How to Transition to an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Anti Inflammatory Diet Basics

It seems that every time I turn around, there is another article, study or friend talking about inflammation. But what is it?

Inflammation is your body’s innate way of providing acute healing to an area of your body, but when it persists on a low level throughout the body, it can do much more harm than good. Because chronic inflammation isn’t something you can see with your eyes, many suffer from its consequences and don’t even know it! It can surface in sneaky ways in the form of allergies, skin rashes, pain, insomnia, migraines, food allergies, and more. In addition, it sets a perfect stage for many serious age-related diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, diabetes, neuro-degenerative diseases, heart disease, and cancer.

Personally for me, I suffer from arthritis in my hands, and at times very low energy. When I made the decision to cut grains out my diet, I saw a dramatic difference in how I felt.

Below are recommendations on what you can change in your everyday life to combat inflammation. It may seem hard (which it can be), and you may not see immediate results. Don’t get discouraged, you did not get to where you are over night, and it does take time for your body to heal.

The Stress Connection—When you are constantly stressed, the sympathetic nervous system signals your body to produce the stress hormone cortisol to meet the demand. This leads to an increase in blood sugar designed to give you the energy to flee whatever’s “chasing” you. But because nothing’s actually chasing you, you are left with elevated cortisol and blood sugar levels that can lead to a whole host of metabolic imbalances. Because neuropeptides (proteins that deliver messages in your nervous system) that mediate stress also mediate inflammation, it’s likely that stress causes an inflammatory response in your body. And if that weren’t enough, elevated cortisol levels spark inflammatory reactions that diminish immune system function. Obviously, getting stress under control is a key piece of keeping inflammation in check.

Diet Guidelines—Try to eat all organic food if possible to risk your exposure to pesticides; eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full; don’t repeat the same food more than five times a week; plan meals so they roughly follow this breakdown—40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% healthy fats.

I eat the Paleo/Primal diet and it has worked really well in reducing my inflammation. Don’t let the name scare you or fool you. If you have questions, please leave them below in the comments, or feel free to email.

Foods to Steer Clear of—Here’s what you’ll want to wean yourself off of in order to reduce the inflammation in your body: wheat, dairy, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, sugar, citrus fruits (except for lemons and limes), pork, commercial non-organic eggs, shellfish, peanuts and peanut butter, coffee, alcohol, juice, caffeinated teas, soda, anything containing hydrogenated oils, processed foods, and fried foods.

Foods to Eat More of—You can think of the Mediterranean diet as a jumping off point.

You want to incorporate a variety of fresh food and think of eating from the rainbow. But these foods will specifically help decrease inflammation:

  • cold-water oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel, sardines, and halibut as well as oils extracted from these fish
  • organic berries
  • fruits and vegetables (except those mentioned above)
  • pineapple
  • seeds and nuts (except peanuts which contain aflotoxin, a cancer-causing agent)
  • garlic, ginger, and turmeric
  • flaxseed oil and olive oil (if not heated too high)
  • coconut oil – high quality is best

To keep you motivated to adopt this truly healthy way of eating just remember this: anti-inflammatory = anti-aging!

To your health,


  • NealnNYC

    I don’t remember seeing tomatoes on lists of inflammation causing foods before, what’s the scoop?


    • Sandra


      Tomatoes are considered part of the nightshade family of vegetables. Other vegetables would be potatoes, eggplant and peppers.

      While nightshade vegetables are not toxic and are tolerated well by most people, they do contain high levels of alkaloids, which appear to worsen inflammation in some people.

      When dealing with inflammation issues, it is one area that is recommended to eliminate to see if it helps lessen the symptoms. Personally for me, there was no effect, but my husband experienced his hip going away completely.

  • Tony S

    So it looks like a paleo diet does not always = anti-inflammatory. How about grass fed beef and dark chocolate? Also, is aged cheese okay since it contains very little if any lactose and casein?

    • Sandra


      For the most part a Paleo diet is anti-inflammatory because it eliminates foods that contribute to inflammation.

      Grass fed beef is the way to go if you are going to consume beef. Obviously free of the hormones and antibiotics, but also is higher in Omega 3’s and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Both of these are needed fats to keep us in optimal health.

      As for dark chocolate, if you are on a strict elimination diet trying to heal, then I would say no. If you have gotten to a point in your diet where you are feeling better and have gotten blood sugar regulation under control, then an occasional treat of dark chocolate is fine. I recommend only eating 70% cacao or higher.

      Cheese is another touchy one. Dairy is a no-no on a Paleo diet, but is allowed on the Primal diet. Again, this falls to the bio-individual and whether they can tolerate it or not. Like the chocolate, I would say eat it as an occasional treat but stick to high quality, pasture/raw cheese.

      • Tony S

        Thank you Sandra, very helpful! Since going Paleo about 5 months ago, whenever I start to fall off the wagon I feel all the soreness and pain come back.


        • Sandra

          You are welcome.

          Same thing happens to me as well. If I “cheat” at all with any kind of grain, my joint pain comes roaring back.

  • Joan

    What about intermittent fasting? And do you recommend eating (Paleo) only when hungry for someone with reactive hypoglycemia?


    • Sandra


      I believe a Paleo diet is a very good diet for someone with reactive hypoglycemia since it reduces foods that tend to elevate blood sugar levels above normal.

      Personally, I would counsel as you begin a Paleo diet to eat small meals every couple of hours and then as your progress and your blood sugar normalizes, you will find you can go longer between meals. Eventually, you should get to where you can go 4 or more hours between meals.

      Please keep in mind, that I am not an MD and if you are working with a doctor or are on medication, please consult with your doctor before making drastic changes.

  • Aisha

    Is sweet potato inflammatory? The list says potatoes. Does sweet potatoes fall under that?

    Thanks much

    • sandra

      Thank you for asking. Sweet potatoes are actually a really good source to combat inflammation. They contain a good amount of Vitamin A and C, which are both known to help fight inflammation.

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