Nutrition and Chronic Inflammation: Part 2
What You Can Do.
Chronic Inflammation is prevelant in our culture due to poor nutrition and lifestyle choices. Many researchers believe that it is a key contributor to most of the diseases of aging, including heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, auto-immune diseases and more.
Chronic inflammation is linked to obesity and insulin resistance. By taking steps to improve our diet, we can reduce inflammation in our own body, support immune function, and feel better.
Trim Up: It is likely that the most effective thing you can do is lose weight. Research has shown that even a 5% loss of total body weight will decrease the amount of inflammation in your body.
Freshen Up: Significantly reduce or eliminate refined foods. Eat and cook fresh whole locally grown foods. Shop around the outside edges of the store before looking to the shelf-stable, processed items in the center.
Color Your Plate: Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables from all colors of the rainbow. Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, as well as potent anti-oxidants, flavenoids, polyphenols and fiber that work against inflammation. Generally, the brighter the color, the more nutrients the fruit or vegetable provides. The more color you put on your plate, the greater the variety of anti-inflammatory micronutrients you will consume. Particularly powerful are berries, grapes, cranberries, tomatoes, broccoli and dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and romaine. Apples are a good source of Vitamin C and quercetin, both strong anti-oxidants that work to decrease inflammation.
Nix Trans Fats: Avoid trans fats, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. These not only promote inflammation but compromise the integrity of cell walls. Hydrogenated oils are found in most commercially baked products. Don’t be fooled by the label, if it says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, it contains trans fats. If the label says no trans fats, but you see hydrogenated oils in the ingredients, it is because there is a small enough amount, the manufacturer does not have to report it.
Create a Balance: We need to consume a balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids. The recommended ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids is 4:1. When we eat a higher ratio of Omega 6, we are less able to process Omega 3 because the essential enzyme gets used up. Cut back on Omega 6 fatty acids found predominantly in polyunsaturated oils such as corn and safflower. Increase the amount of omega 3 fatty acids you eat. Olive oil, canola oil, walnuts, avocados, almonds, oily fish, and ground flaxseed are good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids which reduce the synthesis of inflammatory protein messengers and aid in thinning the blood.
Fight Fire with Fiber: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans are full of fiber. Eating a diet high in fiber has been shown to reduce inflammation. Fiber in the gut reduces cholesterol levels, improves glucose control (and insulin utilization), and promotes weight loss. Eat at least 3 servings per day of whole grains which contain more than fiber. Vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, phytoestrogens, and phenols in whole grains work together to fight inflammation, bind toxins, and promote weight loss. Whole grains include all 3 parts of the grain (bran, starchy endosperm and germ) and include whole wheat, brown rice, whole cornmeal, oatmeal, and bulgur (cracked wheat), among others.
Spice Up Your Food. Many herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory properties. These health promoting spices include garlic, ginger, basil, rosemary, cinnamon, black pepper, chili pepper, turmeric, curry, cardamom, clove, chives, cilantro and parsley. So enjoy a meal of Indian or Chinese food and generously season your own kitchen fare.
Drink Aloe: Aloe juice is loaded with vitamins, minerals and proteins. These nutrients provide support against oxidative stress and other assaults. Aloe juice or gel helps to reduce GI inflammation, ease digestion and promote healthy gut tissues, allowing you to absorb nutrients better.
Fish More, Beef Less: Fish, especially coldwater varieties such as such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and tuna are high in omega 3 fatty acids and lower in saturated fats. If you do eat beef, choose leaner grass-fed cuts which have higher levels of Vitamins B, E and protein and lower total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol.
Go Nuts: Many nuts, especially almonds, pistachios and walnuts have good polyunsaturated fats and omega 3 fatty acids. The amino acid arginine may also help reduce inflammation. Because nuts are high in fat and calories, be careful to watch your portion.
Enjoy a Treat: Relax, de-stress and have a cup of hot tea or cocoa. Teas, both black and herbal, as well as Cocoa and 70% dark chocolate have anti-oxidant flavenoids that are highly anti-inflammatory.