AIP Basil Lemon Pesto
For those of you wondering what the heck "AIP" is, it is the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol. I came across AIP while researching for a report I was doing on Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). RA is autoimmune in nature, meaning that it stems from a dysregulation in the immune system that causes the body to attack itself. In the case of RA, the body attacks proteins within its own joint tissue. This mounting attack creates a build-up of immune complexes in the joints and high levels of inflammation. When chronic, this damages the cartilage, bone and adjacent tissues and leads to the joint discomfort associated with RA. Although traditionally treated as separate entities, all autoimmune diseases, including Crohn's disease, Celiac disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis and lupus share a common root in a dysregulated immune system that has lost its ability to separate self from non-self, causing the body to attack its own tissue. And what is at the root of the immune dysfunction? The gut. Hippocrates sure was right when he said that all disease begins in the gut! Thanks to research by world-renowned gastroenterologist and autoimmune expert Dr. Alessio Fasano, impaired intestinal permeability ("leaky gut") is now being understood as a main underlying factor contributing to autoimmune diseases. In a "leaky" gut, there is a breach in the tight villi junctions in the small intestine that allows particles such as undigested pieces of food or environmental toxins to enter into the bloodstream. When this happens, the body reacts by setting off an immune cascade, which creates inflammation. This chronic triggering of the immune system paves the way for autoimmune diseases and weakens the body as a whole.
So what does one do? As with all conditions, healing the gut is an excellent place to start. Luckily, altering the diet is an easy and effective way to promote gut healing by removing the foods that can irritate the gut and trigger the immune system, and simultaneously flooding the body with nutrients and vitamins that can be used to reduce inflammation, support the immune system and repair damaged tissue. This is where AIP comes in. Dr. Sarah Ballantyne's website (The Paleo Mom) is an excellent resource on the protocol but the gist is a modified version of the paleo diet (no grains, legumes or dairy) that also removes sugar, processed foods, damaged fats, nightshades, eggs, nuts, seeds, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and food additives. Although removing all this food may seem daunting, it can be a highly effective way to enable the gut to heal, lower inflammation and determine which triggers apply, as everyone is different.
Back to the pesto! A pesto without dairy, nuts or seeds may sound crazy but let me tell you, this stuff is G-O-O-D. Even though I don't follow an AIP diet myself, I love keeping a jar of this stuff in the fridge to top bowls with (it's delicious on top of a warm kale salad with roasted butternut squash and sautéed ground beef/turkey/chicken), dip veggies into or toss with zucchini noodles. The nutritional yeast lends a bit of a "cheesy" flavor and the lemon adds a wonderful tang (along with a punch of vitamin C!). Give it a try!
- 2 cups packed fresh basil
- 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbs nutritional yeast (I use this brand that is not fortified with synthetic folic acid)
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbs lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- Add all of the ingredients to a food processor or blender.
- Blend until smooth.