Recent studies from around the world reveal that we’re developing food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances faster than ever. “And it may be the number-one reason our best efforts to get healthy keep failing,” says mega-selling Happy Gut ($15.29, Amazon) author Vincent Pedre, MD. “When we make a point to eat more foods we think are good for us — like yogurt or salmon — we can inadvertently trigger system-wide inflammation that blocks weight loss, speeds aging, and drives disease.”
The good news: “It’s easy to identify and avoid your reactive foods. After that, weight loss and health improvements are rapid,” promises food sensitivity expert and author of The Metabolism Plan ($7.50, Amazon) Lyn-Genet Recitas. “Everything from energy and eczema to autoimmune problems get better.” And women report losing up to 16.6 pounds in five days!
Experts agree the most accurate test is an elimination diet. That means you’ll remove potentially problematic foods — like wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, farm-raised fish, deli meats, beans, asparagus, and grapefruit — for a short period, “then reintroduce them one at a time, gauging your body’s response,” explains Dr. Pedre.
Signs you’ve eaten something inflammatory: itchy throat or skin, red cheeks, stuffed nose, headaches, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, or weight gain. “Most people lose half a pound a day when they stop eating inflammatory foods, so gaining even a tenth of a pound is significant,” says Recitas, who suggests daily morning weigh-ins. See signs of a reaction? Avoid that food; otherwise, enjoy it freely. (You can retest foods later to see if your reaction improves as your digestive tract heals.)
Recent Yale research confirms diets that eliminate a person’s reactive foods are highly effective at reducing inflammation. And tests at Baylor University in Texas found that 98 percent of people who stopped eating reactive foods lost significant body fat! Plus, as weight pours off, many chronic problems driven or worsened by inflammation — “IBS, arthritis, diabetes and many more,” says Recitas — begin to disappear.
Tip: Intense exercise causes inflammation while gentle exercise is soothing — so go easy! “It’ll actually help you lose weight faster,” says Recitas.
The Happy Gut Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan — Sample Day
This basic menu is built around foods that Recitas has found seldom cause negative reactions. Use it for a day or two to calm your system, then choose one potentially inflammatory food to test, adding a small serving — like 3 ounces of beef or 1 cup of brown rice — at any sitting.
No reaction? Then add the food to your menus as often as you like. Any itching, tingling, redness, headache, tummy trouble, gas, bloat, diarrhea, brain fog, fatigue, or even a smidge of weight gain is a sign to avoid the food. As always, get a doctor’s okay to try any new plan.
Unsweetened goat milk yogurt or coconut milk yogurt with sliced peaches (or any stone fruit), blueberries (or any berry except strawberries). If you like, top with shredded coconut or pumpkin seeds.
A large bowl of greens topped with your choice of grilled lamb, chickpeas, onions, carrots, zucchini, beets, feta cheese and/or sunflower seeds; dress with olive oil, vinegar, and herbs.
Sliced apple or pear with almond butter or sunflower butter. You can also enjoy baby carrots dipped in avocado pureed with lemon juice and seasonings to taste.
Grilled chicken and sweet potatoes prepared with olive oil; enjoy with a side salad of leafy greens, onions, and carrots dressed with olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings to taste.
Carrot Cake Energy Bombs
A tasty snack or dessert, Recitas’ treats are made from ingredients that rarely cause reactions.
- 1⁄2 cup grated carrots
- 1 cup almonds
- 1⁄2 cup unsweetened coconut
- 2 Tbs. honey
- 2 Tbs. almond butter
- 1 ⁄8 cup chopped candied ginger
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 11⁄2 Tbs. pumpkin pie spice
- In food processor, blitz carrots, almonds and coconut to a paste. Blitz in honey and almond butter. Add spices until just combined. If needed, add water until it’s a dough-like consistency. Form into balls; dust with more coconut. Refrigerate or freeze.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.