Inflammation. It can show itself in forms as obvious as joint pain, acne, and asthma , to forms less obvious and often silent, like heart disease.
In the last few years there have been more studies on how diet has a direct affect on the inflammation in your body. In other words, certain foods we eat have shown to increase inflammation therefore triggering pain and discomfort.
Among those common food related pain triggers (or common allergens) are meat, dairy, eggs, wheat, soy and certain citrus fruits. Many of these foods play major roles in issues such as joint pain, migraine headaches, asthma, digestive problems, and may be the triggering factor of many autoimmune diseases.
Interestingly enough, a large part of your immune system actually hangs out in your intestines and GI tract. When your body is intolerant to a certain food, your immune system kicks in which creates inflammation.
For example. As we age, we loose the enzyme to digest dairy. When our bodies can't digest something, it can cause our immune system to recognize that food source as trouble and may trigger an inflammatory response.
Lactose intolerant? You see commercials and advertisements for over the counter remedies everywhere. We are all lactose intolerant to some extent.
If you really stop to think about it, we are the only species that drinks milk from another species. Does it really "do a body good?"
When I stopped eating all dairy over three years ago, one of the first things I noticed (besides a significant decrease in joint pain) was that my nails weren't as brittle and were much stronger.
But more interesting than my finger nails, is that when you look at the countries that have the highest consumption of dairy (sourced form the cow) per capita, they also have the highest rate of osteoporosis per capita.
Food for thought, no?
So what can you do to fight inflammation?
You can start with eating a mostly plant based diet made up of real food. In other words, get rid of that processed crap.
A few years ago I read Michael Pollan's book "In Defense of Food" where he outlined a few simple rules that I always stick to when grocery shopping. A few of them being;
1). Shop the perimeter of the grocery store (or better yet, your local farmers market, when you can.). It's where all the healthy stuff is.
2). If it has more than five ingredients, don't buy it.
2). Make sure those five ingredients can be pronounced by your average third grader.
3). If your great great grandmother wouldn't recognize it as food, don't buy it.
Eat foods like leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, whole grains like brown rice and quinoa (that is not only hight in protein but also in fiber). Beans, nuts, seeds and legumes are also another excellent source of protein and high in dietary fiber.
Foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids have been proven to lower inflammation, aide in cancer prevention, increase immune function, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. It was also shown that Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferrers who took Omega 3 supplements had benefits comparable to those taking NSAIDS (Non-sterodial-anti-inflammatory-drugs.)
Foods that contain high amounts of Omega 3's are flaxseeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, and pecans, or if you're into fish choose cold water oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and sardines.
The most important thing is to realize that you don't have to sacrifice taste in order to be healthy. It wasn't until I went mostly vegan (with the occasional exception of fish...Escolar you complete me) that I realized how much I had been missing, and how much flavor and depth are in the foods that we often ignore.
Keep your eyes open for more recipes...Coming soon!