A Food Cure for Inflammation
Herbalist Kathy Abascal is on a mission to change the way we eat, with her TQI (“to quiet inflammation”) diet plan.
What led you to create a diet for inflammation?
In my late 50s, I began feeling the effects of aging. My shoulders froze up and I threw my back out, and then I discovered my blood pressure was at the point where they start prescribing medication. Plus, I was gaining weight and unable to lose it.
Did you try other diets?
I’d put on a good 35 pounds during the past decade, and I’d done stints on Weight Watchers twice. But it was the classic yo-yo syndrome of losing weight and then gaining it all back over a period of years. Suddenly, though, I could no longer lose the weight simply by cutting calories. I realized that the weight was just one of the symptoms that my body was having problems—it wasn’t the total problem. So cutting calories wasn’t going to solve my body’s problems, either.
How did your background in biochemistry and as an herbalist come into play?
I’d done a lot of reading and writing about how food and chemicals are processed in the body. And I knew that the components of food affect the organs, tissue, and joints—as well as emotional health—far beyond calorie counting. I focused on reducing inflammation because it’s a factor in all problems the body can have.
Was the TQI diet influenced by other diet plans?
I had done quite a bit of research on other diets and found that even the sound ones mostly focused on one problem. For example, there are diets to increase good omega fats, lower the glycemic index, and cut fat. But I couldn’t find anything that addressed all health issues. I tried to integrate everything I knew into a simple eating strategy to boost the body’s natural powers of healing and staying healthy.
What are the biggest inflammation culprits? And what do you eat to quiet inflammation?
The big three are sugar, chemical [additives], and empty calories like refined grains. One big key to the TQI diet is eating at least twice as many fruits and vegetables as protein and grains.
How long did it take you to feel better, and what did you notice?
I used to wake up with stiff ankles, and that vanished quickly, and then I started sleeping better. I also started losing weight without counting calories, while still eating big quantities of a lot of foods I really enjoy. It took about five months for my blood pressure to come back down and my shoulders to unfreeze.
Since 2007, you’ve taught your diet to thousands of people on Vashon Island and around the Seattle area. How did that happen?
When this way of eating worked for me, I started teaching it as part of the classes I [was already offering] about herb support for medical issues. At first, only three or four people would attend the TQI class, but then it kept growing—mostly by word of mouth—because it really works. Now, about 20 percent of adults on the island have taken the class, and it’s taking off in Seattle and across the country through online classes.
Fill Your Plate
Ready to try the TQI diet? Try these tips from creator Kathy Abascal, who recommends following the plan faithfully for five weeks to see results:
Increase the consumption of antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries and other colorful fruits and vegetables.
Eliminate classic inflammation triggers like sweeteners and alcohol.
Stop eating anything that’s not a whole food, such as MSG, maltodextrin, soy protein isolates, or any highly processed food derivatives.
Eat plenty of foods rich in healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, and seeds.
Balance your consumption of non-recommended omega-6 fats (such as vegetable and corn oil, commerical mayonnaise, and margarine) with omega-3s (like flaxseed and fish oil).
Eat breakfast soon after rising.
Designate specific times of the day for eating, and don’t engage in constant grazing throughout the day.
Eliminate bedtime snacking.
Eliminate and test common causes of food sensitivities, such as dairy and wheat.
Eat your fill and don’t leave the table hungry.
For a great TQI recipe for Walnut-Mushroom Burgers, click here.