Guidelines for an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Inflammation is the common denominator in most chronic diseases. It accelerates aging and if you have inflamed arteries they will grow a lot more plaque. An anti-inflammatory diet is aimed at lowering inflammation. These are the main guidelines:
o Consume adequate omega-3 fatty acids. One of the key sources of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish (as opposed to white fish like cod or sole). Oily fish include anchovies, sardines, pilchards, herring, mackerel, trout, salmon, and tuna. Interestingly, if like me you have been limiting your fish intake due to concerns about mercury, it turns out that these fish all have higher levels of selenium than mercury. The relevance of this is that selenium consistently and predictably counteracts the adverse effects of mercury exposure.1 Most ocean fish contain more selenium than mercury. However the selenium status of freshwater fish is more variable and, without the selenium health benefit, the high mercury, low selenium ratio may cause harm to consumers. Also, today farmed salmon has become one of the most toxic foods in the world. Furthermore, salmon labelled ‘Atlantic salmon’ typically comes from fish farms. Look for Alaskan salmon, which is not allowed to be farmed, and is a powerhouse of nutrition. If you are concerned about your mercury levels, you may wish to consider taking natural mercury chelators such as zeolite (green clay), chlorella and fermented vegetables. Oily fish remain one of the best sources for animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. Aim for two servings (4oz or 113g each) of fatty fish per week.
o Choose healthy fats. Replace vegetable oils and trans–fats with healthy fats. Adding more healthy fats, olive oil and nuts is good for your arteries and decreases risk of heart attack and stroke.
o Increase vegetables and fruit intake. Aim to consume between 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. Go for colour. Deeply coloured fruits and vegetables have high levels of protective phytonutrients. Click here to view the BANT wellness plate.
o Choose whole grain carbohydrates and limit portion sizes. Aim for 25g-30g of fibre a day, choosing whole grains (quinoa, brown rice), fruit and vegetables and reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates (anything with flour and/or sugar).
o Get most of your protein from plant sources such as legumes, nuts and seeds. If choosing animal protein, ensure it is lean and clean. Avoid processed, commercialised, hormone and pesticide-enriched protein and choose free-range, organic poultry and chicken. If going for a steak, it should be a lean cut such as sirloin. And if possible, buy organic, grass-fed, not hormone-fed.
o Spice it up. Fabulous flavours. People don’t realise how important it is to have flavour in food. Herbs and spices are the most anti-inflammatory of all foods. Include garlic, turmeric, ginger, curry spices, chilli, cumin, cayenne, rosemary, oregano and other Italian herbs to your food. They are very anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and rev up your metabolism.
o Beneficial beverages. Many people get as much as 25% of their calories from drinking sugar. Beneficial beverages would include having a protein smoothie for breakfast (see recipes). Drink more clean water, water that comes from reverse osmosis or water from glass (BPA free) bottles rather than plastic. Green tea. One or two cups of coffee a day and a glass of red wine with dinner, provided you are able to limit it. If not, avoid. Red wine does help digestion, blood sugar and cholesterol.
o Enjoy dark chocolate (70% +) as a treat. Dark chocolate (28 grams a day) is great for heart and brain.
o Exercise. Fitness is important. Fitness is powerfully connected to whether you grow plaque.
o Magnesium. 70% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Magnesium helps blood pressure and blood sugar. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, constipation, migraines and palpitations. Magnesium is found in nuts, seeds, beans and leafy green vegetables. Most people who are magnesium deficient need about 400 milligrams of protein-bound magnesium so it is easier on the stomach and better absorbed. Click here to view some excellent sources of magnesium.
o Vitamin D. Vitamin D is very important for heart health. More and more people are becoming vitamin D deficient.
o Stress. It is not always possible to avoid stress but it is possible to manage it. Stress ages your heart, shrinks your brain and causes arteries to grow plaque. It can contribute to loss of muscle and bone mass and makes it hard to shift excess weight. Some key steps to managing stress are to feel loved and supported, to build connections in your life, get enough sleep, and have some peace and calm every day. It is also essential to find some relaxation time, meditation time, prayer time and get a good work out. Look out for upcoming blogs on stress management on my website