With any injury there comes inflammation. And having any chronic disease is like having an injury to the body.
Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response; without it, we can’t heal properly. Sounds ironic, right?
What you eat has a direct effect on how your body will respond and heal. Foods high in processed sugar and saturated fat can spur inflammation. It can cause the normal immune response to go into overdrive – which can increase joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels.
Antioxidants are natures anti-inflammatory powerhouse! Below is a list of my top 8 favorite antioxidants and natural foods that will heal your inflammation:
1. Fatty Fish – Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation. To get the benefits, however, you need to eat fish several times a week, and it should be cooked in healthy ways (ex: bake, broil ..etc). Don’t like fish? Try fish-oil supplements.
2. Fiber – fiber acts like a broom in our systems that helps “sweep” out bad particles in our body. This includes inflammation. Whole grains have more fiber, which has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood, and they usually have less added sugar.
3. Nuts – particularly almonds, which are rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin E, and walnuts, which have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat. All nuts, though, are packed with antioxidants, which can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation.
4. Beets – This vegetable’s brilliant red color is a tip-off to its equally brilliant antioxidant properties. Beets (and beetroot juice) have been shown to reduce inflammation, as well as protect against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their hearty helping of fiber, vitamin C and plant pigments called betalains.
5. Ginger and Tumeric – These spices have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Put raw, peeled ginger in your water. Add tumeric to roasted cauliflower or sweet potatoes.
6. Garlic – has been shown to work similarly to NSAID pain medications (like ibuprofen), shutting off the pathways that leads to inflammation. Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which breaks down to produce free radical-fighting sulfenic acid. From a medical history standpoint, the antibacterial and antiviral properties of garlic are perhaps its most legendary feature. SO eat up!
7. Berries – All fruits can help fight inflammation, because they’re low in fat and calories and high in antioxidants. But berries, especially, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties—possibly because of anthocyanins, the powerful chemicals that gives them their rich color.
8. Seeds – plant-based Omega-3s. Flax and Chia specifically. Two components in flaxseed, ALA and lignans, may reduce the inflammation by helping block the release of certain pro-inflammatory agents. Chia seeds are high in Omega-3s (mostly ALA – alpha linolenic acid). However; Omega-3 active forms are known as EPA and DHA which are more readily absorbed by the body. Chia seeds do not supply any DHA (the most important Omega-3 fat) which, in my opinion, makes Chia seeds overrated as an Omega-3 source, BUT they are super high in fiber (see #2). Eat up!
Cha – Cha – Cha – CHIA!
—>A little more focus on Chia seeds: they are unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flax seeds). One ounce (about 2 TBSP) contain 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of healthy fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus a ton of vitamins and minerals.
Chia seeds readily dissolve into water, creating a substance that looks like gelatin. This gel-forming action is due to the soluble fiber in the Chia seed. Researchers believe that Chia seeds slow the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar – which may help with endurance and metabolic rates; ultimately benefiting athletes. More research is needed. In the meantime, they are proven to be delicious.
Banana Chia Seed Pudding:
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4th cup Chia seeds
1/2 banana, sliced
5 raw almonds, chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
*Whisk together almond milk, cinnamon and chia seeds, cover and refrigerate overnight. If desired, you can blend for a smoother consistency… but I like the texture of leaving the seeds whole. Stir in sliced bananas and chopped almonds when ready to serve.
Makes 1-2 servings.