One of the hardest things when you start an anti-inflammation diet is knowing what to eat. Probably, most of the things you’re used to eating or cooking will be off limits now in some way. I’m buying completely different things now than I did 2 months ago, and some of these things I’d never even heard of before! Other things I never really thought I’d ever buy. So, a big part of doing this lifestyle is accepting the paradigm shift that your life is basically not going to be the same. Accept it. And run with it!
Here’s a partial list of things to buy to get you started. Getting everything at the same time in the beginning will add up, but then you’ll have it on hand for the future, and you’ll never have to do it all at once again.
You should also check out my posts I’ve done under “shopping.” Look on the right hand side of the home page, and you’ll see the list of categories. Click on “shopping” and that will display all those posts. Whenever I find something new and interesting that I think would work out for this diet – especially things that are treats! – I put it there!
I’m experimenting with a number of alternate flours now that refined flours are out. Whole wheat flour is technically okay, but it’s hard on my stomach, and can taste bitter unless soaked. I experiment with a lot of different ones, but these are the ones I use mostly. If you have these on hand you can make most of the recipes on this site. (Whole wheat flour can also be used to substitute for these flours in almost any of my recipes. When using as a thickener, you might need to decrease the amount a bit, though.)
Almond flour – this is the most expensive of the alternate flours I use, so I usually cut it in with something else. I like the flavor and texture it gives baked goods, though, so I keep it around for that. You can find it in health food stores, and in places like Whole Foods or other stores with good gluten-free sections. One bag is $10, so it’s not cheap, but you can make it last if you use other flours along with it. (edit: I’ve found almond meal at Trader Joe’s for just $3.99! So that’s a good source.)
Light Buckwheat flour – buckwheat isn’t wheat, and it’s not even a grain, it’s a fruit related to rhubarb. This makes it perfect for gluten- or grain-sensitive people. I use it in place of wheat flour to thicken sauces and gravies, and in baked goods too. I find that using all buckwheat flour will give a grainy texture to a baked good, so I usually like to use a bit of almond flour with it. It’s found in most grocery stores. Store in the freezer after purchase.
Whole Grain Spelt flour – Spelt is an ancient grain, and while it does have gluten it’s much easier to digest than our modern grains and many gluten intolerant people find they can eat it just fine. It gives good body and structure to baked goods, and tastes rather nutty. It’s lighter and milder in flavor than whole wheat. It’s usually found in health food stores and places like Whole Foods. I usually get mine from the bulk bins at Whole Foods. Store in the freezer after purchase. It’s become my favorite flour so a lot of recipes here will use it!
Tapioca or arrowroot flour – These are used as a thickener in place of corn starch. It says on the package how much to use for an equivalent amount of corn starch. Find them at health food stores, places like Whole Foods, and stores that have good gluten-free sections.
Flaxseed is on the list of things you should eat, because it fights inflammation. A bag like this will last you a long time. I get the ground up version and use it mainly in smoothies – I pour a bit in and I don’t even know it’s there. I’ve also thrown it in with cookies and other baked goods. You can get it a lot of places, but especially health food stores, and I know Whole Foods has it. Store in the freezer just like your whole grains.
This sugar is a whole food, so is much better for you than white sugar, and has a low glycemic index, which means it’s kind to your blood sugar. It is still a sweetener, though, and so can still aggravate inflammation, so use sparingly. You can get this at Whole Foods and health food stores. Edit: Trader Joe’s now carries this too, at much cheaper than anywhere else I’ve found!
These are the other two natural sweeteners you can use in moderation, as they’re whole, natural foods. Make sure it’s raw honey and real maple syrup, though – not Aunt Jemina or anything. Grade B syrup is less refined than Grade A, and has a deeper flavor that is good for baking. The syrup should be at any grocery store, and sometimes they carry raw honey too. They’ll definitely have both at a health food store, or a place like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. You should still use them sparingly, though.
Stevia is something a lot of people really love to use. It has no calories and does not affect blood sugar. I’m still a little skeptical about it, because there is a warning list of side effects if too much is used. But I do use Stevia occasionally to boost the sweetness in recipes. This Trader Joe’s liquid extract is what I’ve found the most success with. It has much less of the bitter flavor I’ve found with other brands.
Cod liver oil is one of the best things you can take to fight inflammation, because it’s very high in Omega-3 fatty acids . Make sure you get a reputable brand, preferably from a health food store. Most supermarket supplements and vitamins are junk, so do your homework. They sell it in liquid form too, and I don’t know if there’s benefit to that or not…but I don’t care. Pass me the gel tabs please!! If you don’t think you’d mind the taste, though, then by all means get the liquid. Fermented Cod Liver Oil is supposed to be the best kind to get, but it’s hard to find.
For me, I’m just cutting bread entirely because the non-wheat versions just don’t seem worth my time to me. I’d rather just eat something else. If you think you’d like it, though, then you can try some spelt bread or some other non-refined grain bread – just make sure to read the ingredients VERY CAREFULLY! (Edit 3-1-13: I’ve started using Berlin Bakery spelt bread, which is usually found in the frozen foods section, and Alvarado St. Bakery sprouted grain bread. Both are really good!) I’ve been using these puffed cakes for peanut butter/banana/chocolate things (that I still haven’t figured out a good name for yet….). These spelt and flax seed cakes are really good, especially with chocolate peanut butter and banana on top! Rice cakes can be found in just about any store, and both can be found at Whole Foods and health food stores.
Speaking of chocolate peanut butter…. These things are good to have on hand. The natural nut butters are good in a pinch if you’re on your way out the door and need a bite of something that will tide you over. Peanut butter is a slow-burning protein and fills you up for a while. Just read your labels, and make sure it doesn’t have anything in it other than pulverized nuts!
The cocoa I use in all sorts of things, from making chocolate peanut butter to making chocolate Magic Milkshakes. It’s best to get Dutch processed or dark cocoa powder. With a little Stevia or banana or something else to sweeten it, it gives foods that chocolate kick.
All these things are in your regular grocery store!
Vanilla adds great flavor to foods and makes them seem like they’re a little sweeter than they really are. Just make sure you get the real stuff – READ THE LABELS. You can’t just trust it if it’s called “pure,” because sometimes brands labeled pure still have corn syrup in it! So you have to read the labels. (Trader Joe’s has pure vanilla extract for just $4.99! The McCormicks at the store is usually around $12, so that’s a great price if you have a TJs near you.)
Having nuts on hand to snack and to add to smoothies or Magic Milkshakes is a good idea. They’re filling and a great source of protein, healthy fats, and other things your body loves. Most nuts – especially almonds, brazil nuts, walnuts, and pecans – are known inflammation fighters too! I use a lot of pecans and walnuts for my Stewed Apples with Cinnamon Nut Streusel, and I put almonds in my smoothies all the time because almonds even out blood sugar, and there’s a lot of fruit sugar in smoothies.
On this diet, fruit is your best friend. After you’ve detoxed from the sugar, fruit will taste really sweet to you, so these are what will give you your sweet fix most of the time. And fruits and vegetables are vitally important in fighting inflammation. I constantly have a supply of frozen banana pieces handy for Magic Milkshakes, because that satisfies the craving monster in me more than anything else. I use a ton of apples for Stewed Apples because I try to keep a supply of it on hand since it also helps keep my cravings at bay. I also have a fruit and vegetable smoothie almost daily, so having a good assortment of fruit – fresh or frozen – is important.
12. Veggies. As many veggies as you like to eat.
I always have some dark leafy greens – spinach or kale – for smoothies, as well as cucumbers, carrots, and beets. (If you have enough fruit in your smoothie, I swear you don’t even know they’re there! I promise!) Then whatever vegetables you like to eat on their own, either raw or cooked. Fruits and vegetables are, of course, the number one best way to fight inflammation, so eat lots of them! If you don’t really like vegetables at all, then I strongly suggest you get in the habit of drinking smoothies, because it’s the best way to get a variety of foods in you that you wouldn’t eat otherwise.
13. Butter, coconut oil, and olive oil for cooking and baking
If you use margarine…THROW IT AWAY!!! That’s really awful stuff for you. And most vegetable oils are inflammatory, so if you have a bottle of corn oil in your cabinet, chuck it. Canola oil is technically okay for inflammation, but from a “real food” perspective it’s junk. Between butter, coconut oil, and olive oil, you should be able to make just about anything you want. Other oils that I don’t generally use, but would be fine for you to try if you want, are grapeseed and walnut oils.
Coconut oil isn’t sold in the oil section – I usually find it in the international foods section. It’s solid at room temperature, like butter, and melts when heated. It has a lower melting point than butter. Refined coconut oil has a completely neutral flavor, but unrefined coconut oil tastes more coconutty. Here’s a good article on choosing coconut oil: http://www.foodrenegade.com/how-to-choose-a-good-coconut-oil/
When getting olive oil, look for a container like what I showed above, something that keeps the light out. Olive oil oxidizes really easily when exposed to light, and oxidization is the last thing someone on an anti-inflammation diet needs! But, when properly stored, olive oil is one of the best things you can eat because it’s loaded with inflammation fighting Omega-3 fatty acids (the same stuff that’s in the cod liver oil). (EDIT: apparently a lot of olive oils are diluted with cheaper, unhealthy oils, so be careful. Do some research and make sure you know where it’s coming from.)
There are things that butter, coconut oil, and olive oil don’t work well with. For times when I need to fry at a higher heat, or when I want something that shortening used to give good texture (like biscuits or pie crust) then these come to the rescue. When getting lard, be careful how you source it! Most grocery store lard is hydrogenated and from dubious sources. Ask a butcher you trust if he has any, or render your own lard from pastured pigs. The Palm Shortening is found a lot more commonly than it used to be. I find mine at my regular local grocery store! The label says “vegetable shortening,” which is confusing, but when you read closer you see that it’s made from palm oil. Both these are excellent cooking fats.
This is another option for a cooking fat, if you can find it. Ghee is the clear oil that’s left after butter is heated and the solids fall to the bottom. It’s shelf stable for several months, and can be used to cook at high temperatures without burning, unlike regular butter.
Pretty self explanatory. We love this quick cooking version from Trader Joe’s. It tastes great and takes a fraction of the time to cook!
We love spelt pasta! It tastes similar to whole wheat pasta, but lighter. It’s my favorite of the non-wheat pastas that I’ve tried. You can eat whole wheat pasta if you want (it’s permitted, as long as it’s 100% whole wheat – read the label), but it seems to bother my stomach A LOT now so I stay far away. You can also try gluten free pastas, but make sure it’s not made with a refined flour like white rice or potato. Remember, gluten free does NOT necessarily mean healthy!
Dates, when soaked and pureed, make a great sweetener! They are intensely sweet and don’t have a strong flavor of their own, so the work really well whenever you need something to be a bit sweeter.
Pretty much anything else you’d need you probably already buy. These are just the things that are either unusual or that you really need to focus on. So, go out, stock up, try not to have a heart attack over the sticker shock, and realize that now your pantry is stocked and ready for making just about anything. Or, you can buy them a few at a time if you can’t afford to do it all at once, and just build up your anti-inflammation pantry over time.
However you do it…do it. I found that the biggest way to ensure that I make things that are good for me is for me to easily have the ingredients on hand. If I have to go out special, I’m not as likely to do it. So stock up, and start cooking!