Ultimate guide

The Ultimate Guide to the AIP Diet

In the last decade, the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet has gained significant popularity, with more and more people adopting it to help treat their autoimmune conditions. Proponents of the diet claim it also helps them improve their energy levels.

But are these benefits scientifically proven? And is the protocol safe?

In this guide, we’ll dive into the basics of the autoimmune protocol diet, including what it is, what foods are included in the diet, and what to expect when you go on the protocol.

Where did the AIP diet come from?

The AIP diet is the natural outgrowth of decades of thought about how our modern diet impacts our health.

In 1975, gastroenterologist Walter L. Voegtlin published a book called The Stone Age Diet. Dr. Voegtlin believed that humans evolve too slowly to keep up with rapid changes in our environment. This idea, known as the evolutionary discordance hypothesis, posits that while the modern diet has changed greatly, genetically our bodies are stuck in the Stone Age, or Paleolithic era. According to this hypothesis, for optimum health we should eat the way our ancient ancestors did.

Later authors built on the evolutionary discordance hypothesis:

  • In 2002, exercise physiologist Loren Cordain coined a popular new term when he published his book, The Paleo Diet.
  • In 2010, research biochemist turned personal trainer Robb Wolf came out with his book The Paleo Solution, promoting the idea of preventing and treating disease by following the paleo diet.
  • In 2014 Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, a PhD level researcher who has become a well-known proponent of the paleo diet, published her book The Paleo Approach. Dr. Ballentyne focuses specifically on using diet to treat autoimmune disorders.

The autoimmune protocol diet is considered an offshoot of the paleo diet. It is designed to remove foods that can trigger an immune system response, possibly leading to inflammation and autoimmune disease.

What is the AIP diet?

The autoimmune protocol diet is an extension of the paleolithic diet with an autoimmune twist. Similar to the paleo diet, the AIP diet has an initial elimination phase, in which food groups that are considered problematic are removed from the diet.

The AIP diet removes:

  • Legumes
  • Grains
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Alcohol
  • Nightshades
  • Coffee
  • Food additives
  • Refined sugars
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Highly processed industrial seed oils

The autoimmune protocol diet is an extension of the paleolithic diet with an autoimmune twist. Similar to the paleo diet, the AIP diet has an initial elimination phase, in which food groups that are considered problematic are removed from the diet.

The 3 phases of the AIP diet

The AIP diet is intended to be broken down into three phases:

01 — Elimination

The Elimination Phase

During the initial phase foods, food additives, and medications that may cause inflammation, allergic reactions, or imbalance in the gut microbiome (dysbiosis) are eliminated from the diet. Many of these foods are implicated in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). (Source)

02 — Reintroduction

The Reintroduction Phase

This phase involves systematic reintroduction of eliminated foods to allow the individual to identify unique food groups that cause their symptoms and aggravate diseases, and to see which food groups are problematic for them. (Source)

This process is also called an elimination-provocation challenge. After the challenge is completed, the individual will have a list of their most problematic foods, or triggers. Avoiding these triggers may help alleviate disease symptoms.

03 — Personalization

The Personalization Phase

The personalization phase is designed to be specific to the individual in order to improve their symptoms and well-being. The purpose is to avoid foods that can trigger intestinal inflammation and other symptoms. (Source)

Why follow the AIP diet?

The AIP diet may be helpful for people with autoimmune diseases. The main goal of the diet is to nourish the body and improve its ability to heal itself. Like the paleo diet, the AIP diet emphasizes whole foods and nutrient-dense sources of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. It also places a strong emphasis on antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods. It is possible this lifestyle intervention may prevent the need for medications for some autoimmune conditions.

What is the connection between autoimmune disorders and the AIP diet?

Autoimmune disorders occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body, causing inflammation that can damage tissues and organs. Autoimmune disorders can occur at any age and affect both males and females, but they are most common in women. Although the exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown, it is thought that genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices play roles. (Source)

One environmental factor — and lifestyle choice — that is under your control is your diet. Following the AIP diet may help you manage your autoimmune disease symptoms. (Source)

How does AIP affect autoimmune diseases?

There is evidence to suggest the AIP diet may help alleviate symptoms, improve quality of life, and promote healing in people with autoimmune disease. Studies report that some participants notice positive changes within the first four weeks of the elimination diet. (Source)

Following the AIP diet may be beneficial for these autoimmune diseases:

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

These gastrointestinal disorders include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The use of dietary modification via AIP diet, along with IBD therapy, has been shown to be effective at treating IBD. (Source)

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

A study published in the journal Cureus found an online, community-based AIP diet and lifestyle program improved quality of life and symptoms for middle-aged women with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. There were no statistically significant changes in thyroid functions or thyroid hormones, but AIP may have decreased systemic inflammation. (Source)


Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease. Nutrition is suggested as a key factor for development of psoriasis, and patients are advised to follow a balanced diet with sufficient intake of fish and dietary fiber. Dietary changes for psoriasis should supplement first-line treatments including medications. (Source)


This autoimmune disease and its associated inflammation may be modulated by diet. While more study is needed, evidence suggests lupus symptoms may be reduced by restricting calories while emphasizing intake of polyunsaturated fats, protein, fiber, and vitamins. (Source)

Multiple sclerosis

Factors such as diet may impact the development and severity of symptoms of the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis. (Source)

What are foods to avoid during the elimination phase?

The first phase of the AIP diet requires elimination of a large number of foods that are part of a typical Western diet. Included are foods that may be pro-inflammatory, may upset the balance of the gut microbiome, or are common allergens. Many of these foods are also highly nutritious and are recommended in the personalization phase of the AIP diet for those who can tolerate them.

Here are the food groups included in the AIP elimination phase, along with the rationale behind each elimination:

Legumes: Lentils, beans, peas, peanuts

Legumes are high in lectins and saponins, substances that are commonly consumed in a wide variety of foods. They are excluded during the AIP elimination phase because research suggests they have the ability to harm cells that line the intestinal tract and upset the balance of the microbiome. (Source)

Highly-processed industrial seed oils

It’s well known that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are good for health, but an unbalanced ratio of the two kinds is believed to be pro-inflammatory. Unprocessed oils with a healthier omega-3 to omega-6 ratio can be added back to the diet during the reintroduction phase. (Source)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do, as the name suggests, reduce inflammation. However, they can also be hard on the gastrointestinal tract and have the potential to disrupt the intestinal barrier. (Source)

Grains: Rice, wheat, oat

Grains are considered to have the same kind of potentially harmful effects as legumes and are included in the elimination phase for the same reasons.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds have many nutritional benefits, but allergies to them are common enough that they naturally have a place in an elimination diet. Many people are able to successfully reintroduce at least some nuts and seeds to their diet.

Refined or processed sugars such as white sugar and brown sugar

Consumption of processed sugars has long been shown to contribute to inflammation and chronic conditions such as heart disease and obesity, but more recently it has been correlated with exacerbation of autoimmune diseases such as lupus. (Source)

Nightshade vegetables: Eggplants, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes

Citrus and nightshade vegetables are suggested to generate sensitivities in large proportions of the population. Eggplants, tomatoes, and potatoes may contain solanine, which may increase intestinal permeability and be detrimental to certain diseases. (Source, Source)

Food additives

The effects on the intestinal tract of common additives including guar and xanthan gums, carrageenan, and lecithin have been studied for years with few hard conclusions. A new study in the journal Microbiome reports evidence that many emulsifiers have detrimental effects on the gut microbiome and promote intestinal inflammation. (Source)


Studies have found alcohol may both encourage growth of harmful microbes in the gut and disrupt the intestinal lining. Alcohol intoxication also increases the risk of IBD. (Source, Source, Source)


Choline and carnitine, which are present in dairy, are metabolized by the bacterium Prevotella copri into pro-inflammatory substances. (Source)

Non-nutritive sweeteners: Aspartame, stevia, and others

Non-nutritive sweeteners, which have few if any calories, are often promoted as healthier alternatives to calorie-rich sugars. In vitro lab studies have suggested that these sweeteners, which bind to taste receptors located throughout the body, may affect hormone secretion. In vivo studies, however, have not confirmed this occurs in humans, and more research is needed. (Source)


Choline and carnitine are also present in eggs. Eggs are also high in fat. A high-fat diet has been shown to have a detrimental effect on autoimmune diseases. (Source)

What are the best foods for the AIP diet?

The foods included in the AIP diet are intended to maximize nutritional value while minimizing autoimmune and inflammation triggers.

Vegetables (except for nightshades), algae, and fresh fruits

Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, which helps control blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. However, too much fiber intake may lead to low absorption of nutrients. Polyphenols, especially flavonoids, are bioactive components found in fruits, vegetables, and tea that have a beneficial impact on gut microbiota.

High-quality animal and seafood proteins

In the context of the AIP diet, meat is considered nutritionally dense with a healthy ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is recommended to choose grass-fed beef, bone broth, and organ meats, and to avoid processed meats, which may contain additives.

Fermented foods and beverages

Microbial activity helps increase the bioavailability of nutrients in fermented foods. They are especially rich in probiotics, which help keep the gut microbiome healthy and may help reduce inflammation. (Source, Source)

Omega-3 fatty acids

Fatty acids are antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral, and medium-chain triglycerides in fatty acids such as coconut oil aid in nutrient absorption. They’ve also been shown to be particularly beneficial for managing gastrointestinal disorders, which may help reduce inflammation. The main sources of omega-3 fatty acids are cold-water fish such as wild-caught salmon, sardines, and mackerel. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation, but further testing must be done to see if there’s any benefit for those with autoimmune diseases. (Source, Source, Source)

Green and black tea

Green tea and its active ingredient, EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), are anti-inflammatory and have been shown to improve symptoms and decrease the severity in animal models with autoimmune disease. (Source)

Minimally processed vegetable oils: Coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil

Studies show these oils have an overall beneficial effect on autoimmune diseases. (Source)

Is the AIP Diet effective?

More studies are needed to fully investigate the influence of a paleolithic-style diet, but the research done so far suggests that, overall, the diet can have a positive effect on health.

The paleolithic diet can elevate levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol. HDL is known to have antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects that help protect against autoimmune and other diseases. (Source)

The AIP diet may also help heal a leaky gut, which arises from increased permeability of the intestinal epithelial lining. A leaky gut may allow bacteria and other unwanted substances to pass from the intestines into the bloodstream, leading to an autoimmune reaction. This can then be treated with antibiotics or the AIP diet. (Source, Source)

What are the best foods for the AIP diet?

The AIP diet is safe overall, given that its aim is to cut out foods that are inflammatory triggers. However, the large numbers of foods that are excluded mean there are some concerns to be aware of.

Low carbohydrate intake

The AIP diet is not intended as a low carbohydrate diet. However, the removal of grains without realizing what vegetable intake is necessary to maintain a healthy level of carbohydrates causes low carbohydrate intake. A lack of carbohydrates, especially complex carbohydrates, can deprive you of highly beneficial nutrients and fiber. (Source)

Increased saturated fats

Research has shown that high-saturated intake can be problematic, especially in certain populations. However, moderate total fat intake, as is encouraged with the AIP framework, is beneficial for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as helping to prevent a variety of health concerns related to healthy cell membrane formation. (Source)

The Bottom Line on the AIP Diet

The AIP diet, which is more restrictive than the paleo diet, is meant to help reduce inflammation and symptoms of autoimmune diseases. After the elimination and reintroduction phases of the diet, a personalized diet plan can be designed that suits individual needs. More research into the efficacy of the AIP diet for managing autoimmune symptoms is needed, but studies so far show promise. Our Nutritional Therapy Practitioners can help you determine whether the AIP diet is right for you — explore our high-touch care pathways here.

Tips & Tricks

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The Ultimate Guide To Phytonutrients

Lycopene is the phytochemical that gives fruits and vegetables their red color. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties that protect the body from oxidative stress. Lycopene has also been found to decrease “bad” low density lipoprotein (LDL) and increase “good” high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Lycopene may also protect the skin against ultraviolet (UV) damage from the sun. One small study found that participants who added 16milligrams of lycopene to their diet every day had less severe skin reactions to UV light over 10 weeks than a control group without the added lycopene. (Of course, consumption of lycopene-rich foods doesn’t replace sunscreen!)

AIP-Compliant Red Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Blood Orange
flavonoids, hesperidin, isohesperidin, limonene, limonin, lycopene, naringin, terpenio
anthocyanin, flavonoids, hydro-xycinnamates
anthocyanin, catechins, ellagic acid, hippuric acid, kaempferol, lycopene, triterpenoids, quercetin, quinic acid
beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, polyphenois
anthocyanin, cyanidin, ellagic acid, lycopene
Red Grape
anthocyanin, cyanidin, ellagic acid, flavonols, kaempferol, lycopene, myricetin, peonidin, quercetin, resveratrol
Pink Guava
alkaloids, ellagic acid, lycopene
Red/Pink Grapefruit
beta cryptoxanthin, lycopene, naringin, narirutin, ponciri
Red Onion
copaene, flavonols, lycopene, polysulfides, quercetin, vinyldithiins
Red Beet
betacyanin, flavonoids, lycopene, phenolic acids
Other Red Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
beta-carotene, kaempferol, lycopene, rutin
Red Bell Pepper
anthocyanin, capsaicinoid, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, canthaxanthin, lycopene, tocopherols
Red Potato
alpha linoleic acid, anthocyanin, flavonoids, polyphenols, tocopherols
beta-carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin

Ways to incorporate more red foods into your diet

  • Add red-colored fruits and vegetables to salads.
  • Opt for red pasta sauces made from tomatoes instead of carbonara or Alfredo sauce. Red sauces can also be used as toppings for other dishes!
  • Have salsa as a dip alongside tortilla chips or eggs, or on top of potatoes.
  • Make a juice using lycopene-rich foods.
  • Add some goji berries to your chrysanthemum, chamomile, or any other tea.

Phytonutrients in Orange Foods

Carotenoids are responsible for yellow, orange, and red color in many fruits and vegetables. Research suggests that one carotenoid in particular, beta-carotene, may protect against decline in lung function. A study done in 2017 also suggested that eating fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids such as beta-carotene, alpha-carotene ,and beta-cryptoxanth in had protective effects against lung cancer.
Like lycopene, dietary intake of beta-carotene has protective effects against diseases that are mediated by oxidative stress, such as diabetes, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. High levels of alpha carotene are associated with longevity — one large U.S. study found that high levels of alpha-carotene in the blood were linked with a reduced risk of death over a 14 year period. Aside from its antioxidant effects, the carotenoid beta-cryptoxanthin may prevent bone loss and may have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.

AIP-Compliant Orange Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
beta-carotene, lycopene, rutin, tartaric acid
Butternut Squash
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, phenolic acids, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, gallic acid, kaempferol, lutein, zeaxanthin
alpha-carotene, beta-carotenes, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, lycopene
Mandarin Oranges
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, lutein, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-glucogallin, ellagicacid, quercetin
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, hesperidin, isohesperidin, naringin, terpineol, limonene, limonin
beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin
alpha-carotene, anthocyanidins, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, phenolic acids, rutin
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, catechin, kaempferol, proanthocyanidins, quercetin, triterpenoid
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, phenolic acids, phytic acid, zeaxanthin
Sea Buckthorn
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, quercetin, zeaxanthin
Sweet potato
alkaloids, anthocyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, oxalic acid, phenolic acids
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, tangeritin, zeaxanthin
curcumin, curcumenol, demethoxycurcumin, eugenol, turmerin, turmerones, zingiberene
Winter Squash
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin
alkaloids, beta-carotene, flavonoids, phenol
Other Orange Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Orange Lentils
beta-carotene, flavonoids, phytic acid, tocopherols, flavonols
Orange Bell Pepper
beta-carotene, lycopene, capsaicinoid, lycopene, phenols

Ways to incorporate more orange foods into your diet

  • Have a baked sweet potato instead of white potato
  • Add turmeric powder to stir-fries, or make a warm cup of ginger and turmeric tea.
  • Have orange-colored foods as a snack throughout the day, such as tangerines, papaya, or peaches
  • Make a pumpkin, butternut squash, or carrot soup.
  • Make a smoothie out of orange-colored foods

Phytonutrients in Yellow Foods

Lutein and zeaxanthin are also part of the carotenoid family, along with beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only dietary carotenoids that reach the retina, the thin layer of tissue that lines the inside on the back of the eye. They are known to support eye health and have preventative effects against age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that can lead to the loss of vision as we age. However, lutein and zeaxanthin also have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capabilities. Zeaxanthin can also help to recycle glutathione, another important antioxidant in the body. (9, 15)

AIP-Compliant Yellow Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Yellow Apple
catechin, chlorogenicacid, flavonols, quercetin, rutin
beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, tartaric acid
beta-carotene, lutein, oxalic acid, zeaxanthin
Golden Beet
beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, lutein, phenolic acids, zeaxanthin, flavonoids
Yellow Cauliflower
beta-carotene, polyphenols, protocatechuic acid, quercetin
Yellow Dragon Fruit
betacyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, lutein, phenolic acid, zeaxanthin, phenolic acid
alpha-carotene, anthocyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, lutein, polyphenols, zeaxanthin
alkaloids, betacarotene, biolaxantin, gallicacid, neoxanthin, quercetin, terpenoids, zeaxanthin
gingerol, monoterpenes, oxalicacid, quercetin
Golden Kiwi
beta-carotene, betacryptoxanthin, caffeicacid, chlorogenicacid, lutein, phenolics, quinic acid, zeaxanthin
alkaloids, alphacarotene, betacarotene, flavonoids, lignans, lutein, phenolics, terpenoids, zeaxanthin
alkaloids, betacryptoxanthin, flavonoids, phenols, quinines, rutin, terpenoids
anthocyanin, betacarotene, phenols
Yellow Pear
beta-carotenecaffeic acid, pectin, quercetin, tocopherols
anthocyanin, betacryptoxanthin, lutein
Rutabaga/Swedish Turnip
beta-carotene, indole 3-carbinol, lutein, luteolin
Summer Squash
beta-carotene, betacryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin
Star Fruit
alkaloids, flavonoids, phenolics, phytofluene
alkaloids, betacarotene, betacryptoxanthin, chlorogenic acid
beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
Yellow Watermelon
beta-carotene, betacryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin
Yellow Zucchini
alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
Other Yellow Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Yellow Bell Pepper
beta-carotene, capsaicinoid, lutein, phenols, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, phenolic acids
beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid
Yellow Potatoes
beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, phenols, anthocyanin

Ways to incorporate more yellow foods into your diet

  • Add diced yellow bell peppers and corn to your stir-fry.
  • Make honey and lemon tea.
  • Make stove-top popcorn with healthy fats such as olive oil and coconut oil.
  • Roast, bake, or mash yellow (Yukon) potatoes instead of white potatoes.
  • Use bananas to make banana pancakes and bread.
  • Slide some banana into your oatmeal.
  • Blend frozen pineapple, almond milk, and honey or maple syrup to make pineapple sorbet.

Phytonutrients in Green Foods

Dark green, leafy cruciferous vegetables are a good source of sulfur (isocyanate, sulforaphane, glucosinolate). Our body needs sulfur in order to synthesize certain essential proteins. These sulfur compounds break down into isothiocyanates and indoles in the gut, which are known to have antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory effects. (36, 52, 33)

Research suggests that sulforaphane may support heart health by reducing inflammation and lowering blood pressure. It may also have antidiabetic effects. One study found that sulforaphane reduced fasting blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes. (55, 41, 47)

Glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate that’s found in some cruciferous vegetables, has been found to protect the blood–brain barrier in mice with induced experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (used to study MS, which can’t be induced in the same way), suggesting it may reduce the risk of developing MS. (16, 40)

AIP-Compliant Green Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
cynarin, gallic acid, quercetin, rutin, silymarin
glucosinolates,indole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, thiocyanates, zeaxanthin
lycopene, rutin, glutathione, quercetin, caffeicacid, kaempferol, ferulic acid
Bitter Gourd
anthraquinones, beta-carotene, glucosinolates, isoflavones, lutein, phenolic acids, sterol,
Bok Choy
beta-carotene, flavonoids, glucosinolates, kaempferol, lutein
alpha-carotene, betacarotene, glucosinolates, kaempferol, lutein, sulforaphane
Brussel Sprouts
indole-3-carbinol, isoflavonoids, isothiocyanate, kaempferol, lutein, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, chlorogenic acid,indole-3-carbinol,lutein, sulforaphane, tocophero
beta-carotene, lutein,indole-3-carbinol, isothiocyanates, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin
Gai Lan/Chinese Broccoli/kale
beta-carotene, carbinol, chlorophyll, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
Honeydew Melon
beta-carotene, caffeicacid, ellagic acid,ferulic acid, gallicacid, kaempferol, lutein, terpenes
glucosinolates, lutein, polysulfides, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinol, kaempferol, lutein, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, lutein
anthocyanin, beta-carotene, glucosinolates, isothiocyanate
allicin, alliin, betacarotene, gallic acid, isothiocyanate, kaempferol, lutein
beta-carotene, chlorophyll, lutein, zeaxanthin
Mustard Greens
glucosinolate, betacarotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, phenolicacids, anthocyanin
beta-carotene, chlorophyll, flavonoids, lutein, phytosterols, zeaxanthin
apigenin, beta-carotene, caffeic acid, citral, dillapiole, elemicin, limonene, luteolin, myristicin
beta-carotenes, lutein, quercetin, zeaxanthin
Swiss Chard
catechin, epicatechin, kaempferol, lutein, myricetin, quercetin, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, glucosinolates, lutein, zeaxanthin
Other Green Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
apigenin, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, chlorophyll, flavonoids, kaempferol
anthocyanin, betacarotene, chloroform, lutein, phytosterols, violaxanthin

Ways to incorporate more green foods into your diet

  • Add chopped spinach and asparagus to an omelet or frittata.
  • Make a green smoothie using a variety of green vegetables and fruits.
  • Make kale chips using green kale.
  • Use basil or any dark green vegetable of your choice to make a pesto sauce.
  • Dip cucumbers in hummus, or celery in peanut butter.
  • Make wraps using lettuce leaves, cabbage leaves, perilla leaves, or Swiss chard.
  • Saute your choice of green vegetables with garlic, lemon, and olive oil.

Phytonutrients in Blue/Purple/Black Foods

Anthocyanins are phytochemicals that give red, blue, and purple plants their vibrant coloring. Anthocyanins have antioxidant properties that may boost heart health and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular-related and other chronic diseases. (26)

Anthocyanin-rich foods have been linked to reductions in inflammation and reduced blood sugar concentrations, suggesting they may also have antidiabetic effects. Anthocyanins have also been found to protect eye health. One study found that daily supplementation with pharmaceutical anthocyanins improved the visual function of individuals with normal tension glaucoma (where the optic nerve is damaged despite pressure in the eye being normal). (30, 43)

Other phytochemicals called stilbenoids are typically found in grapes and blueberries. Like anthocyanins, stilbenoids have been shown to have a variety of benefits such as protective effects on the heart and brain, as well as antidiabetic, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. (4)

AIP-Compliant Blue/Purple/Black Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Purple Asparagus
anthocyanin, beta-carotene, ecdysterone, lutein ,zeaxanthin
Purple Basil
anthocyanin, betacarotene, kaempferol, myrcene, phenolicacids, quercetin, rutin, terpinolene
anthocyanin, caffeicacid, chlorogenic acid, kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin, terpenoids
anthocyanin, beta-carotene, lutein, salicylic acid, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin,catechins, ferulic acid, gallic acid, myricetin, phenolic acids, quercetin, stilbenoids
Purple Cabbage
anthocyanin, betacarotene, flavonoids, glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
Purple Cauliflower
anthocyanin,beta-carotene, glucosinolates, iindole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
Purple Carrots
alpha-carotene, anthocyanin, betacarotene, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, lutein, zeaxanthin
Black Currants
anthocyanin, caffeicacid, kaempferol, phenolic acids, lignans, myricetin, quercetin
anthocyanin, flavonoids, polyphenols
anthocyanin, betacarotene, chlorogenicacid, lutein, rutin, zeaxanthin
Purple Grapes
anthocyanin, betacarotene, caffeic acid, catechins, coumaricacid, ellagic acid, ferulicacid, kaempferol, lutein, myricetin, quercetin, stilbenoids, zeaxanthin
Purple kale
anthocyanins, betacarotene, flavonoids, glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin, chlorogenic acid, lutein, phytosterols, sorbitol, terpenoids, zeaxanthin
anthocyanin, ellagicacid, lutein, lycopene, quercetin, zeaxanthin
Other Blue/Purple/Black Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
Chia Seeds
caffeic acid, quercetin, myricetin, phenolic acids, chlorogenic acid
phenolic acids, tocopherols, flavonoids, anthocyanin, phytosterols, phytic acid
anthocyanin, aubergenone, flavonoids, glycoalkaloids, phenolic compounds

Ways to incorporate more blue/purple/black foods into your diet

  • Substitute purple cabbage, carrots, and onions for green cabbage, orange carrots, and white onions.
  • Add blueberries, blackberries, black currants, figs, and plums to yogurt or oatmeal.
  • Have a baked purple sweet potato instead of a white potato, or use them to make sweet potato patties.
  • Make sauerkraut using purple cabbage.
  • Use purple vegetables in salads.
  • Make a cannelloni using eggplant.

Phytonutrientsin White/Tan/Brown Foods

Allicin, a phytochemical produced when garlic is chopped or crushed, has been associated with a lower risk of coronary events in older adults. Research suggests allicin may help reduce LDL and total cholesterol levels when consumed for more than 2 months. (8, 39)

Garlic is well known for its antimicrobial effects and has historically been used to combat infectious diseases. It is also known to be effective against a variety of bacteria, such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus. (8)

Another phytonutrient that is found in many white, tan, and brown foods is quercetin. Quercetin has anti-inflammatory properties and may be effective against obesity, cancer, viruses, allergies, and high blood pressure. (5)

Serum C-reactive protein (CRP) levels are a biomarker of inflammation in the body. High CRP levels are associated with heart disease, obesity, and lupus. One study done in 2008 found that the intake of foods rich in flavonoids, such as quercetin, is associated with lower serum CRP concentrations. (12)

AIP-Compliant White/Tan/Brown Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
beta-carotene, flavonoids, glucosinolates, indole-3-carbinol,lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin
beta-carotene, flavonoids, lutein, phenolic acids, zeaxanthin
Japanese Turnip
anthocyanins, betacarotene, ferulicacid, glucosinolate, lutein, quercetin, violaxanthin
allicin, allin, caffeicacid, ferulic acid, kaempferol, polysulfides, quercetin, triterpenoid
gingerols, paradols, shogaols, terpenes
Lotus Root
catechins, catechol, gallic acid, phenolic acids
anthocyanidins, catechins, malvidin, quercetin, rutin
catechins, gartanin, mangostin, normagostin, rosin, xanthones
beta-glucans, ergosterol, ganoderic acid, lucidenic acid
hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein
allicin, alliin, caffeicacid, ferulic acid, fumaric acid, phytosterols, quercetin, rutin
alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, phenols, quercetin, terpenoids
Other White/Tan/Brown Foods and Their Phytonutrient Compounds
catechin, kaempferol, methylquercetin, protocatechuic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, resveratrols, vanillic acid
caffeine, flavonols, quercetin, theobromine
caffeoylquinic acid, gallic acid, kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin
flavonoids, lutein, phenolic acids, tocopherols, zeaxanthin
lignans, phytosterols, sesamin, sesamolin, tocopherols
beta-sitosterol, daidzein, genistein, isoflavone
gallic acid, phenolic acids, phytosterol, proanthocyanidins
Whole Grains
beta-cryptoxanthin, flavonoids, lutein, zeaxanthin
White Potatoes
flavonoids, phenolic acids, beta-carotene, chlorogenic acid
beta-carotene, caffeine, chlorogenic acid, phenolic acids
campesterol, lignans, triterpenes, sitosterol, stigmasterol

Ways to incorporate more white/tan/brown foods into your diet

  • Use dates instead of refined sweeteners to sweeten a dish or drink.
  • Add onions and mushrooms to a stir-fry.
  • Make your own granola or trail mix using whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Stir-fry lotus root with bell peppers and garlic sauce.
  • Add cacao to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal.
  • Pickle some Japanese turnip to have as a snack or side dish.

The Bottom Line on Phytonutrients

The thousands of phytochemicals produced by plants for their own protection may also help prevent and treat many of our own medical conditions and diseases. Phytonutrients give fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and other plant foods their variety of colors, so “eat the rainbow” to maximize the health benefits offered by these plentiful chemical compounds.