Inflammatory foods are misunderstood and the truth about food sensitivity

vegan gut health inflammatory food

Do you love onions, but find yourself a little bloated after eating them?

What about pizza and tomato sauce? Do they give you a heartburn every time?

Or maybe just sparkling water or brussels sprouts can make you feel gassy?

It’s likely that you’ve had these symptoms, perhaps with other food, even “healthy food“. You wouldn’t usually connect the mild symptoms to food, and realize they are a distress signal.

This distress signal is usually a sign that your body is rejecting the food and having a hard time digesting it. War is happening and inflammation is the result.

inflammatory foods

Is there a way out? Yes, but you might not like it – Leave out the foods that your body doesn’t like, even if they are your favorite.

However, this list of “To avoid foods” will be different for everyone. There is no one bucket for inflammatory foods. Our bodies respond differently to the same foods.

Maybe your body doesn’t respond well to the “healthy foods” such as olive and garlic, they might even be labeled anti-inflammatory! 

But understand that those labels are based just on their nutritional makeups and the effect on the average population. What might be healthy for others might be inflammatory for you, and vice versa.

Food intolerance, allergy, or sensitivity?

These are three different things.

Food intolerance is when your body lacks certain enzymes to break down certain proteins. An example is lactose intolerance. People who are lactose intolerant lack the lactase enzyme. What’s the solution? Avoid milk and dairy products, substitute with plant milk.

Food allergies and sensitivities are due to an overreacting immune system. Allergies are immediate and can be life-threatening at times. Common food allergies include nuts, eggs, and shellfish.

Food sensitivities are usually milder and can be delayed by hours to days, depending on how much of the suspect food you ingested. Some common symptoms of food sensitivities include: bloating, cramps, sneezing, headache, fatigue, joint or muscle pain. It is easy to miss these symptoms as they are not necessarily related to digestion and therefore linked to food.

Are you sensitive to certain foods?

When people talk about inflammatory foods, what they are really talking about are food sensitivities, not intolerances or allergies.

The tricky part is that food sensitivities can be hard to pinpoint. You can’t just get a skin or blood test, like you can with allergies.

Food sensitivities have symptoms that can vary and be easily confused with other health conditions. But from now on, you can be more mindful and catch some foods that you are sensitive to.


Once you’ve cleaned up your diet and excluded the foods that you are sensitive to, you will naturally feel better and those symptoms will disappear. Next time you get symptoms of sensitivity, think about what foods you ate and do a trial and error style eliminating to see by getting rid of which food, you can avoid the symptoms.

Trial and error? Wouldn’t this take forever?

Well, nailing down the best foods for your unique body is not an easy job!

But, there are some obvious foods that doctors agree on you should reduce or eliminate. So you can start with these:

  • sugar, syrup, soft drinks
  • refined carbs (white breads, white rice, refined pasta)
  • fried foods, even if it’s king oster mushrooms fried with olive oil!
  • all kinds of fats and oil

junk processed food

Once you’ve cut out this obvious list, you will likely feel a lot better already. But like I said, even on the “healthy foods” list, there might be foods that your particular body doesn’t cope well with.

Now is time to really pay close attention to any symptoms after eating particular foods. You’ll find yourself being a detective, sorting through every little thing that you put in your body. Don’t be frustrated, you are doing your body a huge favor.

A food diary really helps! You can find a “Food, Symptom and Mood Diary” on our Resources page. Write everything down, even if you think they are unlikely. Every food is innocent until proven guilty, so even the “healthiest” food should not be ruled out. Remember, if it is considered healthy, but doesn’t work well with your body, then it is not good for you and don’t force yourself to eat it.

What’s labeled “superfood”, “healthfood” out there, may have some nutrition evidence, but keep in mind – they are out their also because they are profitable! Just look at coconut oil, it was claimed to be a “superfood” for so many health problems, yet after more research, it turns out it’s just another fad. I have a blog on this called “Why can’t food scientists agree on coconut oil?” if you want to read more.

Being a detective in your own life

Don’t focus on the hard efforts you have to put in each day to keep track of all the food, instead, focus on how much better your body feels after eliminating the foods you are sensitive too. You are going to be in this detective game for a while, but not forever. Soon you will find yourself more energetic and less grumpy.

Of course, don’t end up at the conclusion that your body loves chips, meats, processed foods because you feel awesome after eating them. The natural body reactions we are talking about in this article DO NOT equal addictive feelings! You know that those processed foods are there to trigger the reward center in your brain and overwrite the true responses. Eliminate them without a question!

Over time, your plate should look whole food and plant based. Your body will heal as you make these changes. Your goal is to feed yourself the right foods that really nurture your body and mind, to prevent chronic inflammation, the crappy feelings it brings. Chronic inflammation is the root cause for many long-term diseases, so don’t overlook the mild symptoms!

Start paying attention to what you put in your mouth. And feel free to let our dietitian take a look at your food diary!

happy healthy energetic plant based vegan

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About the author
healthy vegan palette writer Rainie

Rainie is a health, fitness and nutrition enthusiastic. She studied a bachelor of Biomedical Sciences degree to learn all about the human body and continued to pursue higher research training in a neuroscience laboratory to investigate how the brain develops. Rainie is now using the research skills she learned in the science degree to bring evidence-based nutrition practice to more health-conscious people.


How much protein do you need and where to get it on a vegan diet? Myths and tips

vegan protein

Does it drive you nuts the second someone tells you to eat more protein and not let your muscles waste away on a vegan diet?

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Well, next time someone is bugging you about muscle wastage, just show them these amazing vegan athletes! Mac Danzig, the vegan martial artist; Scott Jurek, the ultramarathon runner; Carl Lewis, the Olympic sprinter; Tia Blanco, the vegan surfer … The list goes on and believe it or not, they all switched from meat and dairy to plants!

So what’s the truth? Do vegans get enough protein? From where? Is it possible to have muscle gains on a vegan diet?

This article is the result of hours of literature research so that every piece of information is accurate and accountable. We hope it helps you out.

The health benefits of a plant-based diet

Extensive research has shown that a plant-based diet is undeniably good for our health. It could stave off the typical modern diseases such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, heart diseases, diabetes, obesity and even some forms of cancer!

Unlike animal foods, plant foods are naturally low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. Instead, they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and thousands of other phytonutrients. Some of them are disease-fighting, anti-aging compounds unique to the plant kingdom.

Did you know that what we feed to the gut is also so crucial to the microbes in our digestive tract and largely determines the metabolites they produce? When animal products make up the bulk of your diet, inflammatory metabolites could be produced and lead to inflammation. Research has shown that the production of a detrimental compound, TMAO, increases from consuming high animal proteins and salt. Increased TMAO is associated with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and vascular dementia. In contrast, fibre has been shown to reduce TMAO and protect against heart diseases! To read original science articles on this, just go to the references section.

Can a vegan diet provide enough protein?

Okay okay plants are good. But can I get enough protein for muscle building? Can plants really fuel my workouts and recovery?

At the end of the day, you could build muscle on any diet, as long as you consume adequate and high quality calories, combined with exercise routines.

So, where can you get proteins?

Beans, lentils, tofu, soy products, nuts and seeds generally contain the most proteins. Some grains including quinoa, millet and amaranth also provide some protein.

Image result for plant protein per 100g


How much protein do I need everyday?

If you are thinking, these plant foods can hardly keep me full, how can they possibly provide all the protein for athletic performance?

Well the truth is: A vegan diet can easily meet the protein needs in your body. And the good news is – You can easily calculate it online with a simple tool Vegan Protein Calculator.

I just quickly ran my data on the calculator and got some back my results within seconds!

2 methods were used to calculate the protein requirements to give a better indication of how much I need. The first method is based on calories but not athletic goals, whereas the second is based on body weight, a common method used by athletes.

So combining the 2 methods, I should aim for 70 to 95 grams of protein per day, with a minimum of 49 grams.

Now that I know exactly how much protein I need, where do I find them? Easy – just use the Plant protein chart above to plan out your meals. In the beginning, you might find it a chore, but I guarantee you that once you get into the habit of doing it, it hardly takes any effort!

A nice bonus that comes with this very handy protein calculator is that it also tells me all about how many calories I need to consume on a rest day or a workout day.

In order for protein to support muscle health, meeting daily calorie requirement is necessary. Otherwise, some of the protein in the diet will be used to fuel basic bodily functions rather than muscle building and repair.

What about “Protein quality” and “Complete protein” ?

Wait, what? Proteins aren’t all the same?

YES. Proteins are not all the same because they are made up of different combinations of amino acids – the building blocks of protein. You might have heard of the term “Complete Protein”. One common misconception regarding vegan diet is that plant foods don’t provide the whole suite of amino acids.

OK. What’s the real truth here? There are 20 amino acids that make up the building blocks of protein.  The good news is that our body makes 11 of them from existing molecules in our body, so we only need make sure we consume the rest the nine that our body cannot make. The nine amino acids that we need to get from our diet are called the essential amino acids.

As Dr. Gregor points out in the video “The Protein Combining Myth“, the only “incomplete protein” in the food chain is gelatin as it is missing one amino acid, Tryptophan. Therefore, as long as you are consuming sufficient calories, you don’t need to worry about the protein deficiency myth at all.

As for any other nutrient deficiency, this rule of thumb applies – We need to eat a variety of foods. At the end of the day, we get all of the amino acids and other nutrients we need from the whole bunch of foods we eat. This is exactly why Vegan Palette is called this name – We want your food plate to be like a palette with a variety of foods. 

Is there still a need for protein combining?

The myth that plant proteins are incomplete, is completely misleading. As such, there really isn’t a need to deliberately combine proteins. Plus, our body has a powerful system of recycling amino acids and converting among them to make sure we have a balanced pool of all amino acids at all times. This is an excellent example of how our body maintains Homeostasis.


In summary, plant proteins are in no way inferior to animal proteins. Plus, Plant proteins also don’t have the same pro-inflammatory and cancer-promoting effects as animal proteins. If you stick to the rule of “Palette”, and have a wide variety of healthy whole foods, your body will happily thrive and let you accomplish bigger things.

Are you now more confident that you can meet all protein requirement now? Have you tried the Super handy tool Vegan Protein Calculator yet?


Let us know how your gut health journey goes from here. Comment below what you liked about this article, and what topic you would like us to cover next! 


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1. Nowinski A & Ufnal M. (2018). Trimethylamine N-oxide: A harmful, protective or diagnostic marker in lifestyle diseases? Nutrition 46: 7 – 12.

2. Kruger R, Merz B, Rist MJ, et al. (2017). Associations of current diet with plasma and urine TMAO in the KarMeN study: direct and indirect contributions. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research 61(11).

3. Cho CE, & Caudill MA. (2017). Trimethylamine-N-Oxide: Friend, foe, or simply caught in the cross-fire? Trends in Endocrinolology & Metabolism: 28(2): 121-130.

4. Koeth RA, Wang Z, Levison BS, et al. (2013). Intestinal microbiota metabolism of L-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis. Nat Med 19(5):576-585.

5. Li Q, Wu T, Liu R, et al. (2017). Soluble dietary fiber reduces trimethylamine metabolism via gut microbiota and co-regulates host AMPK pathways. Molecular Nutrition Food Research 61(12).


About the author


Raymond Setiadi is an Australian Accredited Practising Dietitian and is the founder of Vegan Palette,  a Brisbane-based dietitian practice.

As an expert in whole food plant-based nutrition and fat loss strategies, Raymond has a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between food,  human physiology, goal-directed psychology, and how they all play a pivotal role in one’s pursuit of optimal health.