The anti-inflammatory diet, explained: Why you might actually want to do as Tom and Gisele do

A photo posted by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

Thanks to Tom Brady and Gisele’s overly chatty personal chef, the topic of inflammatory food has popped back up in the spotlight. Chef Allen Campbell recently revealed the extreme eating habits of the world’s most beautiful couple (that gene pool, tho), including the elimination of anything that could cause internal inflammation. This revelation had us all wondering if we, too, should adopt an anti-inflammatory (AI) regimen. The answer—yes, according to holistic nutritionist Joy McCarthy, who claims this lifestyle (it’s not a diet, people!) could seriously improve our quality of life. In fact, she claims that personally adopting the regimen helped her to overcome chronic pain issues and even lose some weight. So put down that half-sweetened skim latte (you’ll find out why later) and take notes on the importance of going AI.

The lowdown

Inflammation is an immune reaction that brings more blood cells and fluid to the affected area, causing swelling, heat and redness. We’ve all experienced an injury that led to localized puffiness, right? In this case, the response is both positive and protective. McCarthy explains, “When your body has been injured or exposed to pathogens like bacteria or fungi, inflammation is your body’s way of healing by bringing in white blood cells and boosting blood supply to the injured or damaged area.” But prolonged inflammation means nothing but trouble for our bodies. “When inflammation is triggered by foods, over time it can lead to fatigue, premature aging, weight gain, skin problems and put you at a greater risk for cancer and heart disease,” says McCarthy.

The other inflammatory suspects

Unfortunately, there are other inflammatory enemies besides the food we eat. Emotional stress (i.e. that nasty thing called cortisol) causes inflammation. Physical stress (i.e. working out too hard—yes, that’s a thing) causes inflammation. Being out of shape (i.e. not working out enough—I know, it’s confusing) causes inflammation. Exposure to toxins (i.e. plastics, pesticides, cleaning chemicals, drugs, booze, etc.) causes inflammation. Basically, we live in an inflammatory world.

Symptoms of Inflammation

As mentioned earlier, excess inflammation can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from an overall ickiness (think: fatigue, fogginess and swelling) to chronic joint pain, acne and can even be a precursor for heart disease and cancer. If that doesn’t get your attention, how about the potential for weight gain! According to McCarthy: “Inflammation tends to make the body retain more water due to the increase in white blood cells as one example. This is why some people can be described as looked inflamed, puffy and red faced.” Basically, it’s the reason we sometimes feel awful and bloated and generally disgusting.

Why ridiculously gorgeous people care

In the case of Brady and Bündchen, McCarthy explains why it makes sense they’d want to keep inflammation low. “When the body is in an inflamed state, peak performance of an athlete will not be achievable until the body goes back to a normal healthy state. Same goes with a supermodel. It’s hard to look your best when you are suffering from inflammation. Puffiness in the face, bloated, skin problems can all be the result of inflammation, so keeping these inflammatory chemicals away are key whether you are a supermodel, athlete or regular person who just wants to look and feel their best.”

What to ditch

Not surprisingly, for the most part, when it comes to food, the biggest perpetrators of inflammation are the usual “diet” suspects—think: sugar, gluten, dairy, highly processed or high-fat foods. On the other hand, there are a few things you wouldn’t typically consider “bad for you.” For example, according to Tom and Gisele’s plan, they never consume nightshades, like tomatoes, mushrooms and eggplant. McCarthy adds, “Also, any food that you are sensitive or allergic too will cause an inflammatory response in the body. For example, almonds and strawberries are healthy foods, but if you are allergic or sensitive, these foods will be inflammatory provoking.” Oh, and—brace yourselves—caffeine and alcohol are also not recommended on the AI lifestyle. Damn, so close.

What to hoard

If you’re worried about the excessive nixing, worry not. You can get ahead by adding foods to your diet. McCarthy advises a daily dose of anti-inflammatory foods. As for what to stock the fridge with: anything rich in omega-3s—like walnuts, oily fish and chia seeds. Eating whole grains is beneficial, as well as bright veggies, like dark leafy greens and beets. To spice things up, opt for ginger, turmeric and garlic.

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