As Nutritional Therapist I have an interest in inflammation in the body and the profound effect it can have on our wider health – on digestive function, our cardiovascular system, immunity and in the brain.
In particular I am interested in the effect inflammation has on our gut health and immunity – the gut being the gateway to good health.
For the past 5 years I have been working with Stephanie Moore at Grayshott Medical Spa where I am part of the team that run the Grayshott Regime – a gut restoration programme designed to improve digestive function and cleanse and balance the body.
Here is my simple guide to including anti-inflammatory foods in the diet.
- Salmon and other oily fish: all contain omega 3 fats. Wild salmon contains a better ratio of W3:6 than farmed. Other great choices include mackerel, sardines, herring and tuna. Try to eat oily fish 2-3 times weekly.
- Extra Virgin Olive oil: contains oleic acid. Research has shown that those who consume higher amounts of oleic acid have better insulin function and lower blood sugar levels. New research has shown that the polyphenols found in olive oil and protective and anti-inflammatory for many systems in the body. Choose organic, extra-virgin, cold-pressed if possible.
- Salads and leafy vegetables: dark green lettuce, spinach, salad leaves and fresh herbs are good sources of Vitamin C which helps reduce inflammation as well as providing a good source of fibre for efficient digestion. Half of your plate should be green leafy and other coloured vegetables.
- Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale are high in antioxidants. They are high in ‘sulphur’ which helps in reducing inflammation and is supportive of the liver. Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds that help to reduce the incidence of colorectal cancers.
- Cherries: an excellent source of bioflavanoids and antioxidants, cherries not only reduce inflammation but destroy harmful free radicals. Especially good for sufferers of arthritis or gout. Sour cherries have been shown to help with both quality and length of sleep – essential for reducing inflammation in the body and allowing repair and regeneration.
- Dark purple fruit and veg contain potent phytochemicals with antioxidant properties. They help protect against many degenerative disease – great for the eyes, heart, blood sugar control and memory. This has been a fantastic year for blackberries so get picking while you can! They freeze extremely well and can be used throughout the winter months.
- Garlic: anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, garlic also has anti-inflammatory properties and helps your body fight infections, cardio-protective and liver supportive. Cutting up garlic and onions and allowing them to ‘sit’ for 20 minutes or so before cooking helps to release the allicin – the active compounds of garlic.
- Green and white teas: both green and white teas are very high in antioxidants. Aim to drink 1 or 2 cups or mugs every day. There are many different varieties but I recommend that you choose a really good quality loose tea.
- Ginger (fresh): has been shown to aid digestion, improve blood circulation to muscles and helps support the immune system.
- Turmeric is the bright yellow spice used in Indian cooking. It has many anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used when boiling rice and in many lentil and bean dishes. Rub into chicken breasts before grilling, add to soups, stews, stir-fries. Fresh root is widely available so you can add it to stir-fries for a spicy flavour packed full of goodness.
- Bromelain from pineapple and Papain from papaya are useful for breaking down proteins in the diet that may contribute to inflammation in the joints and the efficient breakdown of protein foods in the gut. They are available in digestive enzyme supplements.
NOTES ON FOODS TO REDUCE OR AVOID
Intensively reared and processed meats – choose grass fed (organic if possible) meat which is higher in omega 3 fats
Cooking & Salad Oils– avoid all vegetable shortening, all margarines, all corn oils, safflower, peanut, canola, and other vegetable and seed cooking and salad oils, except for extra virgin olive oils, coconut oil and avocado oil.
Fried Foods & Foods Cooked at High Temperatures– Hamburgers, chicken, french fries, onion rings, crisps, breaded fish – anything deep fried or pan fried, the burnt parts of barbecued food are highly inflammatory for the gut.
Low fat dairy Products– Excessive amounts of dairy is considered to be inflammatory. If you decide to eat dairy, choose the best quality fermented varieties as well as unpasteurized cheeses, kefir or good quality plain yoghurt, goats and sheep cheese – look in your supermarket or farm shop.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – Read the label and look our for corn syrup, fructose or HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) – this includes most soft drinks and sodas, sweets and snacks sweetened with Corn Syrup, including many health food meal replacement bars and so-called diet foods.
Sugars and Sweets– white sugar, sucrose, dextrose, molasses, all syrups and other sweeteners (see above) – avoid all artificial sweeteners and foods containing aspartame, saccharin. A small amount of raw honey or maple syrup is ok.
Avoid Simple Carbohydrates– refined and processed wheat flours and wheat products, cakes, pastries, biscuits, white pasta, noodles etc. If you do eat then replace with wholegrain versions that are much better sources of fibre and nutrients. You can also replace with starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, squash and pumpkin, celeriac etc and pulses, beans and lentils.