Welcome to You Are What You Eat!
We're kicking off our program learning about inflammation and the body. This is probably one of the tougher subjects with the mass amounts of research available. But, we'll do our best to sum up how to reduce inflammation in our bodies through food while also finding balance
You Are What You Eat!
Lesson of the Week: Inflammation and You
We’ve probably all heard about inflammation in the body and an anti-inflammatory diet. And, if you do a quick google search, you’ll be pretty confused in about 10 minutes with all of the conflicting information about what foods are considered inflammatory and anti-inflammatory. So, we're going to do our best to review why we should be concerned about inflammation, what factors cause it and how do we fight against it.
First things first, inflammation itself is not necessarily bad. In fact, inflammation is critical in our bodies to maintain our health, fight disease and heal cuts. However, excessive inflammation is where the problems begin.
What happens when there is too much inflammation?
Though we're still learning more about the link between inflammation and certain diseases, researchers have found a causal relationship between inflammation and cardiovascular disease, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. In terms of cancer and inflammation, research has also found that inflammation can not only promote the growth of certain cancers but can also be the result of certain cancers. Inflammation has also been linked with certain conditions like depression, osteoarthritis, arthritis, allergies and asthma. And, yes, even accelerated aging can be linked to excessive inflammation. Symptoms such as aches, pains, rashes on your skin and swelling can sometimes be attributed to excessive inflammation.
Do we always know if we have elevated levels of inflammation? Not always. Sometimes we don't have any symptoms at all. A blood test called CRP (C-Reactive Protein) can actually test the level of systemic inflammation and many doctors include this in blood work now.
What other factors can cause excessive inflammation? A lot of factors contribute to our overall well-being and this holds true when we're discussing inflammation too. A sedentary lifestyle, being overweight, environmental pollutants, physical and emotional stress, smoking, secondhand smoke and other factors can all contribute to excessive inflammation. And, of course, what we eat can also impact it!
So, what foods are considered anti-inflammatory? Well, as with so much in nutrition, this can be a tricky question to answer. Research has found that certain nutrients tend to be anti-inflammatory and some other nutrients are more pro inflammatory. But before we just go and remove foods containing certain nutrients, we have to remember that we always need a balance of nutrients. Sometimes nutrients in combination with each other can be anti-inflammatory. And, our bodies also need nutrients from foods that aren’t necessarily “anti inflammatory” can provide us. In other words, this can be pretty confusing and we can’t always rely on our intuition of what is a "healthy" food to guide us. For instance, while red meat contains saturated fat which is pro-inflammatory, it also contains monounsaturated fats is anti-inflammatory.
In general, the following are nutrients that have been found to be anti-inflammatory:
- Vitamins A, B, C, K and E
- Selenium and Zinc
- Monounsaturated fats
- Some phytonutrients that are found in spices like ginger, garlic and turmeric actually have properties that are similar to NSAIDs like tylenol and aspirin.
Foods that have been found to be pro-inflammatory are those with a high glycemic load, trans fats, saturated fats, and foods high in Omega 6.
Now, you’re probably thinking where’s the part where you just tell me what to eat. Again, because we’re striving for balance. I’m going to give you foods to eat more of and foods to eat less because everything is on a continuum. And, we'll finish up with 10 foods to boost this week.
Here are some guidelines for you to follow this week for a more anti-inflammatory diet:
- Consume more non-starchy veggies such as broccoli, greens and peppers
- Consume cold water fish
- Enjoy olives, avocado, and nuts
- Spice foods up with chili peppers and ginger
- Whole intact grains are better than refined grains
- Avoid vegetable oils
- Avoid fried foods
- Opt for lean and grass fed poultry and beef as much as possible
- Limit young animals (lamb, veal) and organ meats
- Consume whole grains and legumes in moderation
- Don’t overdo seeds like pumpkin and sunflower seeds
In this week's email, you'll not only find an easy to follow handout with the above information but you'll also find your You Are What You Eat weekly shopping list containing your 10 foods to focus on this week. They're not only considered to anti-inflammatory but they also help to counter the effects of stress, another factor in inflammation:
1. Berries!: Loaded with vitamins and also antioxidants to combat the effects of stress on a cellular level.
2. Avocados: B-vitamin powerhouse
3. Nuts: Great source of vitamins B and E as well as minerals
4. Oranges: A classic! Packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants
5. Salmon and other Fatty Fish like halibut, anchovies or sardines as well as Chia and flax seeds: Great source of Omega-3s to boost mood, brain and heart health
6. Spinach, Kale and other Dark, Leafy Greens: High in B vitamin Folate and magnesium
7. Red Peppers: Loaded with antioxidants and more vitamin C than an orange.
8. Asparagus: Packed with B vitamins.
9. Ginger and Garlic: Both are known for their anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties
10. Dark Chocolate: You read that correctly. Studies have shown that portions of 1 oz or less can boost our serotonin levels and lower our blood pressure. Just be sure it's 70% or higher cocoa and watch those portions
Need a quick, low-stress snack? Grab an orange and a handful of almonds.
Now let's put all of this knowledge to work! Here's your assignment for the week:
Eat a minimum of 3 servings of anti-inflammatory foods each day
Follow the Anti-inflammatory diet guidelines
Good luck with your homework! Don't forget to check them off on your checklist.
I'll see you on Tuesday with your first quiz of the week!
All material provided here is for informational or educational purposes only. Please consult your physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition. Use or reproduction of text or photographs is prohibited without written permission from WellStyles Consulting®.