I thought it would help to start with the foods that really work hard at reducing inflammation in the body. These foods are those that you should be having daily. These are the foods that will speed your healing and recovery. These are your new favorite foods!
We are going to be going into quite a few things over the next couple of days that may seem like you can't eat anything. Starting with a strong list of foods to include is a great, positive way to start any new change.
1. Cruciferous Vebetables
This is the cabbage family. It includes: Cabbage, Broccoli, Brussels, Cauliflower, Bok Choy, Mustard Greens, Kale, Arugula, Kohlrabi, and Radishes. This is a big group, but they each offer great anti-inflammatory properties. As a group, these vegetables are superstars. Often the richest sources of minerals, vitamins, phytonutrients, and fiber in the plant world.
It is important to have a moderate mix of cooked and uncooked forms of cruciferous vegetables. Each method provides a slightly different nutrient profile. These are great vegetables for culturing, as the natural fiber in the plants is the ideal food for culturing bacteria (as it is for our own digestive bacteria).
2. Leafy Greens
There is some overlap between the Cruciferous family, and the category of Green Leafy Vegetables, as many of the green leafy vegetables are cruciferous. It also includes a variety of culinary and medicinal herbs that can be used as teas. When choosing green leafy vegetables, the greener the better. Chlorophyll in green vegetables works like hemoglobin and helps to oxygenate cells in the body. The greener they are, the higher their nutrition and nutrient content as well. This group includes: Spinach, Chard, Beet Greens, Romaine Lettuce, Green/Red Leaf Lettuce, Rapini, Watercress, Dandelion, Stinging Nettles, Chickweed, Celery, Parsley, Cilantro, and Basil.
The bulk of the produce you eat should be from these 1st two groups.
3. Onions and Garlic
Onions and Garlic are part of the Allium family. All of these plants offer great healing benefits and include: Onions, Garlic, Leeks, Chives, Garlic Chives, Ramps, and Shallots. All alliums are rich in sulfur compounds, which give them their pungent flavor and smell. Research supports that the Alliums reduce inflammation, increase bone growth and healing, increase connective tissue healing, treat arthritis, lower the risk of cancer, help to regulate blood sugars, and strengthens the blood vessel. But, the kicker is that in all these studies, alliums needed to be consumes daily to see the benefits. So, don't skip them.
Raw onions and garlic have the most enzyme and antibacterial benefits.
4. Beets and Sweet Potatoes
Colorful root vegetables are not only pretty on the plate but contain rich amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
The red color of beets is a dead give away of their high amounts of Betaines (just like the red stems on chard).
Beets can be eaten raw, boiled, roasted, grilled, and cultured. Each still providing anti inflammatory antioxidants.
Sweet potatoes are another anti inflammatory food. The flesh color of sweet potatoes can vary from white, light golden, orange, fire, red to purple. Each providing slightly different antioxidants. The Thai purple sweet potato (See it below in my hash) has been studied specifically in the treatment of inflammation, specifically with inflammation of the blood vessels. Unlike white potatoes, which are a member of the Night Shade Family, sweet potatoes and yams have edible leaves. If you grow them yourself, you can use the leaves in salads or sauté them like spinach.
The best way to eat sweet potatoes is to cook them. Unlike white potatoes, you CAN eat sweet potatoes raw, but they don't taste very good. I prefer baking, roasting, and boiling. They are the perfect substitute for white potatoes. Don't Fry Them. Frying and starchy vegetable or food creates inflammatory and carcinogen chemicals, Acrylamides. These Acrylamides are well documented to be a toxin in the body. Acrylamides are produced anytime a starch is cooked at high heats. This can be in the baking of breads (especially at high heat or if the curst is very dark and burnt, or in making toast), but also, more importantly, in the frying of foods at high heats. French Fries, Fried Pies, Fried Okra, Doughnuts, etc… Acrylamide not only is associated with causing cancer, but is also a neurotoxin that can cause damage to the neurological functions of the body. Acrylamide exposure can make certain inflammatory conditions worse: Neuropathy, Nerve Damage, Fibromyalgia, and other Skin Pain relation conditions.
I grew up eating LOTS of seaweed. I joke with friends now. Remember the scene from the move "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" where Tula is a child and eating lunch. The cool kids ask her what she is eating and she says Moussaka, and they all laugh saying Moose-Ka-Ka? Well that was me, but add in stinky Kim Chi, Rice and Seaweed!
For those who are not aware, part of my family is Korean. We eat and ate a lot of Korean food as a kid, and now. Korean food has a lot of seaweed in it. It makes me happy to see seaweeds becoming more popular. Most of the kids at my daughter's school bring little packages of seaweed snacks. LOVE IT!
Iodine deficiency is becoming epidemic. Our main sources of iodine are grass-fed dairy and seafoods (fish, shellfish, sea salts, and seaweeds). Do not try and get your iodine from iodize table salt. That stuff is junk. It's been bleach, and loaded with synthetic iodine that does not absorb well at all. Stick with natural salts and seaweeds for you iodine needs.
Why are we so Iodine deficient?
The main symptoms of iodine deficiency is Hypothyroidism. There is also some evidence coming out to links with other hormone imbalances in the body, specifically PCOS. Other symptoms of deficiency can be chronic fatigue, hair loss, dry skin, and cold hands and feet.
Why is iodine so important for inflammation?
In additional to Iodine, sea vegetables are rich in highly absorbable iron, zinc and magnesium, as well as other trace minerals.
6. Cultured Vegetables
There are a variety of vegetables that can be fermented, but cabbages are the most common and popular. Traditionally, every culture had some form of fermented food in there diet. Sauerkraut in Germany, and Kim Chi in Korea. This is one of those traditional food preparation methods that have been lost to the recent generation.
Our gut is an important part of our immune system, inflammatory pathways, and is the way we get our nutrition. If our gut is not happy, our system isn't happy. A BIG part of the benefits of cultured vegetables is the natural probiotics created in the fermentation process. The natural fibers in the plants, that would feed the bacteria in our guts, is digested during the fermentation process by plant and airborne bacteria. Consuming the already fermented vegetables give you a boost in your own probiotic colonies.
I have fond memories of watching my grandmother make Kim Chi in her kitchen. I have carried on that tradition, and now make a variety of different cultured vegetables (which my kids LOVE). It's easy, fun, and you can get creative with the seasonings. I've usually got a couple of mason jars on the counter during harvest season. If you want to start making your own, message me and I would be more than happy to give a crash course in fermentation…it really is easy, and if I can do it, you can.
7. Berries and Cherries
Consume a large variety of different berries; Blackberries, Raspberries, Strawberries, Tart Cherries, Blueberries, Elderberries, Currants, Goji, and Cranberries are all good choices. They are all full of good antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
The key to choosing berries, is to buy organic, or find wild! Berries are highest on the list of pesticide use.
Pineapple is as effective as many anti inflammatory medication for reducing systemic inflammation but without the side effects. This is due to an enzyme called Bromelain. Bromelain is a protein digesting enzyme. It has been to treat intestinal inflammation, joint pain and inflammation, allergies, sinus infections, arthritis, autoimmune disease, swelling from injury, asthma, and to speed recovery from joint surgery like ACL.
To access the this amazing anti inflammatory enzyme, eat your pineapple raw.
Ginger is a root that is used as a flavoring in many Asian dishes, as well as a Chinese Herbal Medicine to Benefit Digestion, Neutralize Food Poisoning, Stop Nausea, Open the Lungs, Increase Circulation.
Today, research has shed light into its many different phytochemicals. It has started gaining recognition for its use in treating arthritis, digestive inflammation, parkinson's, diabetes and cancer, as well as its ability to regulate digestive bacteria growth.
Fresh ginger is best. It can be grown indoors as used as need, as well. The minced and packaged type is typically full of preservatives as well, and the dried ginger is probably pretty weak in medicinal properties.
Cinnamon is delicious! I use it frequently to make things seem sweeter. But, did you know it is medicinal? In Chinese Herbology, Cinnamon has been used to Release the Muscle Layer, Warm the Channels and Treat Wind-Cold, Move Blood Stagnation, Open the Chest, Resolve Edema.
Today, like Ginger, modern science is beginning to open up the answers as to how Cinnamon works to treat various inflammatory conditions; Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Diabetes, Viral Infections, Asthma, and other inflammatory conditions.
Any form of cinnamon bark will work. Use it in cooking, or as a topping. Make vitamin waters with the whole pieces with apple chunks...yum!
If you are suffering from inflammation or pain, you have already heard about Turmeric and are probably already using this as a supplement. If not, you might just start!
For centuries, turmeric has been known for it's anti inflammatory properties. The main active ingredient is called Curcumin. Curcumin has beens shown to have beneficial properties in conditions such as: Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral injury, CVDs, cancer, allergy, asthma, bronchitis, colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, renal ischemia, psoriasis, diabetes, obesity, depression, fatigue, and AIDS.
The Down Side: Curcumin is extremely hard to absorb! It is metabolized and excreted quickly. To increase absorption, Curcumin supplements should have added Vitamin C, and should be taken with a food containing quality fats.
There are no known side effects to Curcumin.
12. Primitive Grains
Wheat is currently the world's staple grain. But modern wheat is longer wheat (in my opinion) it has be so changes over the decades with the introduction of Genetic Modification and high pesticide use. It is now higher in Gluten, and a different form of Gluten as well. Although I am not anti-grains, there is so much research on wheat and it's role in increased inflammation. If you are suffering with Chronic Inflammation, I recommend removing wheat products.
Ancient Grains are those that have been consumed in the same state for thousands of years, and have changed very little. These include: Quinoa (south american seed grain), Amaranth (north american seed grain), Chia (south american seed grain), Sorgham (african seed grain), Teff, Millet, Buckwheat, Oats, Wild Rice, Pigmented Rice.
Each offer different nutrient profiles, some are gluten free other are lower than modern wheat.
Grains should not make up a larger portion of your diet, as modern nutrition would have you think. The key to incorporating grains into your diet, especially if you are in a Chronic Inflammatory cycle, is to keep them whole, soak them, and do not consume them sparingly. Avoid Wheat and even ancient Wheats if you have significant inflammation. Stick to seed grains that are naturally gluten free, and richer in fats, vitamins and antioxidants.
13. Nuts and Seeds
With the exemption of peanuts (which are not even a nut, but a legume), nuts and seeds are rich sources of fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to help reduce inflammation.
There is a large variety of nuts and seeds that can be consumed, some better than others in different ways. The key is to keep a variety.
Seeds and Nuts go rancid quickly, meaning the oils in them go bad (don't eat funky smelling nuts, or oils). If you can, buy them in the shell and hull yourself. If you buy already shelled, buy as fresh as you can and store them in the freezer or fridge to keep them longer. Like Legumes and Grains, sprouting your nuts and seeds will break down a portion of their anti-nutrients, and increase the amount nutrition available.
14. Healthy Oils: Olive/Coconut
Yummy fats, we will talk about this more, but everyone needs to eat more good fats.
Cooking with vegetable and nut oils is tricky…please look at some of my previous posts on more detailed information on the different types of fats in our diet, as well as the different cooking oils available.
Differentiating Your Dietary Fats
Understanding Cooking Oils
Olive Oil has gotten good reviews for reducing inflammation for years now. The Phenols in Olive Oil have been shown to reduce inflammation markers, as well as have an analgesic affects (reducing pain perception).
Coconut Oil has also gain some superstar status in recent years. The research is still limited, but what is out there seems promising. Showing a reductions in inflammatory markers, reduce internal heat, and a reduction in pain perception.
There is controversial research out there on inflammation and diet….
High Fat, High Carbohydrate diets are associated with inflammation
High conventional red meat diets, Low vegetable diets associated with inflammation
Low-fat, High carbohydrate diets are associated with inflammation
Mediterranean diets are associated with a reduction in inflammation
High Fat, Low Carb diets are associated with a reduction in inflammation
Ketogenic diets are associated with nerve protection and reduced inflammation
The key here is that high levels of Carbohydrates (pretty much refined sugars, breads, and too much starchy foods and grains) is associated with increases in inflammation, NOT increases in nutritional fats, or quality fats.
15. Grass-Fed Butter
Grass fed butter is butter from cows that, well, eat grass. This is actually a much better way to ensure you are getting the nutrition that should be present in grass-fed beef (that is usually grain fed before slaughter). This butter is rich, as the cows are not given grains, but only grass.
When you buy are see grass-fed butter, you'll notice it's ORANGE, not WHITE. This is a clear sign that this is quality butter. The orange color is the antioxidants and vitamins (specifically A). SO COOL to actually see it, in my opinion, vs. me just telling you its better and it looking the same, right?
Bring on the butter, but make it grass-fed only!
16. Real Cultured Dairy
As I've mentioned our gut health is important in the management of inflammatory symptoms. Cultured/Fermented foods in general are good for our bacterial health, as well as Vitamin K metabolism. Like vegetables, most cultures have a form of fermented dairy that they consume regularly; Yogurt, Kefir, Sour Cream, etc...
Culturing dairy helps to remove Lactose. During the culturing process, the lactose becomes food for the growing bacterial colonies. Those who have lactose issues can typically consume cultured dairy products (REAL Cultured Dairy products).
If you consume dairy, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE choose full fat. Stop buying skimmed milk products NOW! That is your final warming. But, seriously, skim milk is glorified sugar water with added vitamins and minerals that cannot me absorbed.
And lastly, choose grass-fed…for reasons mentioned above
Buy Plain, not flavored, that are full of added sugar and often preservatives, like Carrageenan (which is highly inflammatory). They actually use carraganeen to induce inflammation in lab animals to study the effects of anti-inflammatories. This is one additive you need to stay away from.
17. Fatty Fish
Like Olive Oil, Fish have been given top ranking status as an anti-inflammatory food. Fish, in general, are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.
In our body there needs to be a balance between inflammatory Omega 6 fatty acids and anti inflammatory Omega 3 fatty acids. In our modern diets, this is highly skewed to being higher in Omega 6 fatty acids. Fish are naturally high in Omega 3's, especially those fish from cold waters that have more fat on them.
Farmed fish, sadly, is often fed unnatural diets so are falling into the same sad fate as the quality of our conventional meats. Low in Omega 3, high in Omega 6. This is why choosing sustainable fished wild caught is the best choice.
There is a worry about Mercury and other contaminants in wild caught fish. Salmon in the Seattle area were found to be contaminated with dangerous amount of hormones and anti-depressants…hooray for mediation in the water system (did you know that you cannot filter that out, you may want to test your tap water). Choosing fish species that are lower on the food chain will minimize the amount of contaminants you are exposed to…sardines, anchovies. There are also online lists that rank fish on their toxin levels. It's a good idea to print this off and have it with you to help you make good fish choices.
I mentioned this yesterday in my Chicken Soup Notes. Broth is full of great nutrient than can help reduce inflammation, specifically joint inflammation and spinal inflammation. If you are making your broth with not just bone, but joints, cartilage, and skin you are going to be getting a very important nutrient that is hard to find in modern diets….Hyaluronic Acid.
Our body can make it's own hyaluronic acid, but after a certain age it stops and all hyaluronic acid must come form food sources. Hyaluronic acid is found in high amounts in our connective tissues, cartilage, synovial fluid, and skin. It is the lubricant of our body. It helps to increase lubrication in joints, and fills the doughnut like spinal discs. This is an important nutrient for those who are suffering from joint inflammation, herniated or bulging discs, age related arthritis, or skin inflammation.
How do we get Hyaluronic Acid in our diet? Well, how much cartilage and skin are you eating these days? Probably not much! Back to the days of poor nutritional guidelines of low fat-high carb. Everyone was told to eat boneless and skinless chicken. Well, you have just thrown out your source of hyaluronic acid. If you are a vegetarian, you are probably deficient in hyaluronic acid. Sorry!
So, how do we get it back in our diet. The best way, in my opinion, is to make your own Chicken Stock. This is very easy, and once you figure it out, you'll do it all the time. When you buy a chicken, buy a whole chicken, cook it (eat the skin), and save the bones. Take these bones and any leftover meat and skin. Put it in a crockpot with your desired herbs and some vinegar (you won't taste it), and cook on high for 12-24 hours. Done. You've now got a super nutritious broth that you can use to cook with, or drink.
I have had clients with chronic joint pain and inflammation recovery simply by doing this!
19. Pasture Raised Animal Meats
I talked about this yesterday when we were talking about how to Eat Clean.
To me, this is more important than choosing organic produce. The quality of meat we eat will either cause disease or treat it. This is a good example of this.
Conventionally raised meats are fed poor, unnatural, cheap feed. This creates nutritionally imbalanced meat that is low in vitamins and minerals, and high in poor quality saturated fats and dangerously inflammatory polyunsaturated Omega 6 fatty acids.
Like all animals we accumulate and change our biochemical buildup based on what we are eating.
Grass-fed and pasture raised animals are nutritional and anti-inflammatory superstars. Beef especially is changes significantly by simply changing its feed.
Sun exposure is another bonus to nutrition. Vitamin D is a sunshine vitamin. It is created by chemical reactions when cholesterol and UVB rays meet in our skin. If cattle, chicken, pigs, etc…are not given access to sunshine, they are deficient in Vitamin D…why many diary products are given synthetic Vitamin D supplements (so much better to have the real thing).
20. Pasture Raised Eggs
Just like Diary and Meat, choose pasture raised. Pasture raised means the chickens are not only cage free, but are given access to pasture to graze. This is the the natural way of eating for chickens and this makes a big difference in the quality of their eggs. Crack a conventional egg and a pasture raised egg side by side. What did you see? It's a big difference, like the butter. The pasture raised eggs are brilliant orange (almost fire orange), and shiny, the conventional egg is kind of a pale, cloudy orange. Thats a visible difference to show you the nutritional difference.
Eggs in general are a super food. They provide nearly every nutrient you need. For years there was worry over cholesterol in eggs and blood cholesterol levels. This is not accurate, and we will discuss how excessive sugar consumption actually causes high cholesterol, not cholesterol in the diet.
Try to incorporate eggs into your diet daily if yo can. My family of four goes through 2-3 dozen eggs per week! Look for local egg suppliers. They do not need to be organic, but pasture raised and allowed to forage on grasses and especially bugs!
Breakfast #3: Brussels and Sweet Potato Hash; Fried Egg; Black Coffee
In a Cast Iron Skillet add butter, and melt. Add Onion and Garlic, cook till fragrant, add Brussels, Carrot, Celery and Sweet Potato, stir to coat. Season with S/P/Thyme. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally. Add chicken broth if it looks dry. Cook until all vegetables are soft and browning.
Makes 4 servings of hash
In a separate cast iron skillet, heat 1/2 tsp grass-fed butter, add egg and cook until desired doneness.
Lunch #3: Turkey, Hummus, Veggie Lettuce Wrap; Vitamin Water
I have learned the hard way that you MUST wrap lettuce wraps in butcher paper to keep it from falling apart and making a big mess. Get creative with your ingredients, add your favorite vegetables, leftover meats, etc.. Mine was a combo of Hummus, Turkey, Cucumbers, Bell Peppers, Red Onions, Avocado, Olive Oil, Balsamic, and Roasted Garlic.
I made a large pitcher of vitamin water today…with frozen watermelon, cucumber, and lime slices. I drank 2 of these pitcher on my own…they are so good, the longer they sit the better.
Snack #1: Fresh Strawberries with Coconut Cream; Vitamin Water
I dont' snack often, but I needed one today. Balancing snacks is just as important as balancing meals. Combining carbohydrates with proteins and fats to keep your metabolism and digestion working properly.
Dinner #3: Dijon Herb Pistachio Crusted Salmon; Wild Rice; Steamed Broccoli; More Vitamin Water…it's that good!
Preheat Oven to 400
Make a paste with Dijon, Lemon Juice, Parsely, Green Onions, and Garlic.
In an oven safe dish coat salmon with oil, and season with S/P. Top each salmon fillet with dijon mixture, and sprinkle with pistachios. Bake for 20 minutes, or until fish is cooked through.
In a sauce pot, cook Wild Rice as directed with Chicken Stock.