One expert who is so convinced by the positive effects of this lifestyle is award-winning Swedish science journalist and author, Maria Borelius. Maria, who has a degree in biology, physics and mathematics and a master's degree in science journalism, is so enamoured by the anti-inflammatory lifestyle that she penned an entire book about it.
Bringing together ground-breaking research from across the globe, the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda and a lifetime of experimentation, this book presents a simple five-step plan to bring out the best version of you. Maria promises that readers will look younger, and more importantly, feel way better.
Here, she shares an extract with GLAMOUR and reveals how to follow an anti-inflammatory lifestyle...
We have scientific proof that inflammation drives illness and that anti-inflammation measures not only counteract disease, but also strengthen everyday health in a powerful way. We see the evidence from the Blue Zones, from research in Lund, from the epigenetic frontline, from awe research, and a number of other things.
I can only summarize it like this: In my opinion, the anti-inflammatory journey is a journey toward your best self, a body and soul in balance, a feeling of harmony and alertness.
Let me also say this:
We remain ourselves, but in our very best version.
Boost your system with anti-inflammatory foods: Every day, eat plenty of good, natural food, polyphenols, omega-3, and probiotics.
Lower sugar intake: Every day, spare the body from too much sugar and too many carbohydrates, and reduce the glycemic response to the sugar that you do eat.
In motion: Give yourself the chance to exercise every day.
Stillness: Give yourself peace, calm, and conscious rest every day.
Seek out awe: Be curious about how to find your awe, and allow yourself to experience great and divine moments.
Those are five points, whose initials, through a small miracle, form the word BLISS.
The path to bliss is simple, but requires a new consciousness. It involves a kind of updated version of pre-human Lucy’s lifestyle, which deeply respects our human roots, but also involves adaptation, since we no longer live on an African savannah, but in a modern society with completely different frameworks. Through this lifestyle, we can find our way back to ourselves, although with new eyes.
Here I’ll go over the principles that combine to form an anti-inflammatory lifestyle – the path to bliss.
1. Boost with anti-inflammatory food
The value of real food. More polyphenols. More omega-3. Increase probiotics.
Food is meant to provide health, joy, strength, and enjoyment. Just as Lucy did, choose food that nature has created, as close to its natural form as possible. In keeping with the slogan “made by nature, not by man”, I’d rather eat a tomato than a prepared tomato sauce, rather an orange than juice, rather grilled meat and potatoes than prepared hash. Any pre-made, processed food with more than five ingredients should be regarded with some suspicion.
Eat real, homemade food. Not weak salads that leave you vulnerable to a blood sugar crash in the afternoon, but “regular” food that’s boosted with anti-inflammatory tricks.
Eat more vegetables of all kinds, preferably four different kinds with four different colors.
Eat a rainbow of vegetables and berries every day. Blueberries, purple eggplant and red onion, green spinach, yellow peppers, orange carrots, red tomatoes, and all other colors. Vegetables, with their various polyphenols, act directly or indirectly (researchers are investigating this) as protective mechanisms for the plants, and we humans can “borrow” their effects to protect ourselves.
Eat plenty of protein at every meal: poultry, eggs, lentils, meat, fish, or protein power, which builds up cells, connective tissues, and muscles.
Eat plenty of fats, which give the body energy and enhance the taste of food. Oils like olive oil, rapeseed oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and sometimes organic butter are good. But avoid margarine, sunflower seed oil, and hydrogenated vegetable fats in cookies, chips, and industrially prepared food.
Use spices, and use them with abandon; find new combinations. I like thyme and garlic, turmeric and paprika, coriander and cumin, chili and mint, ginger and lemon.
In general: add turmeric to everything! Our pots and pans at home are yellow from all the turmeric I use when I cook vegetables and when I saute chicken, salmon, and steaks in coconut oil and turmeric to get a nice finish.
Love your tea. All kinds – black, green, red… Use a variety of different herbal teas every day.
Coffee contains polyphenols, but also activates blood sugar. Compromise by having one cup a day.
Be careful with alcohol, but a glass of red wine can be taken since it a) gives pleasure, and b) contains the polyphenol resveratrol, which research has shown to be anti-inflammatory. Try to choose a red wine with a strong, slightly harsh taste, like pinot noir wines, which have the highest levels of resveratrol.
Eat omega-3 every day. Regardless of whether you eat fatty fish several times a week, take omega-3 in capsule form or get your daily dose from little chia seeds in a chia pudding that’s been allowed to soak overnight in a glass of almond milk; you will soon notice how this fortifies everything from your mood to your skin.
If you’re at the restaurant and don’t know what to choose, go for fatty fish and vegetables. That’s the new basic food.
Grow your inner gut flora. (Hi there, bacteria!) Eat lots of greens, and also boost every day with a probiotic tablet, switching out the type of bacteria when you’ve used up the old jar. You want to expose yourself to many different kinds of good bacteria. Also eat extra yogurt or kefir every day. Experiment with kombucha, and choose some different kinds, like ginger, or turmeric. I like to eat a mini bowl of fermented vegetables at dinner also, but that may not be for everyone.
Keep sugar levels down. Eat better, complex carbohydrates. Decrease the GI-response.
Carbohydrates are a complicated subject, I’ve learned. From gummy raspberries to pasta carbonara – what’s the best strategy?
There are two main goals. To decrease the amount of simple sugars by eating better carbohydrates and in smaller amounts, and to moderate how the body responds to sugar. This is to keep down the quick sugar peaks that are the body’s enemy since they directly drive inflammation.
Converted to everyday strategies, this means something like the following:
Plan for long and even satiety. And plan ahead so you won’t end up with panic and stress. The planning doesn’t take more time, but I’ve learned that it’s another type of time, more “ahead time” than “panic time”. Which in turn gives better food quality.
A first step is to get rid of all the sugary junk in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry. Out with marmalade, ice cream, cookies, sodas, and such, so that it will be harder to satisfy hunger with a sugar fix.
Another method is to figure out a new standard breakfast, which will probably be different from the way you used to eat. Breakfast buffets with bread, orange juice, sugary fruit yogurt, “regular” high-lactose milk, processed cereal, and marmalade - goodbye! Many of these products will give you a blood sugar rush or create other types of inflammation. Bread, even if it’s wholegrain, contains heavy gluten proteins that can give rise to low-grade inflammation. (In my new existence, I have an occasional slice of bread here and there, maybe a Danish rye bread or sourdough bread, where bacteria have broken down some of the gluten proteins in advance.) Juice contains as much as several teaspoons of sugar, without the fiber that naturally exists in fruit pulp and skins, lowering the sugar response when you eat whole fruits.
The new breakfast instead focuses on protein, fat, vegetables, and fruit. A smoothie with almond milk, fruit, nuts, and protein powder. A bowl of yogurt with nuts, seeds, and berries. Scrambled eggs and rice cakes. Or a bowl of oatmeal with seeds and maybe an egg.
The strategy is to choose fresh fruits and berries, and in the category of complex carbohydrates, unprocessed products like sweet potatoes, brown rice, rice cakes, quinoa, and oats are your friends. And eat the carbohydrates along with fat and protein!
I’ve decreased the amount of carbohydrates since I want to keep my insulin content low and even, but at the same time, body and brain need the energy that carbohydrates can give. Here you have to experiment to find the right level for you. One strategy might be to only eat complex carbohydrates in one bigger meal per day; for example, the one you eat right after exercising. In my case, that doesn’t work. If I don’t get complex carbohydrates at dinner, I can’t sleep at night.
I’ve also learned to eat the food on my plate a little differently. Now I always begin the meal with proteins, vegetables, and fats, and eat the complex carbohydrates, like sweet potato and quinoa, in the later part of the meal. That makes the insulin level rise more gradual, and satiety is signaled via the foods that are least inflammation-driving. If a meal consists of chicken, grilled vegetables, salad, and brown rice, you should eat it in this order: first vegetables and chicken, then the brown rice at the end. I no longer eat a big plate of pasta with a little sauce, but have changed the proportions so that I have lots of vegetables, lots of meat sauce, and a smaller amount of pasta (preferably gluten free).
Read the list of contents and zoom in on the heading “carbohydrates”, under which the sugar content is listed by itself as a subheading. Breakfast cereal with 25 percent sugar is candy, not food.
When it comes to lessening the glycemic response to a meal, there are two good, scientifically proven tricks: vinegar and soluble viscous fibers. You can take advantage of this by using vinegar in a salad before the meal, in the French style. Or take in more of the soluble fibers in vegetables, berries, beans, brown rice, figs, flaxseed, and sunflower seeds. These tricks will help you slow down your blood sugar increase after a meal, which is exactly what we want.
Snacks can be a challenge. Instead of sweet rolls and coffee, choose something more satisfying, like a bowl of Greek yogurt with chia seeds, two boiled eggs with a tomato, or a juicy red apple with nuts. Or try making exciting little energy balls at home in the mixer using coconut oil, dates and berries, that you can take with you and pass out to fellow humans who may need it.
Personally, I’m skeptical about all the juicing. Pure fruit juice pushes insulin the way a racecar driver pushes down on the gas pedal, which ultimately drives inflammation. If you’re going to juice, green juices are best, preferably with some added nuts, whose fat gives a slower blood sugar rise. The very best smoothies are the ones that combine juice with protein and fat, and for example contain nuts.
But if I get an irresistible sugar craving and eat half a box of chocolates a couple of times a year, I accept it with calmness. That’s what happens if you put my inner Lucy next to a box of chocolates on a gray Thursday evening in November. Time to shrug your shoulders and continue the bliss-cure.