02 Aug A turmeric latte a day keeps the doctor away
We all want the best for ourselves long term. We desire to live a long and happy life. Yet for many, we are plagued with illness, poor habits, or simply we have a lack of knowledge about how to be and remain healthy. Many people may know that what they eat and how they treat their bodies isn’t the best – but don’t know what to do to fix things or how to motivate themselves to get started. You aren’t alone in feeling helpless, confused or overwhelmed with the amount of different research, recommendations and diets out there. It is important to understand that every single body is different. All of us come with a unique set of experiences, family histories, upbringings, body and blood types and varying degrees of health. In this concept of bio-individuality, we understand that what works for one person, won’t always work for another. What we must learn to do, is listen to our bodies and action what they need to heal or stay healthy long term.
At the beginning of the series, I explored what inflammation is and how it is affecting our bodies. We also explored some changes that can be made to manage, minimise and prevent inflammation. While diet plays a huge role, there are a number of causes of inflammation. As a IIN Health Coach in training, I am constantly learning about ‘Primary Foods.’ Here, we are made aware of the things off our plate that nourish us, such as – sleep, relationships, career, exercise, social life, joy and so on. As discussed in an earlier post, if these areas of your life aren’t being addressed, you may find it very hard to eat well and manage health conditions (such as inflammation). Yes, this post is about to give you some information on anti-inflammatory foods, but the best thing you can start doing for yourself today, is to look after yourself in all areas of your life – that way you will get the best out of every bite of food.
Working alongside a health coach is an excellent way to review what you are doing off the plate and reflect on ways to address different areas of your life. Through this process, you open yourself up to more opportunities to improve your nutrition and your health.
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
An anti-inflammatory diet involves eating certain foods in an aim to decrease inflammation and protect tissues from inflammatory damage. Food choices which prioritise lower glycemic foods and those high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants are shown as more likely to alleviate and even eliminate some inflammatory diseases. Through eating less processed foods and opting for fresh, in-season (and ideally organic) food found on the ground and in the sky or sea you give your body the best fighting chance to heal from inflammatory conditions.
Anti-inflammatory properties are found in a wide varieties of macronutrient foods. From your meat or protein source, to the vegetables, the oils you use to cook, the herbs and spices you use for flavouring, right down to the fruit or dark chocolate you may have for dessert and the wine you sip on.
Fat has earned itself a bad name over the years. Probably not given the best name, as it is often associated with making you fat – another..huge…FAT…myth. Fat is my most favourite macro nutrient (I eat butter sliced like it’s cheese!). Fats, including saturated (the healthy kinds) but particularly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, are an important part of a nutritious diet, helping us to absorb vitamins, support cardiovascular and neurological health, promoting anti-inflammation and even moderate our weight. Fat supports proper brain development, provides cushioning and insulation to internal organs, and plays a role in hormone balance. Fats come in a variety of different types and include a number of different compounds or fatty acids. This is such a big topic (of which I plan to explore further in upcoming posts), for the benefit of this post about inflammation, I will mostly discuss the place of Omega-3’s in the anti-inflammatory diet. So let’s delve into the varying healthy fats that should be incorporated into the diet.
Monounsaturated fatty acids are the good guys you want on your side. These fatty acids are heart healthy and help to support “good” cholesterol (HDL) and lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL). Monounsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature. The best sources of monounsaturated fatty acids include olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds. If there is one swap you should do today, it is to throw out the vegetable oil and opt for olive oil (when cooking at lower temperatures).
Polyunsaturated fatty acids: Are either Omega-3 or Omega-6 and considered essential to our diets because we can’t create them ourselves – therefore they must come from our diet. The key here is balance! While we need both, our diets tend to be tipped in the wrong direction and very heavily focused on the wrong kinds of Omega-6’s, which are pro-inflammatory. The major culprits here are vegetable oils. However, it is important to note that we do not need to demonise all Omega-6’s (there are good kinds too!). Good and well-moderated sources of omega 6 are found in beef, chicken, eggs, seeds and nuts. An anti-inflammatory diet promotes more Omega-3 rich foods to help reduce inflammation, support heart health, reduce symptoms of depression, and reduce the risk of cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids are typically found in oily fish, nuts and seeds. Like magic, they build up the membranes which surround your cells, particularly in the brain, eyes and sperm! The key lesson to take away here is that we need both Omega 3’s and 6’s – we just need to get them from the best sources!
As you explore which fat sources work best for you, remember that bio-individuality, state of health, and physical activity levels each play a role in determining your dietary fat needs. Working with a health coach will be a great way to consider these aspects and adjust your fat intake to support your nutritional wellness.
When making protein choices to fight and prevent inflammation, you should be aiming to include lots of omega-3 rich meats. Oily fish has the highest amounts and I would encourage you to up your serves of fish each week. Eggs and in particular, the yolk are incredible sources of omega-3 fatty acids – ignore old and outdated warnings they are bad for you and raise cholesterol (they don’t!). Cage laid eggs have less omega-3 as the chicken is fed a different and less natural diet compared to their healthier and happier free-range cousins. Next, my best pick is leg or thigh cuts of free-range chicken (these include more natural fats than the breast). Grass-fed red meat (beef, lamb and pork) is another good source, but also contains omega-6 – so don’t overdo it! Most of the literature advises that you limit it to 3 serves a week. A grass fed cut of meat has amazing levels of iron and other essential amino acids so are a staple I advise to include. For all the vegetarians out there – legumes and beans are filling, low glycemic foods that provide iron, calcium, magnesium, and soluble fiber, which supports healthy digestion. These great options if sourced (organic) and prepared properly (not eaten raw, soaked, slow-cooked etc).
Working with a health coach is a good way to balance your protein sources and ensure you aren’t over eating this macronutrient. A balanced diet includes a number of protein sources, in the correct quantities at the right time. It takes a lot of trial and error to find what works for you.
Fruit and Vegetables
Your intake of vegetables has more of an impact then you think. Vegetables are packed with a number of incredible compounds. The most relevant to inflammation are antioxidants and fibre. Dr Josh Axe MD explains how foods rich in antioxidants reduce free radicals in the body and ensure our bodies can fight of bacteria, diseases and inflammation effectively. Antioxidants are found in a number of raw and cooked vegetables, fruits, spices and teas. Your best choice is fresh, organic and spray free which you can find at your local farmers market.
The antioxidant goodness is concentrated in the skins of bright coloured fruit and vegetables. Those that are rich in colour (think berries, green and leafy vegetables and bright root vegetables) contain polyphenols which are not only anti inflammatory, but also anti-aging. So, improve your diet before you try botox! Dark leafy greens are your best choice for the bulk of your plate as they have long been celebrated and embraced for reducing inflammation and associated conditions. Polyphenols are also found in cocoa (small amounts of high-quality dark chocolate), olives, dark chocolate, tea, coffee and (moderate intake of) wine. Dried and fresh herbs (such as oregano, thyme, parsley and coriander) are also rich in them. Additionally, in his book, ‘The Clever Guts Diet, Michael Mosley describes how eating foods rich in polyphenols boost your levels of a gut bug called ‘akkermansia’ which notably strengthens your gut wall and reduces inflammation in the gut and body.
Vegetables also contain varying levels of fibre. Through eating vegetables higher in fibre you boost the chemical butyrate, which controls the growth of the gut lining. Butyrate has anti-inflammatory effects inside the bowel and protects us from bowel cancer. High fibre options include cruciferous vegetables: kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and some starchy varieties – carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato. Some fruits like apple and strawberries are also high in fibre – but don’t go overboard. When upping your fibre intake, you should avoid guzzling metamucil or fibre supplements. You can get all the fibre you need from a good diet.
Interestingly, there is a buzz around sea vegetables and mushrooms in terms of their anti-inflammatory properties. Rheumatoidarthritis.net note how kelp and seaweed contain an anti-inflammatory complex carbohydrate called fucoidan. Research has demonstrated health benefits of brown algae consumption, including anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer properties. Mushrooms in general, have powerful bioactive components that reduce inflammation.Yet it is the shitake mushrooms which are earning themselves a good name and are known for their immunity-promoting potential and ability to lower cholesterol levels.
Spices are a great way to tackle inflammation as they are extremely potent compared to other foods. Over at the Bulletproof blog, they suggest adding spices to your food to amplify the antioxidant power of your meal. The standout spices to add to your diet include tumeric, cayenne pepper, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. I need a whole post to describe the benefits of these spices. But ancient traditions have been cooking with these for centuries. I recommend finding ways to incorporate these spices every day. To your tea, vegetables, curries, and dishes – anywhere you can sneak it in will change your life!
Personally, I manage to get tumeric in at least 3 points during my day (in my morning bulletproof coffee, on my eggs at breakfast, on our dinner greens and in my tea at night). Read more about the benefits of these spices here
For those who can tolerate and feel good on grain products, whole grains can provide a richer source of fiber, B vitamins, and protein compared to heavily processed white grains (white bread, flour, pastas). They’re also digested more slowly than refined grains, which helps keep you fuller for longer. Whole grains are low-glycemic-load carbohydrates and should be the bulk of your carbohydrate intake to help minimise spikes in blood glucose levels throughout the day. As I have mentioned before, grains can be an excellent addition to some people’s diets, but should complement your plate – not overrule it!
Dr Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Pyramid is a great resource
Working with a health coach could be your key to planning out a balanced, anti-inflammatory diet which prioritises foods that work for you, not against you. A diet rich in all the right kinds of foods can lead to reduced cravings, improved sleep, lowered cholesterol and blood pressure and stress management – just to name a few! While you can make changes to your diet yourself today, working with someone to reflect on how you feel in your body is very powerful.
So now you are equipped with a number of strategies, what changes will you make today to impact on currently inflammatory problems or prevent issues in the future? What will you stop doing or eating and add in or crowd out? You can get started right away and work towards feeling more vibrant, energy filled and proud of yourself. Taking control of your health is so empowering and leads to great things. Remember that primary food is just as important as the food that goes on your plate. What you eat is a very personal thing, it varies from person to person. What is one person’s food, is another’s poison. I look forward to hearing all about the impact an anti-inflammatory diet has on your lifestyle.
Now go and pour yourself a turmeric latte and be sure to keep me updated!
References and Bibliography
IIN Health Coach Course Resources, ‘Anti Inflammatory Diet Guide’
IIN Student Resource. Lecture. ‘A Healthcare Call to Action’ – Dr Andrew Weil MD
IIN Student Resource. Lecture. ‘Traditional and Alternative Medicine’ – Dr Frank Lipman MD
IIN Student Resource, ‘Food For Life’ Lecture by Neal Bernard
IIN Student Resource, ‘The Nutrients You Need to Know’ lecture by Joel Furhman MD
IIN Student Resource, ‘The Wellness Zone’ lecture by Dr Barry Sears MD
Book: The Clever Guts Diet – Michael Mosely
Anti-inflammatory food pyramid: https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/anti-inflammatory-diet-pyramid/dr-weils-anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid/
Anti inflammatory foods: https://draxe.com/anti-inflammatory-foods/
What is Inflammation: http://time.com/5235368/what-is-inflammation/
What causes inflammation: https://www.realsimple.com/health/what-causes-inflammation