It wasn’t until I started running (very) long distances that the need for proper nutrition became clear to me: I needed to reduce inflammation in my body and to do that, I needed to focus on anti-inflammatory foods. The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book by Jessica K. Black, N.D., was the perfect guide, or so it seemed. In preparation for a 100-mile run I devoured her book, underlining sentences that warned me against consuming vegetable oils and low-quality meats while starring sections or recipes that I wanted to come back to at a later time. At 323 pages, a large portion of which are recipes and meal plans, this book is a quick read. Whether you run 100-miles or none at all, this book can help you learn to minimize inflammation and, as Black states, “its consequences.”
The Anti-Inflammation Diet is formatted into two separate parts, the former of which discusses the need for an anti-inflammation diet and the latter of which suggests meals to support an anti-inflammation diet. Black makes the case that our society is moving increasingly away from suppressing the symptoms of diseases and looking towards solving the root causes of our problems. As a licensed naturopathic doctor, Black spends a portion of the first chapter explaining the underlying principles of her job: to do no harm, to identify and treat the cause, and to emphasize prevention, amongst other aspects. This last point, to emphasize prevention, is the keynote of her book.
For those who are not aware of what inflammation is and how it acts in our body, Black explains the what, why, and how inflammation relates to rampant diseases like heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, and insomnia. While the list of foods to avoid is long (“all gluten-containing products, dairy products, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, refined sugar, citrus fruits, commercial eggs, nonorganic meats, shellfish, peanuts, alcohol, coffee, juice, soda, any foods containing hydrogenated oils or high-fructose corn syrup, processed foods, and fried foods”), Black clearly explains why and how these foods contribute to inflammation in our bodies. More importantly, the book focuses on the foods we should be eating to decrease the inflammation that we acquire due to our lifestyles, stress levels, and diet.
For those completely new to providing healthy, colorful meals, The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book works as a solid first step to your new lifestyle. Chapter 5, aptly titled “ How to Use This Book,” provides examples for incorporating positive, worthwhile changes into your life without turning your notion of mealtime upside down. For example, Black suggests how to be prepared, how to modify recipes to fit your new anti-inflammation diet, important ingredients to have on hand, and how to create meal plans for excitement and variability throughout the week. While these are great starter points for those completely new to healthy eating, those with experience in a holistic lifestyle may find this part overly simplified and too basic to be worthwhile.
The last part of the book, Part 2, includes a large section of recipes based on the Anti-Inflammation Diet concepts that Black lays out in Part 1. While not overly fancy, special, or difficult to make, most recipes make good substitutions for classic dishes like mashed potatoes (that use Jerusalem artichokes instead of white potatoes), peanut sauce (that uses unsalted almonds in place of inflammatory peanut butter), and sweet potato fries (made without frying sweet potatoes in carcinogenic vegetable oils). A dessert section even includes a dish for coconut vanilla ice cream made without dairy products but tasting just as, if not more so, delicious. While some recipes I tried fell flat–or, perhaps, bland is a better word–some do stand out as solid supplements to conventional breads, processed soups, and sugary sweets.
The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book is a great read for anyone new to the idea of inflammation and its relation to diet and lifestyle. While lacking in complexity, the simple formatting and straightforward what, why, and how of Black’s book provides an easy-to-follow guide on what to eat and what to avoid for the best chances of avoiding serious health conditions. This book is worth a quick read, even if only to try out a few new recipes.