Inflammation: What to Know; What to Cook

I have spent the last weeks falling down research rabbit-holes in an attempt to grasp exactly what inflammation is, and how it can be linked to so many various diseases. In further posts I want to go deeper into the biological mechanisms behind inflammation for those who are curious. But on a surface level, it's important to understand that when the body is in a constant, low-level state of inflammation, it can lead to chronic disease. For decades, researchers have been documenting connections between the "Western" diet and the growing prevalence of chronic disease in "Westernized" societies. I'm talking about:

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Cancer

  • Alzheimer's Disease

Systemic inflammation is one link which ties these seemingly unrelated conditions together. It's also been shown to play a role in: Allergies, acne, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, bursitis, colitis, endometriosis, gout, hives, hypothyroidism, MS, osteoarthritis, psoriasis, rosacea, sinus infections — and possibly more.

That may be an overwhelmingly unpleasant list, but here's the good news: even when your body seems to be acting out of control, you are in control of what to cook and eat. And with the bit of research you're doing here, you're a step further toward avoiding or relieving these conditions in yourself. Even if you don't have one of these conditions on the list, you may be dealing with inflammation if these symptoms sound familiar:

  • aches and pains

  • fatigue and insomnia

  • depression and anxiety

  • digestive issues

  • weight gain or loss

  • getting sick often

It's also possible to feel no symptoms, while still affected to a significant degree. This is called "silent inflammation" and is considered a precursor to, and/or aggravator of, the above conditions. So, the bottom line here is: it never hurts to practice preventative care.

Simply put, an anti-inflammatory diet includes:

  • Fruits & vegetables high in vitamin C

  • Meat & fish high in Zinc & vitamin D

  • Nuts, seeds, and omega-3 rich oils (olive oil, safflower oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil; butter & coconut oil sparingly) as a source of healthy fats

  • Protein foods such as beans, lentils, and meats, made up of amino acids.

And reduces the use of:

  • high omega-6 oils such as sunflower, corn, cottonseed, soybean, peanut, and canola. These may not be in your pantry, but they are commonly used in packaged foods.

  • refined sugar (including honey, maple syrup, etc.)

When dealing with inflammation, potential food allergies/intolerances are an important consideration. Just because you don't have celiac disease, doesn't mean you aren't gluten-intolerant. Just because you can eat peanuts without anaphylaxis, doesn't mean your digestive system is completely on board. If you have a sense that a certain food doesn't agree with your system, try removing it from your diet for a month or two, and you may observe a change.

With all of the above in mind, I compiled some recipes for you that include all of the most beneficial anti-inflammatory ingredients, while leaving out the top 8 allergens — milk, eggs, fish & shellfish, tree nuts & peanuts, wheat, and soy. Because most of these allergen foods can be great anti-inflammatory foods for those who tolerate them, I made 6 separate lists, which leave out one potentially problematic food/group at a time. With 8 recipes per list, you've got an anti-inflammatory dinner menu to last a couple of months! Super simple recipes with 8 ingredients or less. Here you go:

sans dairy:

1. Salmon Avocado Sushi

2. Foil Baked Cod with Grape Tomatoes

3. Broccoli Rabe Salad with Soybean Paste

4. One-Pot Pasta with Sausage & Beet Greens

5. Papaya (or Mango) Black Bean Salad

6. Vegan Teriyaki Tofu Rice Bowls

7. Ginger Marinated Shrimp Kebabs

8. Cauliflower Rice Pilaf

sans eggs:

1. Spicy Lentil Salad

2. Teriyaki Sockeye Salmon Bowls

3. Shiitake Riced Cauliflower Risotto

4. Kimchi Quesadillas

5. Roasted Beet & Pepita Winter Salad

6. Easy Vegan Pumpkin Pasta

7. Pesto, Shrimp, & Kale Grilled Pizza

8. Salmon with Bok Choy & Apple Slaw

sans seafood:

1. Baby Bok Choy with Cashews

2. Bell Pepper "Philly Cheesesteaks"

3. Spaghetti Squash with Goat Cheese & Mushrooms

4. Beet Green Ravioli

5. Easy Braised Chicken with Kimchi

6. Lettuce Wraps with Sausage & Brussels Sprouts

7. Strawberry & Kiwi Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken Breast

8. Green Cauliflower & Wheat Berry Salad

sans peanuts & tree nuts:

1. Healthy Fish Cakes

2. Gluten-Free Chicken Enchilada Pasta

3. Avocado Chicken Salad

4. Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower

5. 30-Minute Dairy-Free Tuscan Chicken

6. Gluten-Free & Vegan Falafel

7. Whole30 Bang Bang Shrimp

8. Chicken & Cauliflower Meatballs

sans wheat:

1. Cajun Sweet Potato Rice Bowl

2. 20-Minute Skillet Sausage & Zucchini

3. Rainbow Thai Chicken Salad

4. One-Pan Balsamic Glazed Salmon with Asparagus & Tomatoes

5. Creamy White Chicken Chili

6. Blueberry Chicken Chopped Salad

7. Mostly Veggie Steak Stir Fry

8. Savory Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes

sans soy:

1. Loaded Kale Caesar Salad

2. Vegan Ramen

3. 30-Minute Peanut Sauce Sweet Potato Noodles

4. Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

5. Vegan Broccoli Salad with Cranberries

6. Citrus Ginger Salmon Lo Mein

7. Chickpea Scramble

8. Roasted Vegetable & Chickpea Bowls

Eat well, be well :) Enjoy!

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