Taming inflammation is more than gulping cucumber juice and gobbling turmeric capsules. It’s incorporating inflammation fighters into your daily routine, and passing up the foods that flare an inflammatory response.
Eating Creates Oxidation
Your body is an engine. An engine is a device to convert fuel to energy. But the process is not perfect. As a result, waste results. For example, when a car burn gasoline, it expels exhaust. Likewise, when you burn your food, you create oxidation. That’s normal.
However, having more oxidants than antioxidants in your diet is not normal. Modern processed foods do not contain many antioxidants. So, they leave an excess of “reactive oxidative species” after you have consumed your meal. These ROS instigate inflammation. Hence, convenience foods – especially those containing sugar – are NOT inflammation fighters. If you have too much of them in your diet, your body responds like an old oil-burning truck.
Whole Foods Are Inflammation Fighters
Neutralizing ROS requires vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and phytonutrients (plant chemicals) such as chlorophyll, beta-carotenes, quercetin, and other antioxidants. Often, processing destroys these necessary components to our diet. But eating food in its natural state preserves the synergy from these nutrients so they can interact with each other and our physiology to produce health. Fresh is best. So, of course, fruits and vegetables are going to be an important part of an anti-inflammatory diet. But animal products that contain minerals and Omega 3 fatty acids are important, too.
Five Ways to Add Inflammation Fighters To Your Diet
Don’t limit yourself to a supplement to maintain your health. Consider all the diverse ways of eating inflammation fighters throughout your day:
- Beverages – Berries, of course, are rich in anti-oxidants, but so cherries. Think outside the box, and enjoy some tart cherry tea in place of your morning smoothie. Or add some unusual leafy greens to the blender when you make your drink. Cilantro is one of my favorites.
- Seafood – You need Omega 3 fatty acids to quell the inflammatory response. No food is richer in this essential fatty acid than seafood, which includes fish, shellfish, and sea vegetables.
- Vegetables – Many vegetables are champions when it comes to fighting inflammation, but the leafy greens are perhaps the superstars. So, fill your plate with them. In addition, hide them in burgers, sauces, hashes, dressings, or any place else where you can chop them and stir them in. I include basil in my list of greens and consider it a great addition to desserts and drinks featuring berries.
- Herbs – These unsung heroes supply Vitamins A, C, E, and K, which are critical inflammation fighters. Herbs are a delight to liven up boring salads, to add flavor to soups, to create appeal for cooked vegetables, to steep for teas, and to season meats. Not only that, they are inexpensive. You can even grow your own on a windowsill. One powerhouse you might not consider is nettle.
- Spices – With potent phytonutrients, spices are mighty inflammation fighters. Beyond turmeric, other heroes include cumin, fennel, and ginger. These are easy to add to dry rubs, salad dressings, sauces, soups, stir-fries, sandwiches, and salads.
Inflammation Fighting Recipes
Try the following to expand your repertoire of inflammation fighting foods.
- Tart Cherry Tea – Steep 1″ thinly sliced ginger root in 2 c. hot water. Strain, then stir in ¼ c. tart cherry juice, 2 Tb. lemon juice & 1 Tb. honey.
- Cilantro Smoothie – Blend together: 6 Cutie oranges, 6 oz. pineapple juice concentrate, 1 can full fat coconut milk, 1 bunch cilantro, and 1 cup ice.
- Parsley & Cucumber Salad – Toss 1-2 bunches chopped parsley with 1/2 c. cooked quinoa, 1 bunch sliced green onions, 2 diced tomatoes, 1 diced cucumber, 2 Tb. minced mint, 1 Tb. lemon juice and 2 Tb. olive oil.
- Nettle & Lentil Soup – To a can of ready-to-serve lentil soup, add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 Tb. lemon juice, and ¼ c. dried nettle leaves. Simmer until fragrant.
- Salmon & Pineapple Skewers – Broil skewers of pineapple, red bell pepper and cubed salmon until meat is no longer translucent. Brush with a glaze of 1 Tb. soy sauce & 2 Tb. honey.
- Mexican Crab Tostada – On a tostada, layer mashed avocado, crab meat, tomato, jalapeno (optional), and chopped cilantro. Top with salsa and garnish with lime.
- Monster Burgers – Add ½ c. finely chopped herbs or leafy greens to 1 lb. hamburger. Season & cook as usual.
- Berry -Basil Smoothie – Blend 1 avocado, 3/4 c. spinach, ¼ c. basil leaves, 1 1/2 c. mixed berries, ½ c. coconut milk, and 1/2 c. water.
- Ginger Dressing – Whisk together 2/3 c. sesame oil, 1/3 c. rice vinegar, 1 Tb. soy sauce, and 1” of grated ginger. Pour over cooked fish, serve with oriental salad, or dress tropical fruit.
- Fennel & Cumin Dry Rub – Combine tsp salt, 1 tsp. ground cumin and 1 tsp. ground fennel with ½ tsp. black pepper. Rub onto meats or mix into sausage before browning. To make a sauce for cooked vegetables, omit and salt and mix into 1 c. marinara sauce.