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Chronic Inflammation is a precursor to degenerative diseases and to us meeting an earlier end. Chronic inflammation can often be silent, or go unnoticed until symptoms of degenerative disease begin to show themselves. The best way to offset this tendency toward degeneration is to add in anti-inflammatory foods. As it turns out, anti-inflammatory foods are the real, whole foods we have been discussing thus far.
Vegetables and Fruits
As we have discussed before, brightly colored fruits and vegetables should cover the majority of your plate at any meal. We should try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Some of the best anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables include berries like blueberries, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, dark leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale). When considering brightly colored produce, don’t forget about the anti-inflammatory herbs we discussed in the last post such as garlic, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Fermented vegetables such as kimchee, pickles and sauerkraut should also be considered. Shiitake mushrooms are also an anti-inflammatory addition as they help to mitigate oxidative stress.
Grains and Legumes
If including grains and legumes in the diet, make sure they are whole, soaked or fermented and properly prepared for proper digestion. Flour based, processed grains should be avoided. As we’ve discussed in a previous posts, rather or not gluten is included in the diet should be carefully considered. If it is included, proper preparation is crucial. Organic, fermented soybean products such as natto, miso and tempeh can also be added.
Adding in healthy fats (coconut, avocados, raw nuts, olives, coconut oil, and cold-pressed olive oil) and the elimination of bad fats (highly processed vegetable oils like canola oil, soybean oil, margarine and hydrogenated oils/trans fats) is crucial in the anti-inflammatory diet.
Omega 3 foods such as cold water, fatty fish such as wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and herrings should also be included in an anti-inflammatory diet.
In general, in our western diets, we tend to eat too much animal protein. A vegetable based diet is best and a little good quality animal protein goes a long way. If you can, choose wild local seafood, local grass-fed meats and dairy products.
Other Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Other anti-inflammatory foods to consider in your diet are green tea, tulsi tea, matcha and dark chocolate for their antioxidant content.
Avoid Processed Foods and Sugar
One of the most important things to remember when eating an anti-inflammatory diet is to avoid processed foods, especially those containing processed sugars and bad fats. Regular consumption of flour based foods and refined sugars should be avoided as insulin resistance leads to chronic inflammation and degenerative disease.
Eat your veggies! How many times have you heard that?
As children many of us weren’t naturally drawn to vegetables. Instead we preferred dense calorie sources such as sugars and fats. One of the reasons is because we were genetically programmed to go for caloric rich foods when we could, because dense calorie sources meant energy, and energy sources meant survival. For us modern day eaters, these dense calorie sources are easily come by, too easily!
As adults however we can use our common sense to realize that an array of brightly colored vegetables are important for our health. Vegetables are a low calorie, nutrient dense food source. An array of brightly colored produce provides us with much needed antioxidants, minerals, micro-nutrients and phyto-nutrients. These nutrients are broken down and used in chemical reactions in our bodies to run our bodily functions. Without these nutrients our bodies cannot function optimally. Because of this, nutrients from these foods help protect us from disease and slow the aging process.
Vegetables are also a great source of dietary fiber. Fiber from a variety of produce helps to feed our microbiome and flush waste through our digestive tract. Certain vegetables, being mostly water, are also hydrating.
We should aim to eat six to eight servings of brightly colored produce each day. Growing our own vegetables is a great way to get high quality, inexpensive, nutrient dense vegetables. Vegetables can be added to soups, stews and casseroles to boost their nutrient content. Some of the most nutrient dense ways to consume produce are lacto-fermented vegetables, fresh vegetables juices and sprouts.
I don’t necessarily mean you have to go raw vegan like I was a couple of years ago. Just add a few more raw foods into your diet. Some experts say that at least half of your diet should be eaten raw. Some favorite raw foods you will already be quite familiar with include fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh salads, fresh salsa, guacamole, raw nuts and seeds, fresh juices, smoothies, kale chips and energy bites. By increasing the amount of raw foods in your diet you are increasing the amount of nutrients you get from these foods as many nutrients are destroyed by cooking. Not only nutrients are destroyed by cooking but also vital enzymes that are needed for certain reactions in your body. And finally by eating fresh raw foods you are getting the benefit of their bio-photons or energy units of light which are emitted by all living things. One theory holds that these bio-photons can be assimilated into our cells and the more bio-photons a cell has, the healthier the cell.
If you have a sweet tooth and you want to give raw foods a try, check out the gorgeous recipes by Victoria BC based chef, Heather Pace on her website Sweetly Raw.
Cut out the carbs and make it a salad. You can turn almost any meal into a salad by putting it on a bed of greens. Cut the carbs and add the veggies by using a lettuce leaf for your burger bun. Make your sandwich a wrap by cutting out the bread and wrapping it in a romaine leaf. Have your morning eggs on a bed of greens.