What Is AIP?
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet is a food-based approach focused on reducing inflammation and other symptoms associated with autoimmune disorders (conditions which cause your immune system to attack healthy tissues by accident). Common symptoms people wish to reduce are inflammation, fatigue, pain, and / or swelling. The goal is to focus on unprocessed, natural foods rich in vitamins and other nutrients, and cut out food groups which may commonly cause allergic reactions / inflammation.
What is the difference between AIP and Paleo?
Both diets are similar in the fact that you are focusing on unprocessed, natural foods, and how they make you feel. However, AIP is meant to be short term, with food groups slowly introduced back, to identify what may be causing the various symptoms. It is much more restrictive but is not meant to be done permanently. Paleo is a long-term dietary shift about getting away from processed, pre-packaged foods, and has a lot more flexibility in what you are able to eat. Many food groups which are allowed on Paleo, are restricted temporarily during AIP. Once food groups are slowly added back, a surge in returning symptoms would indicate this food may be contributing to it.
Why go AIP?
Part of why people love the AIP diet is that it quickly eliminates many foods which may be causing inflammation, swelling, pain, digestive issues, or other common but unpleasant symptoms of an autoimmune reaction. The diet is not permanent; you will get back many of these foods you love! If one is causing your body problems however, this is the time to narrow it down and weed it out.
One great thing about this diet is that more fruits and veggies means more fiber; which is important for good digestive health. Some want to improve their “leaky gut”, or try to improve another unpleasant digestive issue or inflammation. Refined grains have cut out the fiber you usually find in fruits, but keep the sugar content. Fiber also helps you feel fuller (preventing accidental over-eating), and improves blood sugar control. It lets you digest and process your food more slowly; the fiber in your fruit helps slow down how fast your blood sugar raises. Removing highly processed and inflammatory foods from your diet lets you focus in on more natural ingredients (such as fruits and veggies), which means more fiber, vitamins and minerals. People have said to feel more mental alertness and clarity, and more energetic overall!
Processed foods can contain a lot of refined sugar, cholesterol, and trans fats; replacing these with lean meats, fruit / veggies, and healthy fats, means more omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats, lower cholesterol and overall better heart health.
Instead of focusing on weight or calories, the AIP diet aims to let narrow down which foods may not mesh well with your body, and experience the benefits of natural, unprocessed foods!
What to eat on a AIP diet?
In short, if your ancestors could hunt or gather it, it is allowed. Here is a list of the foods that can be enjoyed on an AIP diet:
- Meat (Check for any off-limits preservatives!
- Permitted fruits; apples, apricots, avocado, bananas / plantains, blueberries, blackberry, cherries, clementines, cranberry, figs, guava, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, lemons, limes, mango, melons, nectarine, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, pomegranate, raspberry, strawberry, tangerine, and watermelon.
- Permitted veggies; artichoke, arugula, asparagus, avocado, beets, broccoli, broccoli rabe, brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard, collard greens, cucumber, dandelion greens, fennel root, green cabbage, green beans, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms (all types), mustard greens, okra, onions, radish, shallot, scallion, spinach, summer squash, turnips, water chestnuts, watercress, and zucchini.
- Permitted herbs & spices (those not coming from seeds or nightshades); basil, bay leaf, chives, cilantro, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, mint, parsley, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme, turmeric.
- Permitted natural fats / oils, unrefined and unprocessed; meat-based fats; lard, tallow etc., and certain specific vegetable oils (avocado, coconut, olive and palm oils).
- Permitted natural sweeteners; maple syrup, honey, cane sugar, coconut sugar, date syrup.
- Most teas; peppermint, ginger, lemongrass, spearmint, chamomile, rooibos, lavender, cinnamon, and milk thistle. Black and green tea, in moderation.
- Nightshades; tomato, potatoes, peppers (bell, sweet, cayenne, jalapeno, chili, etc.), ashwaganda, cape gooseberries, eggplant, garden huckleberries, goji berries, ground cherries, pimentos (including the kind stuffed into olives), tamarillos, tomatillos.
- Grains; wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, bulgur, sorghum, sprouted grains. **any additives made from these (brans, starches, germs) are also off-limits.
- Legumes; all beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, peanuts (sorry, no peanut butter or hummus!), and all forms of soy.
- All treenuts and seeds; almonds, brazil nuts, canola, cashews, chia, coffee, cocoa, chestnuts, flax, hazelnuts, hemp, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, pumpkin, safflower, sesame, sunflower, walnuts. **Any oils, flours, butters, or other products made from these are also off-limits.
- Spices derived from Seeds or Nightshades; Allspice, anise, annatto, caraway, cumin, celery seed, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, mustard, nutmeg, any peppers, paprika, poppyseed.
- Dairy and all dairy products (cow, goat, and sheep’s milk products)
- Eggs from all animals
- Refined vegetable oils, or oils made from any Off-Limits ingredients (such as peanut or corn oil)
- Most added natural / artificial sugars and sweeteners; including but not limited to; brown and white sugar, any -ose syrups (ex. Glucose syrup), agave nectar, xylitol, erythritol, monk fruit extract, stevia, Splenda etc.
- Alcohol in any form (even as a cooking ingredient).
- Most common food additives such as carrageenan, MSG, or sulfites (other than those naturally occurring in garlic, onions etc.)
AIP Helpful Tips / Tricks
- This diet works best if you cut out all Off-Limits food groups cold turkey, and maintain the diet strictly for at least a few weeks, or until you believe your inflammatory symptoms have subsided. Then, food groups can slowly be introduced back one by one.
- When introducing foods back into your diet, do this one-by-one, waiting some time in between. This will allow you to see if adding one back coincides with any symptoms returning.
- Do NOT weigh yourself! Weight loss is desired by many when seeking out a diet, but that is not the main focus here. Instead, focus on how you feel when you remove these food groups, as well as how you feel when introducing them back into your diet.
- Cook as much as you can! Reading through every ingredient in pre-made foods is tricky. The easiest approach is to begin with basic, clean, natural ingredients, and cook something exciting and delicious!
- Season, season, season! Many spices and herbs are not off limits, so don’t be afraid to spice up your life and experiment!
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