Thursday, September 13, 2007
2 Nutrition Tip #3: Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods For Good Health
As the third installation in the series of nutrition topics, this post will again give you many practical tips on how to achieve better health through nutrition.
As promised, I will now discuss the specifics behind maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.
As I mentioned earlier (in previous posts), regular exercise & the incorporation of anti-inflammatory foods into your daily diet are just some of the many important ways you can significantly reverse/reduce the amount of existing inflammation already in your body, &/or prevent major inflammation in your body altogether.
So, let's right down to it: The two biggest questions on most people's minds with regard to anti-inflammatory foods are probably these: What types of foods are anti-inflammatory? And, how do I incorporate them into my nutritional plan?!
First I will talk about the Omega complex (3-6-9) foods:
First, let me start with Omega-3's. Omega-3 foods are anti-inflammatory. You'll want to get about a gram a day of Omega-3's. (To read about the specific benefits of Omega-3's, please read this article.)
The absolute best source of Omega-3's is ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oil. One teaspoon of flaxseed oil or one tablespoon of ground flaxseed will give you sufficient Omega-3's.
In order to get the full benefit of flaxseed nutrients, I recommend using a spicegrinder to grind the flaxseeds (which is MUCH easier than using a mortar & pestle!), since they must be ground in order for the body to absorb their Omega-3's. Once ground, flaxseed must be stored in the refrigerator or freezer, since their shells have been removed & are no longer protected from oxidation.
Please note that since Omega-3's are damaged by both heat & oxidation, Omega-3 oils & ground seeds should NOT be used for cooking & should be stored in dark containers in the refrigerator or freezer. (When I do incorporate ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oil into my cooking, I will usually only add the oil/ground seeds at the final stages, sprinkling it/them over a dish after it's been removed from the stove or oven & has cooled considerably. Flaxseeds have a subtle nutty taste & in my opinion, taste pretty good. They are especially tasty on breakfast cereal, sandwiches, & anything that could use a nut-like flavor enhancement.)
Other Good sources of 3's: Ground or whole linseed, linseed oils, walnut oil, wheatgerm oil, leafy green vegetables (like lettuce, broccoli, spinach, kale, purslane, etc.), legumes (like citrus fruits, melons, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, kidney, navy, pinto, & lima beans, peas & split peas, etc.), & of course, SALMON (as everyone already knows by now, unless you've been living under a rock!).
In particular, Alaskan wild salmon is an excellent source of Omega-3's & is also recommended as one of the safer types of salmon to eat. (Mercury & other toxins found in fish can really put a dent in anyone's day, to say the least.) See this link for a list of fish that are both safe to eat, contain omega-3 fatty acids, & are healthy for the oceans as well.
There are also some other fish oils (besides those contained in salmon), which are particularly rich in Omega-3's, but since I personally don't want to drink something as vile as krill or codliver oil to get my Omega-3's (unless I can take it in pill format!), I think I'll be just fine with sticking with the formerly mentioned options. And don't those options just seem heavenly in comparison?! ;-)
(NOTE: Now some of you might be thinking that I forgot to mention other oils like Canola/rapeseed oil & soybean oil, which also contain Omega-3's. However, I'd highly advise you to avoid them for reasons I'll explain below, in just a minute. So please be patient & keep reading.)
And now for the Omega-6's: Good sources of Omega-6's are green leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, & vegetables. Also, walnuts, brazil nuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, pine nuts, & sunflower seeds are excellent sources.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Although it's important to have Omega-6's in your diet, be careful, because having too many can be pro-inflammatory. Generally, you should have more Omega-3's than 6's, since 3's are anti-inflammatory. It's all about balance & ratios.
And lastly, here are some good sources of Omega 9's: olives, olive oil (i.e., unrefined, expeller/machine cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil is best), nuts & nut butters, seeds, & avocados. Your body also naturally produces Omega 9's.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Also, again be careful not to overdo Omega-9's in your diet either, as the majority of fatty acids in your diet should come from Omega-3's.
And now, for the explanation of oils to avoid: While many oils DO contain Omega essential fatty acids, there are many that I'd strongly advise that you reduce their intake or avoid them altogether. In particular, this list includes: corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower, canola/rapeseed, & vegetable oils.
Simply put, not all oils have been created equally. Many of them are refined oils, & as a result, are not good for good (i.e., translation = they will increase inflammation!).
Additionally, any of the Omega complex oils which have been produced with the intent of preserving their shelf-life usually have inflammatory additives that reduce their overall nutritional value. Many of the oils commercially available in supermarkets are de-gummed, refined, bleached, & deodorized; they are often colorless, odorless, tasteless, but also "nutrition-less"!!!! They are commonly treated with chemical compounds like NaOH (a corrosive base used to burn clogged sink & drain pipes!), H3O4 (a corrosive acid used commercially for degreasing windows), &/or bleaching clays to remove color molecules (which produce rancidity, that in turn imparts bad odors). They are also deodorized at frying temperatures (220-245 degrees Celsius). Also, many useful ingredients that have major health benefits-- like phytosterols, chlorophyll, & antioxidants -- are removed during the refinement process.
But enough lecturing about what's bad for you. Let's move beyond fear factors & talk about positive steps you can take to improve your anti-inflammatory status.
In addition to Omega complex foods, here are even more anti-inflammatory foods you can eat &/or incorporate into your cooking regimen: garlic, onions, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, & citrus.
It's equally important to reduce dietary sources of inflammation.
(1) So of course, that means you should reduce or eliminate pro-inflammatory foods. The list of pro-inflammatory foods includes animal/dairy fats found in butter, cheese, & meat, foods with hydrogenated oils like most coconut & palm oils, margarine varieties, chips, & fried foods, etc. On a related note, it's best to moderate animal protein intake (0-1 serving each day), & when you do eat red meat, make sure it's grass-fed beef (which is lower in pro-inflammatory substances than regular beef).
(2) Reduce your carcinogen/toxin exposure (& thus your inflammation) by limiting mercury intake (i.e., predatory fish like swordfish, shark, tilefish, king mackerel have higher mercury content), purchasing organic whenever possible, & eliminating any likely food allergens (dairy, wheat, eggs, nuts, etc.).
So what else can I do to increase my intake of anti-inflammatory foods?
(1) Eat more vegetable protein (beans, nuts, seeds, soy -- tofu/tempeh, whole grains, etc.).
(2) Eat fish (preferably 1-3 times a week).
(3) Eat N-3 enriched eggs & egg whites.
(Please note: Simultaneously eating anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory foods, even if you are exercising, is counterproductive.)
And lastly, here are some behavioral modifications that'll have an enormous anti-inflammatory effect on your body:
(1) Get 8 hours of sleep.
(2) Maintain a healthy weight.
(3) Get out there & move your bod!
Well, that about wraps it up for now. I'm probably going to take a break from writing about nutrition for a while, since I really overdid it these last few days. My mind is wandering back to running, so I'm off to follow where that leads. ;-)
Have a good night!