's microbe barrier by eating certain "good" bacterial strains helps by preventing inflammatory compounds from entering the body, which may decrease anxiety.
‘Lactobacillus rhamnosus’ is often added to, and naturally occurs in dairy products (although it often is not listed in the ingredients), and can help with inflammation, - with just a little going a long way. Yoghurt is a well-known source of good bacteria (although make sure you read the label to check for no unnecessary ingredients) with ‘L. bulgaricus’ commonly used as the starter culture. Other sources of bacteria include probiotics which contain ‘L. acidophilus’ bacteria amongst others; fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, which even has a Lactobacillus strain named after it (‘kimchii’); Kefir which is produced from kefir grains and milk, fermented into a thin yoghurt-y drink (its precise microbial composition varies, but Lactobacillus is always present); lastly, NOT ALL BREAD IS BAD - sourdough bread is an excellent source of Lactobacilli, a group of sourdough-fermenting bacteria.
I make sure the kids get a shot of milk kefir every morning as they’re not such big fans of fermented vegetables, but recently I tried this yummy kimchi recipe which I would definitely recommend: https://www.cottercrunch.com/spiralized-apple-kimchi-salad-with-beef/
Did you know that asparagus extract is an approved “functional food” in China because of its anti-anxiety effects? Researchers aren't clear exactly why it works, but some speculate that the vegetable's folate content plays a role, since the body uses metabolised folate to make certain neurotransmitters. High levels of antioxidants like vitamin C and beta carotene also help to reduce neuron inflammation.
This recipe is for a super omelette… the mix of colours from the veggies increase power plis, and the fiber-packed quinoa helps to maintain blood sugar levels:
Oxidative stress (when there is an excess of free radicals in the body's cells) creates new inflammation, and both anxiety and depression are associated with lower antioxidant levels in the body. This suggests that a lack of antioxidants from food may lead to inflammation that can potentially trigger new (or exacerbate existing) mental health issues. Eating antioxidant-rich foods is vital, and blueberries are packed with polyphenolic compounds that act as antioxidants to protect brain cells from free radicals. These compounds also promote proper brain functioning, particularly during stressful periods, and ease neuroinflammation. Other great berries are strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
According to a recent study, dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and collards have high levels of nutrients specifically associated with mental health. This makes them a top choice to help prevent and to ease conditions like anxiety and depression. These nutrients include minerals like folate and magnesium, but also include vitamin C and beta carotene, which ease current inflammation and prevent oxidative stress. Try these kale chips as an alternative to processed potato crips you would normally have (or I normally have): https://blog.paleohacks.com/paleo-kale-chips-recipe/
9. Lean Animal Proteins
Inadequate intake of vitamins B6 and B12 can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety since they are needed to make neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, that control mood and cognition. Getting adequate intake of B6 and B12 can be difficult, but lean animal proteins like beef, pork and chicken are a good source of both, along with zinc and the antioxidant selenium, both of which also impact brain health. When it comes to beef, it should be grass fed (not grain fed) and for other meats, try always to source free range and organic. This doesn't negate the positive benefits from eating plant proteins, but it could be a good idea to incorporate lean animal protein two or three times per week. A new family favourite is this really yummy chicken: https://blog.paleohacks.com/honey-turmeric-chicken/
Avocados are a great source of healthy monounsaturated fat and antioxidants, which can dampen your body's inflammatory response. In fact, the anti-inflammatory properties of avocados are so strong that they may actually offset less healthy food choices. Other Healthy fats are coconut and olive oil - but remember olive oil shouldn’t be used for cooking because of its low smoking point, which runs the risk of creating smoke that contains harmful compounds. You may not even notice that you are breathing in this toxic smoke.
Hopefully you found this information helpful. Sleeping, eating well, relaxing, exercise, spending time in nature, and of course self-healing with Reiki (obviously I would say that), are all important when it comes to inflammation and stress. Remember you can’t see what's happening on the inside, so prevention is always better than cure.
If you are looking to implement an anti inflammatory meal plan please get in touch. I have some weekly menu ideas great for families, and lots more recipe inspiration that I can share with you. Reach out at email@example.com