Low-carb Anti-Inflammatory Diet FAQ
If you have a medical condition that causes chronic inflammation or are concerned about the long-term effects of inflammation on your health, you should consider your dietary options.
Many nutritionists recommend a balanced diet that draws from the major food groups, including whole grains, healthy fats, proteins, and sparing use of refined sugars and processed foods.
Wholistically Healthy is a leading Australian provider of nutritious, low-carb meals. Our mission is to help Australians explore dietary and lifestyle changes that promote physical and mental wellness.
How Do the Foods I Eat Cause Inflammation?
One link between food and inflammation is the increase in blood sugar after the intake of carbohydrates.
When carbohydrates, notably processed refined sugar, enter your bloodstream from your diet, natural bodily processes break down the carbohydrates for energy, causing a rise in blood sugar.
The consequences of a high sugar diet include the immediate immune response to the blood sugar spike and the long-term effects of body fat. The metabolic by-products of carbohydrate metabolism can sometimes trigger a reaction from your immune cells.
Weight gain resulting from sugar intake places stress on the hips, knees, and back, while high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides can damage your cardiovascular system. A person's immune response to these effects can exacerbate the damage. Inflammatory processes can affect the brain, increasing the risk for strokes, dementia, and impairments in memory cognition.
What Is the Immune System's Inflammatory Response?
Our immune system protects us from bacteria, viruses, and other threats. When immune cells target an invader, it can trigger inflammation that can cause:
Increased blood flow to the area
Redness and swelling
Pain and itching
The foods we eat influence the activity of our immune systems. If we eat too many refined sugars, starchy carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats, our immune systems can become overactive and produce inflammation even when there is no invader to repel.
Immune cells use volatile chemicals called free radicals as part of the inflammation response. You might have heard about free radicals as something you want to avoid in your diet. Free radicals damage cells, which can be useful against a bacterial infection but harmful to healthy cells.
Healthy fats calm the immune system's inflammatory response and protect your cells from the damage that free radicals cause. Antioxidants in your diet protect your cells from free radical damage as well.
A diet rich in antioxidants and healthy fats but low in carbohydrates can help our immune systems function better and reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases.
Can I Treat Chronic Inflammation By Changing My Diet?
Every person is different, so we cannot say for certain that a specific individual will benefit from a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods.
Your doctor will want to review your medical history and your family history, including any genetic factors, before working with you to reach a decision about whether any specific anti-inflammatory diet might be therapeutic for your chronic inflammation. Your doctor can monitor your health as you start a new meal plan so you avoid the pitfalls of low-carb dieting like a magnesium deficiency.
What Diseases Can Benefit from Including Anti-Inflammatory Foods in My Diet?
Many chronic diseases involve systemic inflammation or target specific body tissues with inflammation. They often co-occur with inflammatory markers and respond to treatments that suppress an overactive immune response.
There is evidence that many people experience relief from symptoms by including anti-inflammatory nutrients in their diet. These diseases include:
Inflammatory bowel disease
Each of these conditions results partly from the damage that the immune response causes within a person's body.
One condition that most directly relates to a diet with a high intake of net carbs is metabolic syndrome. A person who eats a high fat and high carb diet, does not exercise much, and is inactive for much of the day, is at risk for many cardiovascular, respiratory, and inflammatory issues.
Even if medical science has not yet identified a specific cause for every autoimmune disease, lowering inflammation levels and blunting the overactive immune response:
Reduces the physical damage caused by damage to body cells
Reduces physical damage caused by your body's tissues swelling.
Relieves pain signals from inflammation
Reducing inflammatory responses in the body can also reduce the acute inflammation of autoimmune disease flare-ups.
Why Is an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Important?
Many elements of a typical Australian diet contain processed foods, including refined grains and added sugars. While these foods provide calories, our bodies do not always metabolize sugars in a healthy way. In the short term, blood sugar levels can spike after you eat carbohydrates.
Over time, sugar consumption can cause obesity, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular problems.
An anti-inflammatory meal plan helps to counteract these health risks and improve quality of life.
Which Foods Should I Avoid to Combat Inflammation?
Some of the most inflammatory foods contain additives that trigger inflammation, either by increasing the levels of metabolites in your body or directly provoking an immune response.
Foods High in Added Sugars
Naturally, a low-carb diet will be low in refined sugar, but you can replace them with alternatives. Some foods that you would not think of as sugary might have sugar added to them, so check the label on the food you eat for added sugar.
Processed and refined grains such as white rice are a source of energy, but they can have pro-inflammatory effects. When you eat carbs, choose whole grains instead.
Foods with Unhealthy Fats
Avoid frying foods in oil, especially if you heat up the oil multiple times. As the oil is heated, it can produce free radicals that damage cells. The immune system then responds to the cell damage with inflammation.
Trans fats are a particularly unhealthy form of fat that the United States and Canada have banned their use. The human body did not evolve to digest trans fats, so it cannot break them down in a healthy way.
Trans fats and their by-products can clog arteries and disrupt the body's natural process of metabolizing fats and sugars. Even a small amount of trans fats in your diet can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Preservatives prevent bacteria from digesting foods while they sit in your cupboard or refrigerator. Some preservatives, particularly nitrates, can produce free radicals in your bloodstream when you eat foods that contain them.
Which Nutrients Should I Include in a Low-carb Diet?
If you exclude inflammatory foods from your diet, what's left? You will be happy to know that a meal plan full of foods with anti-inflammatory properties does not have to be bereft of flavor and energy. Try including the following anti-inflammatory foods in your food plan.
While some fats produce harmful by-products when your body breaks them down, others promote health by reducing inflammation and increasing the levels of good cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Examples of healthy fat are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Chemically, these fats have fewer hydrogen molecules than other fats of the same length.
In practical terms, "good" polyunsaturated fats are easier to digest than saturated fats. They reduce inflammation by producing fewer metabolic by-products that can trigger an immune response.
Nuts and Legumes
Beans and many types of nuts are good sources of protein and healthy fat. Beans can be a good side dish as a replacement for bread or rice.
Nuts, like slivered almonds, can add crunch and texture to your food and complement a meal plan that reduces inflammation.
Omega-3 fatty acids and related fatty acids are healthy nutrients that promote healthy brain functions. Certain varieties of fatty fish and seeds are a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Legumes, fatty fish, and moderate amounts of red meat provide protein and healthy energy sources without an overabundance of unhealthy fats.
Many plants include natural antioxidants and compounds that reduce inflammation. With a spice rack full of inflammation fighters, you will enjoy and prepare delicious dishes in many styles and culinary traditions. Consider recipes that make use of these ingredients so you can benefit from their anti-inflammatory effects.
Cardamom is an Indian and Indonesian spice that contains several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.
In addition to being a perfect spice for desserts and baked goods, cinnamon can lower cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation.
Ginger provides a kick of flavour to many dishes, including Asian and Asian-inspired cuisine.
Naturally occurring compounds in ginger reduce the levels of inflammatory chemicals called leukotrienes, toning down the body's inflammatory responses.
Ginseng contains ginsenosides, including Compound K, which are antioxidants and reduce inflammation.
Turmeric is one of the most potent natural anti-inflammatory foods. It contains the chemical curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Black pepper contains the piperine compound, which has powerful antioxidant properties and reduces inflammation.
What Types of Low-carb Diets Are There?
There are many anti-inflammatory low-carb diets. They differ in their rationale and in the specific foods that they recommend. They share the same general aim, to promote a healthy lifestyle and avoid the health problems associated with certain foods such as refined carbohydrates.
The Atkins Diet
Robert Atkins developed the Atkins diet fifty years ago to achieve weight loss and other health goals. The diet allows people to eat meats and some fatty foods as long as they cut carbs from their diet.
Intermittent fasting is one dietary approach that can lower inflammation by temporarily reducing the intake of carbs and causing the body to depend on its stored energy sources, including fats. Consuming fewer calories can lower blood sugar and relieve low-grade inflammation.
The Ketogenic Diet
The ketogenic or keto diet promotes muscle growth and alleviates pain due to exercise by increasing the levels of ketones. The keto diet results in ketosis, a condition that changes the way our muscles get energy, allowing dieters to build muscle while shedding fat.
The Dash Diet
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute advocated for the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). It is not a low-carb diet because it focuses instead on reducing the intake of saturated fats. However, it is similar to the other diets on this list in its ability to lower inflammation.
The Mediterranean Diet
A meal plan that matches the food choices and lifestyles of places like southern Italy and France includes healthy oils such as olive oil and proteins rich in antioxidants, such as several varieties of fish. It is a natural diet that reduces inflammation and promotes overall health.
Vegetarian and vegan diets exclude some sources of protein and energy, including fish, eggs, and lean cuts of meat. If you adopt a vegetarian meal plan, include alternatives, such as beans, nuts, and fruit. For an anti-inflammatory, low-carb vegetarian diet, avoid starchy tubers like potatoes.
Which Diets Have the Most Anti-Inflammatory Foods?
The answer to this question depends on your creativity. The diets mentioned above limit the percentage or amounts of carbohydrates, but many of them are flexible in allowing you to add vegetables, spices, herbs, seeds, and other foods rich in anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Are There Other Benefits of a Low-carb Diet?
Even if you are fortunate not to have an inflammatory medical condition, you can benefit from the following anti-inflammatory perks of a low-carb diet.
If your diet includes high levels of carbohydrates, your body will try to store the energy as fat. It can be difficult to shed this fat, and efforts to cut calories can lead to cravings for sugary foods.
A meal plan low in processed carbs and high in lean protein and fiber can help satisfy your appetite without expanding your waistline.
High levels of processed foods increase the amount of low-density "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream. These contribute to the hardening of the arteries and the buildup of deposits that damage the cardiovascular system and cause dangerous blood clots to form. A diet high in unhealthy fats and refined carbs can lead to heart disease, stroke, and death.
Supporting a Healthy Immune Response
One of the best anti-inflammatory benefits is the ability to keep your immune system running more smoothly so that it does not overreact or target healthy cells.
Can I Still Eat Foods I Like on a Low-Carb Diet
You can substitute anti-inflammatory low-carb alternatives for your favourite foods. For example, eat grilled salmon instead of battered processed fish. Complement your protein source with nutrient-rich vegetables and natural anti-inflammatory sources of energy like slivered almonds. Eating dark chocolate instead of sweetened milk chocolate can reduce your sugar intake without depriving you of food you like.
Talk With Your Doctor Before Changing Your Diet
This FAQ page contains general information that you should not take as medical advice. Talk with your physician or a nutrition specialist about low-carb diets before changing your eating habits or starting a particular meal plan.
If you have certain health conditions or certain variations of the genes involved in metabolizing fats and sugars, your doctor might recommend a modified low-carb diet or a different diet altogether.
Supplement Your Low-Carb Diet with Wholistically Healthy
Wholistically Healthy helps Australians eat healthy by developing nutritious and tasty meals. Wholistically Healthy meals are compatible with many low-carb diets, including the Atkins diet, the ketogenic diet (keto diet), and more.
Learn more about our innovative meal delivery options, including the natural peanut butter dinner, natural peanut butter lunch, and chopped walnuts lunch. Call us today at 0450 344 607. We look forward to discussing the health benefits of our Wholistically Healthy low-carb meal plans.