My Top 5 anti-inflammatory foods
Inflammation is the foundation for the body’s healing response, bringing nourishment and immune activity to a location of infection or injury. However, when inflammation is unnecessary or persistent, it can be seriously damaging to the body and cause a range of illnesses. It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is a root cause for many serious health conditions including cancer, degenerative diseases and heart disease. The good news is that with a healthy lifestyle including stress management, exercise and specific dietary choices, you can help to transform your body to optimum health. When eating to prevent and ease inflammation, it is important to include as many fresh ingredients as possible. Avoiding processed foods and fast food is also paramount. Here are some specific ingredients that you can include into your diet that will have a positive influence on inflammatory conditions, as well as providing a range of nutrients that will allow your body to thrive.
1. Turmeric- If you haven’t included this bright yellow spice into your cooking already, it is time to get it on the shopping list! This is a potent anti- inflammatory spice that has the ability to protect fats against oxidisation during the cooking process, and also shield the body against oxidative stress once it has been consumed. Studies conducted at the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University signify that the curcumin found in turmeric increases LDL receptor expression. Poor LDL receptor activity can leave LDL particles open and vulnerable to oxidisation from inflammatory responses. These studies reveal the importance of curcumin due to its cholesterol-lowering and anti-atherosclerotic (Atherosclerosis is the build-up of plaque inside the arteries) effects. Turmeric can be bought fresh, or dried in the form of a powder, and is a perfect ingredient to add to soups, curries, and Indian style dishes.
2. Ginger- Ginger is the root of a plant from the same family as turmeric, and has been used as a remedy for centuries in Asian, Indian and Arabic systems of medicine. Ginger is a potent anti-inflammatory, inhibiting the formation of inflammatory prostaglandins, thereby reducing the pain associated with osteoarthritis and other inflammatory illnesses. One 2008 study published in “Clinics” reveals that ginger may help halt the inflammation that is associated with liver cancer by stopping the pro inflammatory TNF-α, a type of signaling protein that causes inflammation. Include freshly grated ginger into stir fries, soups and curries, or add it to hot water with lemon and a couple of drops of stevia to make a spicy, soothing tea.
3. Cold pressed, extra virgin coconut oil- Research conducted in 2010 from the University of California San Diego indicates that the lauric acid present in extra virgin coconut oil was found to kill the bacteria responsible for inflammatory acne. Virgin coconut oil has also been demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory action on both ear and paw inflammation in rats, according to researchers from Pyap University in Thailand. The polyphenols in this ingredient have been shown to reveal significant radical scavenging capabilities, therefore neutralising free radicals; molecules that can damage cells and cause inflammation. These findings are part of an emergence of new research highlighting the benefits of extra virgin coconut oil, and the potential for this ingredient to have significant effects on the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Coconut oil is a great cooking oil with high heat resistance. Use it in baking, soups and stir fries.
4. Wild Salmon- The omega 3’s found in wild salmon are required for a healthy inflammatory response, and research shows that it provides beneficial effects for patients suffering with inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis. The omega 3 oils found in wild salmon are also linked to the prevention unwanted inflammation through the compounds of series 3 prostaglandins, series 3 thromboxanes and resolvins. Special compounds made from the DHA content in wild salmon oil, called protectins, have a potentially important role as anti-inflammatory regulatory molecules; having a specific influence on healthy brain and nerve function. Another new, exciting emergence of research is being conducted on the amino acid and protein content of salmon, as it has been found that salmon contains small bioactive protein molecules called bioactive peptides. One of these peptides; calcitonin, may have an impact on inflammation of the digestive tract and joints.
5. Cruciferous vegetables- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower are filled with a vast array of vitamins and minerals, and studies inform us that they have a specific influence on inflammatory conditions by helping to magnify the anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting properties of other foods. Broccoli has been found to lower colon inflammation in mice, and a recent study from the University of Baroda shows that red cabbage has been linked to a reduction of oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation due to its high levels of anthocyanin; a therapeutic compound with antioxidant, cardioprotective and hepatoprotective properties. Red cabbage is an easy ingredient to add to your meals; just chop it up finely and add it to salads for some extra crunch, and too add a beautiful colour burst to your plate.
For delicious gluten, wheat, dairy, yeast and sugar free recipes visit the website www.superchargedfood.com
1: The integrity of the business
Whether we choose to accept it in our minds or not, there is the story of a life, and the story of a death behind every piece of meat we eat. It is important to narrow the distance between the reality of the foods we eat, and our blissful ignorance that stems from a convenience culture of eating.
I’m not saying that we all need to raise and slaughter our own meat. I’m pretty sure the land lord wouldn’t appreciate us keeping livestock in the spare rooms of our apartments. But one thing that I think we really need to consider is the importance of supporting local butchers and developing an honest relationship with them. In this way we can still keep the communication lines open on the history and quality of the meat we are eating, something that is a lot more difficult to track in a large supermarket chain.
2: Avoid nitrates
Nitrates are preservatives that are added to meat to maintain colour and shelf life. One thing that I noticed when purchasing the nitrate free bacon is that the colour was significantly less pink. It had the more natural brownish colour of meat. This is because nitrates are what give cured meats their pink colour; think ham, salami and hotdogs. I did some research on nitrates and discovered that there are many warnings for parents against feeding infants food with nitrates, as they have been linked to infant methemoglobinemia, a deficiency of oxygen in the blood.
Nitrates themselves are not a danger in their own right, yet when they are taken into the body they react chemically to become related compounds called nitrites. When these foods are cooked at high temperatures, or digested in the acidic environment of the stomach, by-products called nitrosamines can be formed. Some variants of nitrosamines are carcinogens.
There is also evidence that pregnant women should especially avoid eating foods preserved with nitrates, and the levels of nitrates in the fetus can actually exceed those in the mother’s blood, thus causing harm to the health of the developing baby. Definitely something to avoid in your meat!
3. Avoid added Hormones
Buying meat that is hormone free is extremely important. Don’t be afraid to ask your butcher the hard questions. Although growth promoting hormones are banned in the EU, they are still used in Australia. According to the European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health, the use of six natural and artificial growth hormones in beef production poses a potential risk to human health. Studies indicate that there is a risk of the added hormones affecting human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, problems of the reproductive system and is even linked to the development of breast, prostate and colon cancer.
4. Buy Grass fed
Buying grass fed meat ensures that you are buying meat that has been raised the way nature intended. Many farmers “finish” their animals with grain to fatten them up, but this is not what the animal would naturally eat, and it affects the integrity of the meat’s health benefits. For example, the cow’s digestive system is not designed for grain, which means it can sit in the stomach. When fed a high grain diet, the micro-organisms that break down the food in the ruminant’s digestive system shift to those favouring a more acidic environment. As the bio-chemistry of the digestive system transforms, so do the affected tissues (meat). Meat from a grain fed animal is less flavoursome and has far more saturated fat than grass fed meat. Studies show that grass fed beef is significantly higher in Omega 3 fatty acids.
5. Buy Organic wherever possible
While it may seem that organic meat butchers your budget, there is no question that it is an important long term investment into your health. Buying certified organic meat will ensure that the meat is free from GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and antibiotics which the animals can store in the fatty tissues. Studies show that organic meat is significantly higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and that women who have had a diet high in CLA had a 60% lower risk of breast cancer than those with low levels. Organic meat is also higher in vitamin E, which is linked to lowered risks of heart disease and cancer. Certified organic meat farmers are subject to high accountability and standards of farming, and the meat is always free range; the animals are treated humanely and are free to roam in open pastures.
Ditching the Microwave
The convenience and widespread popularity of microwave ovens is something that a majority of people would never think to question. However, if we readily accept the practices of our age and culture in regards to food and lifestyle choices, we will be doing ourselves a great disservice.
We only have to look around to see the vast array of potentially deadly food choices that surround us every day to understand that we have a responsibility to educate ourselves as best as we can, so that our health choices are as safe as possible. Remember that “The best doctor.. The best nutritionist… IS YOU”. In other words, we can tag along with what is common practice in society, we can blindly accept the health information that is produced in mainstream media, by the governing bodies, the drug companies, and even the doctors, or we can extend on that and do some research ourselves, taking responsibility for our own health. In taking this approach, I decided to research the common practice of microwaving my food, something that we believe to be safe, and found that this convenient way of heating my food could be posing extraordinary risks to my health.
Firstly, what exactly is a microwave and how does it differ from the heating methods used in an oven or on a stovetop? Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic energy, like light waves or radio waves, and occupy a part of the electromagnetic spectrum of power, or energy. Microwaves are very short waves of electromagnetic energy that travel at the speed of light (186, 282 miles per second). Every microwave oven contains a magnetron, a tube in which electrons are affected by magnetic and electric fields, causing the production of micro wavelength radiation. Yes, you heard correct. Radiation. As microwaves barrage the food, they cause the polar molecules to rotate at a frequency of millions of times per second! This results in molecular friction within the food, causing it to heat up very quickly and all the way through. This is because microwaves use an alternating current, which causes friction of the molecules throughout the food.
In contrast conventional ovens do not use frictional heat, and use a direct current that works from the outside in. Logic suggests that if heating is all there is to microwave cooking, then it doesn’t matter how something is heated. But clearly we have two totally different ways of food heating. And this inevitably means two totally different effects on the food and on our bodies when we consume that food.
Microwave ovens have not been around all that long, first appearing for sale in 1947 and achieving instant popularity, without a whole lot of research conducted. No FDA or officially released government study has been released to prove microwave usage to be harmful, but we all know that the legitimacy of many widespread conclusions on health can be wrong. An example of this would be the common societal belief from the late 1960’s that eggs were “proven” to be harmful. Today we know that this is far from the truth. It just goes to show that the revision of common health knowledge is a highly important avenue. In fact, if we are open to exploring it, there has been a small amount of research done on the effects of eating microwaved food that deserves further inquiry.
While only a small amount of study has been conducted on the use of microwaves for cooking, the literature is extensive; directly revealing the hazardous effects of direct microwave radiation on living systems. The controversial, yet inarguable work of Dr Hans. Hertel and Professor Bernard Blanc in 1989 took 10 years to be acknowledged and resulted in swift reactions and lawsuits by the microwave industry, and trade organisations such as the Swiss Association of Dealers for Electro-apparatuses for Households and Industry (FEA). This was a direct reaction to the threatening findings of their study; that the violent friction in microwave cooking results in the forceful deformation of molecules, called ‘structural isomerism’, and that the radiation involved in this process causes the formation of new compounds called radiolytic compounds that are not found in the natural world.
After discovering these compounds in microwaved food, Hertel and Blanc studied the effects of these compounds on the body. Their findings show that when blood samples were taken from individuals after eating microwaved food, haemoglobin levels decreased, revealing “anaemic tendencies” that progressively got worse over a period of two months. It is interesting to think what may have been found if the study continued for years. The study also concluded that when microwaved food was consumed it caused changes in the blood indicative of the same processes as also found in the development of cancer; that cholesterol significantly and unusually, increased; there was an increase in white blood cell numbers and a decrease in red blood cell numbers.
There are several other studies and medical journals citing studies that indicate the negative impact that microwaving has on foods, and on the human body. In breast milk, protective qualities are destroyed; essential amino acids are transformed into non- biologically active synthetic isomers that can be toxic to the immune system and liver; fats and proteins are made more difficult to assimilate; Microwaving meats causes the formation of d-Nitrosodienthanolamines, a well known carcinogen;
Microwaved root vegetables result in the formation of carcinogenic free radicals; In microwaved foods, the bioavailability of vitamin B complex , vitamin C, vitamin E, essential minerals and lipotropics is decreased between 60-90%; Microwaves are linked to chronic excitation of the nervous system (stress syndrome) and high blood pressure, microwaved food causes a destabilization and interruption in the production of hormones and maintenance of hormonal imbalance in males and females.
Another thing to take into consideration is instinct. Cook an egg in the microwave and you will know what I mean. It is just not the same. Food does not explode in the oven like it does in the microwave! Put some mince in the microwave and smell it. My senses are aware that there is something just not right.
Even though they may be quick and convenient, the truth is we do not need our microwaves. If you want to defrost your meat, or frozen meals, get it out early in the morning. Or try defrosting gently in the oven! If you want to heat something up, do it in the grill, the oven or in a saucepan. It does the same job, minus the nasty consequences.
The truth is that legitimate information on microwave hazards is out there, but for some reason it isn’t common knowledge. It seems that the most convenient things in life are the most accepted, and are rarely challenged. But when it comes to our health, we need to be relentless in our drive to challenge and question these ordinary ways of eating.