(Picture by Kungfoodie.org)
I do my best to closely follow an anti-inflammatory diet, a topic discussed in detail in a previous post. Although many diets focus almost exclusively on foods that need to be eliminated from our diets, when it comes to the anti-inflammatory diet, it is just as important that certain foods be added in on a regular basis. Sometimes this feels easier said than done.
Understanding the IF Factor
Knowing which foods are most important to add can be a bit confusing. How do we know which foods are actually anti-inflammatory? In my personal search, I have come across countless lists of anti-inflammatory foods, some with questionable resources, and it can be difficult to know which lists are actually accurate.
In my search, I came across a rating system called the IF Factor, a number that indicates the level of inflammatory or anti-inflammatory properties found in any given food. Positive ratings indicate anti-inflammatory effects and negative ratings indicate inflammatory effects. IF factors are calculated based on a complicated formula that takes into account over 20 different factors found in foods including, “amount and type of fat, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, glycemic index, and anti-inflammatory compounds” (Source).
You can find a list of anti-inflammatory foods and their IF Factors at Self Nutrition Data. The foods that I included are based on some of the top results from this list.
Once we know which foods to add, the problem can become knowing how to add them to our diets when we are dealing with limited energy and pain that keeps us out of our kitchens for long periods of time. The problem for many chronically ill and pained individuals is that incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into our diets can feel like more trouble than it is worth.
Our energy stores are precious and limited, and sometimes the energy needed to cook healthy anti-inflammatory foods seems to cancel out their benefits. Over time, I have become more adept at finding easy ways to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods into my everyday cooking and eating. Hopefully the following list can help you as you seek to do the same.
How to Add Anti-inflammatory Foods into Your Diet
I quickly learned that eating fresh fish on a regular basis is not going to happen for me. Not only is high quality fish expensive, but I only go shopping every 1 ½ to 2 weeks to save on energy, and fish does not stay fresh that long. I do eat fresh, wild-caught salmon when I can, but usually I just take a fish oil supplement. There are so many options for fish oil, and the brand you choose is important. You are looking for a brand that has a high ratio of EPA to DHA; the higher the ratio, the greater its anti-inflammatory properties.
You can find the brand I use here. There are other good brands as well – just check your ratios when you choose which ones to buy.
Tart Cherries (and other anti-inflammatory fruits)
I incorporate tart red cherries into my diet in two ways: smoothies and juices. When I have enough energy to spare, I make a smoothie every morning, usually based on this recipe I have posted in the past. I use the Very Cherry Berry Blend from Trader Joes in my smoothies, as it contains tart red cherries as well as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries which are also anti-inflammatory.
I hate the taste of turmeric. I just find it gross. Unfortunately for me, the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric are legendary, proved time and time again through empirical research. So I know I need to either get past my aversion or find ways to use it so it can’t be tasted. I do some of both.
When I do get around to making my morning smoothie, I always add a few pinches of turmeric. As long as you don’t add too much, you can’t even taste it. Similarly, every time I make rice in my rice cooker I add several teaspoons of turmeric. Once again, at this amount, it can’t even be tasted.
When all else fails, on the days I’m not eating smoothies or rice, I put about ½ a teaspoon of turmeric into a small glass of water and just chug as quickly as I can. You can also buy turmeric capsules, but because it is much cheaper to just buy the raw product, I have not gone this way personally. You can easily find recipes for various types of turmeric tea if that sounds appealing to you, but I find the thought of sipping on a turmeric-tasting beverage unpleasant, so I would rather quickly chug it down!
The official recommendation for turmeric consumption is 1.5 grams daily (A heaping teaspoon). When taken for therapeutic reasons, this may increased to 2-3 grams per day (Source). However, I have personally found that this amount of turmeric does not agree with my stomach. My digestive system can handle about ½ a teaspoon of turmeric a day, so you may need to use it accordingly based on how your body personally responds.
Although I will on occasion add ginger to curries and stir-fries, I don’t make these regularly enough to get much benefit from the ginger. Therefore, my go-to means of consumption is fresh ginger tea. I cut large slices of fresh ginger (no need to even peel it) and place at the bottom of a mug along with a little honey. I pour hot water over this, let it steep, and drink with a little bit of fresh lemon juice if I have it on hand. Adding a green tea bag to this mix is a great way to double up.
Although I use garlic in a variety of dishes, my favorite way to add a considerable quantity to my diet is to to buy pickled garlic cloves. Although I am sure they are sold other places, I like to buy them at the Whole Food’s olive bar when I happen to go there. It may not appeal to everyone, but munching on a few pickled garlic cloves a day is an easy and convenient way to benefits.
Every time I go to the grocery store I buy a big bag of pre-washed pre-chopped greens. Typically I buy spinach, but sometimes I will go for kale. Then throughout the week I add handfuls of it to…well basically anything and everything.
I put a handful in my smoothie in the morning. I add half a bag to rice as it cooks in the rice cooker – adding it about 10 minutes before the cooking process is over. I add it to stir-fries, salads, and soups. Handfuls get added to omelets, curries, and sandwiches. If you are intentional about it, you can always find ways to add greens.
What are your favorite ways to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet?