Build a Perfect Diet With This Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

Smart choices start with a good base

May 25, 2017
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Inflammation affects everything from our skin, our organs, and our gut. It’s your body’s way of saying, something isn’t right here. Luckily, we can eat our way to a healthier system by switching out processed sugary foods for more nutritionally dense options. Nutritionist, pharmacist, and chemist Barbara Mendez built a pyramid that makes following a healthy diet feel easy, and while it’s not the one you learned in elementary school, it’s just as simple to remember. Here are the basic guidelines:

THE GROUND LEVEL: LEAFY GREENS, FERMENTED FOODS, AND HEALTHY FATS

spinach, collard greens, kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, cabbage, and romaine. They’re packed full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that keep your body energized and running smoothly. You’ll also want to have a serving of fermented foods-- such as kimchi--and healthy fats like salmon or walnuts everyday. “Ideally, you want a serving of fermented foods and walnuts every day,” Mendez explains. “Salmon can contain mercury, so because of that it’s best to keep it to two servings a week,” she told Well+Good. Oh, and turmeric and garlic are also excellent for preventing inflammation.

LEVEL 2: (CERTAIN KINDS OF) FRUIT & BEETS

Not all fruit is treated equally when it comes their nutrition. Although apples are an excellent source of fiber, they’re not as high up on the anti-inflammatory list as other fruits. So what should you eat? Pineapple, blueberries, ginger, papaya, beets, and flax. Mende explains that both pineapple and papaya are great for digestion, so she recommends getting a serving a day. As for blueberries and beets, blueberries have cancer fighting properties and beets help restore damaged cells. Aim for a cup of blueberries every day and eat a serving of beets 2-3 times per week.

LEVEL 3: NIGHTSHADES

These are the foods you’ll want to avoid, or at least limit. Tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers all fall into the nightshade category. The nutritionist recommends cutting out nightshades for a couple of weeks and taking note of how your body feels. Some systems have a harder time with this group of produce than others, so be mindful of how your body runs without them.

LEVEL 4: THE PEAK OF THE PYRAMID

At the top are all the foods you’ll want to steer clear from most of the time. Foods like wheat, dairy, sugar, soy, peanuts, and corn can all cause inflammation. “It’s absolutely essential to avoid processed and refined foods—AKA junk food,” Mendez said. If you love meat, try and buy grass-fed meats raised without hormones or antibiotics. Of course, it’s more than alright to indulge in your favorite foods every once in awhile. The key is to get your fix of dark greens, healthy fats, and turmeric, leave the processed foods for those treat-yourself-days, and keep stress levels down!

REBECCA WOJNO, CONTRIBUTOR
Rebecca is passionate about reading, cooking, and learning about people doing good in the world. She especially loves writing about wellness, personal growth, and relationships.