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Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Published on October, 22nd 2012
By Dr. Greg Wells

By Trionne Moore

When we suffer an injury or assault, our bodies mobilize internal forces to stop the spread of damage and facilitate healing.  This collective interplay of events is known as inflammation and it serves us whether our injuries are obvious (bone break, paper cut) or subtle (free radical damage, infections, allergic reactions, or chemical toxicity).

Too Much for Too Long

Inflammation that persists beyond its productive duration is indicative of an ongoing assault somewhere in the body.  Symptoms may include low energy, cardiovascular strain, weight gain, depression, sore joints, eczema, hair loss, thyroid problems, intestinal distress, and more.  Ultimately, this chronic inflammation provokes chronic disease such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases, and cancer.  Chronic diseases are now the major cause of death in practically all nations of the world.

Food:  Cause or Cure?

Food can trigger inflammation or quench it.  For example, processed sugary foods (juice, pop, “white foods”) and refined fats (commercial oils and salad dressings, margarines) instigate inflammation through various mechanisms.  On the positive side, natural foods can be used to halt and prevent certain types of inflammation without the negative side effects of certain medications.

The following are five groups of foods that have shown promising anti-inflammatory effects in research settings:

SPICES:  These glorious keepers-of-flavour contain compounds that inhibit inflammatory pathways with each one offering unique health benefits such as improved blood sugar regulation and anti-microbial action.  Top picks include: oregano, clove, ginger, cinnamon, hot chile, and turmeric.

VEGETABLES AND FRUIT:  These foods offer up a rainbow of plant molecules and nutrients (antioxidants) that interrupt tissue damage, combat inflammation and accelerate tissue healing.  These food gems increase health on all levels and combat accelerated ageing (inside and outside the body) caused by untamed inflammation. Top picks include: arugula, seaweed, garlic, fennel, parsley, watercress, pomegranates, apples, and all kinds of berries (don’t forget mulberries, gooseberries, cherries, and Saskatoon berries!)

SMALL COLD-WATER FISH:  High levels of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA, found in these little swimmers combat inflammation by altering our cellular communication through gene modification.  Compared to bigger fish, smaller ones are lower in persistent organic pollutants (heavy metals, PCB’s, pesticides) and their consumption is more ecologically friendly.  These omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to healthy aging throughout life, and have important roles in all aspects of health and physiology including fetal development, cardiovascular function, weight management, and cognitive function.  Top picks include:  sardines, herring, rainbow trout, and anchovies

PROBIOTIC FOODS:  Research shows us that consumption of good (“pro”) bacteria (“biotics”) improves our gut bacterial balance which in turn reduces local (intestinal) and systemic (whole-body) inflammation.   Probiotics are recognized for their part in treating and preventing conditions related to inflammation such as allergies, food sensitivities and intolerances, eczema, atopy, intestinal infections, diabetes, nutrient deficiencies, ulcers, and cancer.  Fermented foods are a natural source of these wonder-bugs, and interestingly, most cultures have their own version of these foods.  The key is to look for foods that have actually been naturally fermented (not just rapidly processed to taste like the real thing).  Based on different genetic characteristics and personal health histories, you may respond better to fermented foods related to your ethnic background.  Examples include: plain kefir (Eastern European), miso (Japanese), kim chi (Korean), sauerkraut (German)

RAW NUTS AND SEEDS:  These savoury snacks are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, antioxidant vitamins (especially vitamin E), dietary fiber, and plant proteins.  Frequent nut and seed consumption has been shown to combat inflammation by improving total antioxidant activity, improving insulin sensitivity, and modifying cellular signaling. Their consumption has been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.  As a bonus, they are  highly satiating which generally means less snacking on sugary, fatty junk foods.  Top picks include: walnuts, chia seeds, hemp hearts, Brazil nuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds

Make Your Anti-Inflammatory Diet Your Own

There are several versions of anti-inflammatory eating.  Nonetheless, people have different personal histories and different genetic polymorphisms (“blueprints”):  consequently, they respond differently to different foods.  For example, while fruits and vegetables contain anti-inflammatory plant chemicals, some people may have sensitivities to citrus foods (oranges, lemons), night-shade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers), or high-sulphur foods (garlic, onions) which may in fact trigger inflammation for them.  The case is similar with foods like dairy and soy.  The key to anti-inflammatory eating is to individualize your diet to accommodate you personal needs and nuances.  This is, in essence, a personalized learning curve and exploratory process, or simply a tasty journey to a healthier existence.

Written by:

Trionne Moore

info@trionne.ca

647.401.9100

Trionne Moore is a registered nutritional consultant who works with individuals, world-class athletes, and corporations looking to enhance workplace vitality. As a corporate presenter, she provides comprehensive nutrition programs and services to many enterprises which have included Toronto Police Services, the University Health Network, Rogers Communications Inc., Xerox, Power Workers Union, Good Life, and Corus Entertainment. In the sports world, she is the lead nutritionist for the Canadian Sport Centre Ontario and maintains her own practice at the Sports Medicine Specialists in Toronto. She has worked with several national and provincial sports such as swimming, triathlon, beach volleyball, women’s rowing, canoe/kayak, sailing, athletics, figure skating, soccer, pentathlon, latin dance, golf, indoor volleyball and the National Ballet. With her extensive background as a personal trainer, she can design nutrition programs alongside any fitness or sports regimen. Trionne specializes in holistic nutrition which incorporates natural, whole foods, reputable supplement protocols, digestive support, specialized diets, and lifestyle enhancements according to individual needs, abilities, health conditions, and body types.

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