Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition (AKA How to Feel Better with Food)

At Konscious Keto, we know that a ketogenic diet offers many health benefits, including the facilitation of rapid weight loss, but it's possible to optimize the plan with the inclusion of anti-inflammatory foods that mitigate oxidative stress, boost vitality, and prevent disease. 

Many who choose to follow a ketogenic diet will welcome the slimming of their waist, as ketosis eliminates visceral fat around the abdomen, but what good is looking good without feeling good, while using an anti-inflammatory nutrition protocol?

In addition to depleting the body's glycogen stores, once refined sugars and carbs are removed from the diet, adding in dense nutrition that's abundant in micronutrients or electrolytes can maximize feelings of well-being on a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet.

But before we detail the best foods to eat to reduce the damage from oxidative stress, free radicals, and inflammation, let's dive into what inflammation is and how it affects the body—especially as it relates to increased risk for disease.

What is Inflammation?

Inflammation gets a bum rap for being at the root of virtually all disease, but its primary purpose is to inform the body to heal and combat viral invaders that seek to compromise our health.

Essentially, inflammation is the body's response to injury. Inflammation works to repair wounds and inform the immune system to heal damaged cell tissue and combat harmful bacteria, infections, or viruses.

Besides, the absence of inflammation would allow wounds to worsen and possibly create life-threatening infections, something we definitely want to avoid.

Yet, although the role played by inflammation is essential to healing, if the inflammatory process meant for short-term aid lasts too long, it could have a negative effect and contribute to chronic conditions and disease.

Furthermore, prolonged inflammation is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, but eating a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet absent of processed foods and refined sugars can help reduce the risk of elevated and chronic inflammation.

What Causes Inflammation?

There are various types of inflammation, as we've hinted at above. And while the acute inflammation that we experience after a cut helps heal the wound, chronic inflammation over a prolonged period can again, prove quite problematic.  

Acute Inflammation

A sprained ankle, or beating back the symptoms of a sore throat due to a cold, can all produce inflammation short-term, which is an acute response.

In instances of an injury, cold or virus, the body centralizes its inflammatory-response in a localized area of the body, only to address the immediate issue without spreading oxidation throughout the entire body.

Also, redness, pain, heat and even loss of proper function are all symptoms of acute inflammation.  

In these instances of short-term inflammation, blood flow increases, our blood vessels dilate and infection-fighting white blood cells surround the compromised area of concern to stamp out any threat to our immune system.

When healthy, our bodies are perfectly primed for self-preservation and demonstrate a level of intelligence in the face of a possible pathogenic invasion. To this end, during times of stress, our bodies release chemicals called cytokines.

In response to inflammation in the body, cytokines are released from damaged tissue, which triggers an emergency warning to inform our body to allocate our hormones, immune cells and nutrients to remedy the problem.

Our hormones are responsible for the proper function of every system in the body, and can even impact metabolism and mood regulation.

Also, in addition to the release of cytokines during times of acute inflammation, our bodies release hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins to facilitate blood clotting and promote the healing of damaged tissue.

Chronic Inflammation

While acute inflammation is essential to healing, as we mentioned, chronic inflammation overworks the mechanisms used in cases of acute inflammation and can lead to illness over time.

Unlike acute reparative inflammation, chronic inflammation, or persistent/low-grade inflammation—because it generates a steady, low-level of oxidation throughout the body—can lead to physical disorders like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, or even certain forms of cancer.

A persistent, low-level, form of stress is particularly damaging because it spikes immune system markers found in body tissue or blood, which can lead to many types of disease.  

The immune response can be triggered by an external threat (e.g., a bear chasing you), or an internal source (e.g., chronic high-or-low-level internal stress or anxiety disorder, etc.) and will lead to the release of white blood cells and other elements mentioned above, to disperse in the body to identify, surround, and eliminate a threat.

However, in cases of chronic stress where there's no centralized source of inflammation for the body to swarm toward and eliminate, the body can begin to attack its own organs in a misguided attempt to heal itself.

Emerging research has linked chronic stress and inflammation to anything from heart disease to stroke, but more study is needed to understand the sophisticated nuance related to the impact of on-going, steady-state inflammation as it relates to the developing disease.

Chronic, low-grade inflammation is a bit of a phantom condition—often not showing signs of its presence until diseases emerge. However, doctors can test for inflammation markers like C-reactive protein (CRP), homocysteine, TNF alpha, and IL-6, in the blood to assess their well-being.

Also, elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood is a cause for concern as it is often indicative of an infection or increased risk of heart disease, as well as the development of chronic inflammatory diseases like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Modern society is fast-paced and provides constant stimulation through our 24/7 news cycle and access to any type of media we desire at any given time, thanks to the internet—but unplugging can prove beneficial to our health and help to reduce damage from free radicals in the body caused by stress.

Fortunately our diet, lifestyle choices and our environment play a significant role in our wellness, and all play a substantial role in tamping down oxidative stress and keeping disease at bay.

If you are considering starting a ketogenic diet or are already a convert enjoying the newly-found dietary freedom of appetite suppression offered by ketosis, we've got great news for you: a low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet is rich in anti-inflammatory fare that will further help you keep carbs and oxidative stress in check.

Benefits of Anti-Inflammation on a Keto Diet   

As we mentioned, chronic inflammation is linked to a higher risk of developing a slew of diseases, and our food choices are vital in keeping our bodies running optimally.

Eating omega-3-rich fish like mackerel or salmon, and consuming healthy fats like avocado and MCT oil, all contribute to keeping glucose levels low and ketone bodies high, which further promotes the benefits of ketosis.

Fortunately, our dietary options on keto, like dark leafy greens and wild-caught fish provide an anti-inflammatory effect.

Many keto-friendly foods like blueberries and blackberries are also abundant in antioxidants, awesome to reduce free-radical stress while minding your carb macros.

Eating anti-inflammatory foods is a breeze on keto and the tasty options available leave little else to be desired.

Once you find a bevy of your favorite foods that are low-carb and nutrient-dense, you'll wonder why you waited so long to customize your keto plan around foods that prevent oxidative stress and subsequent disease.

Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition on a Keto Diet   

It's easy to keep it keto while concentrating on eating foods known to reduce inflammation. The key is to focus on creating an eating plan that pays particular attention to consuming items low in sugar that won't spike and then crash glucose levels.

Fortunately, if you are eating a well-balanced ketogenic diet that focuses equally on the importance of micronutrients and macronutrients, you're probably already eating an anti-inflammatory diet!

Here's more on the foods to select, as well as those to avoid in order to craft a delicious, sustainable, anti-inflammatory menu plan that will get you to your health goals with ease.

Keto Foods to Focus On

If you're concentrating on eating healthy fats and protein, along with an abundance of low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, you're already on the road to rooting out oxidative stress and free radicals in the body.

Further, a low-carb approach to eating like that seen with the Mediterranean diet provides an ideal composition of healthy fats, like salmon and cold-pressed olive oil, along with an abundance of dark leafy greens and limited amounts of red meat—all shown to reduce inflammation.

Here's a list of foods to focus on while eating a ketogenic diet, in order to reduce inflammation:

Consume in Abundance:

  • Water
  • Olives
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Bell peppers
  • Low-glycemic fruits (blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries, etc.)
  • Fatty fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel, sardines, oysters, et al.)
  • Stevia or monk fruit

Consume in Moderation:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Poultry
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Sugar-free yogurt with active cultures (e.g., CocoYo)
  • Red Wine

Consume Rarely:

  • Red meat
  • Alcohol

Keto Foods to Avoid  

We advise consuming red meat and alcohol as accents only, and limiting them in large consumption as they are known to cause inflammation.

There are other foods to avoid altogether as they offer no health benefits and promote free radical damage and disease.

Here's a list of foods to avoid while eating a ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation:

  • Trans fat (margarine)
  • Processed meats (sausages, hot dogs, etc.)
  • Vegetable oils (canola oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, etc.)
  • Processed or packaged foods
  • Refined carbohydrates (bread, cookies, etc.)
  • Artificial sweeteners (Splenda, Equal, or Sweet'N Low, etc.)

Shop the outer perimeter of the supermarket and buy the freshest produce you can find. You'll already have an advantage using this single tip, as the inflammatory foods you'll want to avoid are concentrated in the inner-isles of the grocery store.

Rest assured, just a few tweaks to your meal plan can make a massive difference in the way you look and feel.

Consider making some adjustments to your current plan per our suggestions and experiment with the many keto-friendly, anti-inflammatory food options available, to determine which you enjoy most.

Consider the following as an ideal menu plan for a typical day on an anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean-style ketogenic diet:

Sample 1-Day Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan

Keto Breakfast

Some who are fat-adapted start their day with coffee or tea and eat solid food, or 'break the fast,' later in the day, closer to the afternoon.

So, many of our 'breakfast' options on keto resemble other people's lunch or dinner options—but that's OK.

There are no rules etched in stone that dictate when during the day to eat what; it's more about supporting the nutritional needs of each individual and their lifestyle.

Here are food options to consider while breaking the fast on a ketogenic diet, to reduce inflammation:

  • Pair a slice of almond flour keto bread with a smearing of avocado, drizzled with an aromatic and flavorful cold-pressed olive oil, with a side of keto-friendly tabouli—swapping bulgar wheat for cauliflower or zucchini—to start your day on the path to prevent inflammation.
  • Make an easy chia pudding and sprinkle the finished product with some hemp seeds and low-glycemic berries, for a delicious and nutritious breakfast sure to provide sustained energy throughout the day.
  • Think out of the box and sprinkle a keto-friendly coconut flour wrap with za’atar—an herbaceous blend of Mediterranean wild thyme and toasted sesame seed—drizzled with a premium extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of mineral-rich sea salt, for a filling way to start your day.

There are many creative options to choose from that will prevent oxidative stress while keeping it keto! Enjoy eating your way through new recipes and food configurations—you won't be disappointed.

Keto Snacks

Keep portioned packs of nuts and seeds handy for a source of fuel on-the-go. Low-glycemic nuts like almonds, pili nuts or pecans are an excellent food option to prevent inflammation.

Just mind your portions as it's easy to blow your macro budget with a few too many handfuls of your favorites.

Slice half of an avocado, drizzle it with some quality olive oil, and dust on a little sea salt, or even sprinkle a helping of Trader Joe's 'Everything' seasoning atop this tasty, fatty food for a quick and easy snack option that will keep you full all morning.

Keto Lunch

A charcuterie board is usually a safe go-to, especially when out and about at social events and seeking to avoid refined sugars, carbs and inflammatory foods.

Prep the elements for your Mediterranean breakfast board ahead, and you'll always have low-carb, keto options ready, when hunger strikes.

You can also purchase many food options, like feta cheese, olives, keto-friendly hummus, or a medley of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers ahead to make sure you're prepared to follow a Mediterranean keto meal plan throughout the week, without any hassle.

  • Sear a beautiful salmon fillet in some extra virgin olive oil with a side of asparagus for a simple and satisfying meal option.
  • Steam a serving of swordfish with slices of fresh organic lemon, rosemary and thyme, sprinkled with sea salt, and a side of Brussels sprouts roasted in olive oil, for a fantastic meal option sure to keep inflammation in check.
  • Toss together a fresh and straightforward Israeli salad and pair it with a keto-friendly falafel, drizzled with a creamy tahini, for a quick keto-friendly lunch option that's sure to please.

Keto Dinner

Although poultry is advised in the category of foods to eat in moderation on a Mediterranean meal plan, a creamy Tuscan garlic chicken dish is a fantastic one-pot meal that can be thrown together in a snap or made ahead of time, so you're ready at mealtime.

  • Dabble in making a zucchini noodle Alfredo sauce with seared jumbo prawns for another delicious dinner option, sure to keep oxidative stress in its place.
  • Braise some lamb kabobs with mushrooms and bell peppers for an easy meal option that's also ideal for making ahead of time and letting marinate overnight to maximize flavor.
  • Pair the lamb skewers with a side of sautéed spinach for a healthy-fast-food meal.

Sweet Keto Treats

We are fortunate if our goal is to prevent inflammation while keeping it keto and trying to manage the demands of a sweet tooth because there are so many keto-friendly recipes that are scrumptious and won't compromise ketosis or increase inflammation.

Keto tarts are a great option as there are tons of crust recipes online that will help you maintain all the flavor and texture you desire while keeping it keto. Fill tarts with a coconut cream purée and top with low-glycemic berries—a dessert that's sure to satisfy.

Luckily, keto and low-carb living are not synonymous with deprivation, we get to enjoy the best of both worlds: sweet treats that won't spike glucose and also taste amazing!

Consider whipping up a keto-friendly brownie, using coconut or almond flour, and add some pecans to take this tasty treat to the next level—the chocoholic in you will thank you.

Sometimes the only thing that will satisfy your sweet craving is a warm and gooey cookie, dipped in milk. Luckily, there are many recipe options shared online that will hit the spot and keep your ketones high.

There are so many options to choose from on a ketogenic, Mediterranean-style diet. Concentrate on eating as many anti-inflammatory ingredients as you can each day, and you'll be feeling fabulous in no time.

Also, check out our comprehensive guide on how to start a ketogenic diet, while avoiding some of the common pitfalls like the keto flu, in our recent post, here.

Summary  

A ketogenic diet offers many health benefits, from accelerated weight loss to increased energy and mental sharpness, and putting a Mediterranean spin on the plan is an excellent way to maximize the benefits of nutritional ketosis while reducing inflammation.

Besides, following a low-carb, high-fat diet is a fantastic approach to mitigate oxidative stress, banish the damage caused by free radicals, and lower the risk of everything from heart disease to certain forms of cancer.

Use our options noted above as a guideline and then expand your menu from there. Eating is about so much more than taste and pleasure, but at the same time what's life without a little indulgence—especially if we can enhance our health in the process.

Focus on eating organic, unprocessed whole foods, nix all refined sugars, and fill your meal plan with an abundance of healthy fats, protein and low-glycemic fruits and vegetables, along with nuts and seeds.

Your improved feelings of vitality on a ketogenic diet, focused on reducing inflammation, may also have another unexpected effect: making you feel like you've been whisked away to Mykonos or the Amalfi coast with every delectable bite—enjoy the journey!

Sources

  1. Castro-Quezada, I., Román-Viñas, B., & Serra-Majem, L. (2015). Nutritional Adequacy of the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean Diet, 13-21. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-407849-9.00002-6
  2. Margioris, A., Dermitzaki, E., Venihaki, M., & Tsatsanis, C. (2013). Chronic low-grade inflammation. Diet, Immunity, and Inflammation, 105-120. doi:10.1533/9780857095749.1.105
  3. Mnla, R. A., (2018). Ketogenic diet and glycemic control in obese and diabetic patients. Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy, 08. doi:10.4172/2165-7904-c9-081
  4. Sofi, F., Fabbri, A., & Casini, A. (2016). Inflammation and Cardiovascular Disease and Protection by the Mediterranean Diet. Mediterranean Diet, 89-96. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-27969-5_7

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