Inflammation and the Superfoods That Heal
Inflammation and the Superfoods That Heal It
Inflammation is the immune system’s protective response to infection, or irritation. Oftentimes, the inflammation is visible, with redness and soreness somewhere on the body; this kind of inflammation is temporary, and is known as acute inflammation. But more often than not, the inflammation is on a cellular level, and therefore is not apparent. This invisible, often long-term inflammation is what’s known as ‘chronic inflammation’, and chronic inflammation has been associated with a host of health problems, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. When our cells are being attacked by self-generated inflammation, they fail to function properly, and there is a domino effect of health issues, which can occur.
Dr. Nicholas Perricone, the New York Times best-selling author, suggests that free radicals are the catalyst which set off a “cascade of inflammatory response” – a free radical, Dr. Perricone explains, is a reactive molecule which causes damage to our cells – this results in disease of all kinds, including the formation of plaque in the cardiovascular system, leading not only to hardening of the arteries and heart attack; but also to premature aging, obesity, and difficulty losing weight. When the body is exposed to, for instance, unhealthy fats, such as saturated fats (found in fried foods and full-fat dairy products) or other inflammatory-promoting foods, such as high-glycemic carbohydrates (sugar or white flour) free radicals attack the fragile outer layer of the cells in the body. As a result, the cell plasma is damaged, oxidizing the cell. That’s why antioxidants play such an important role in the healing process, where the damage caused by free radicals is concerned.
Healing, Dr.Perricone explains, can occur through diet, by avoiding inflammation-promoting foods, and consuming foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids. Because the body cannot synthesize these essential fatty acids, they must be consumed in one’s diet. The omega-3 essential fatty acids are found in high-fat, cold water fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, and they act as powerful antioxidants, just as do fruits and vegetables which are brightly colored (the bright color signaling the significant presence of antioxidants.) In addition, certain supplements can go a long way toward reducing inflammation. For instance, omega-3 fish oil reduces inflammation, accelerates weight loss, elevates mood, encourages radiant skin, and boosts the immune system. In addition, alpha lipoic acid (ALA), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), glutamine, linoleic acid (LA – an Omega-6 fatty acid) and Coenzyme Q10, reduce inflammation significantly.
There are foods that Dr. Perricone describes as “superfoods” which are anti-inflammatory and high in Omega-3s. Here are some of the top foods he recommends:
1. Cold Water Fish:Omega-3s, Protein-rich, Anti-inflammatory:
Wild Alaskan salmon, sablefish, mackerel, trout, tuna, sardines and anchovies
2. Fruits: Anti-inflammatory, Anti-oxidant, High Fiber, and “obesity fighters”:
Apples, pears, grapefruit, all berries, peaches, plums, cherries
3. Fats from Fruits: Rich in monounsaturated fats, Omega-3s, and Nutrient-rich
Monounsaturated fats are believed by scientists to protect against heart disease and certain cancers. Also, they are burned more efficiently after exercise, which may contribute to long-term weight loss: Avacado, acai, olives, and coconut
4. Seeds and Nuts – Anti-inflammatory Antioxidants, Essential fats, Protein, Fiber, Lignans; Reduce the risk of cancer, anti-aging, help control weight by reducing hunger pangs:
Sesame seeds, Flax seeds, Almonds, Walnuts, Hazelnuts, Sunflower Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds
5. Beans and Lentils – Stabilize Blood Sugar, Protein, Fiber, Anti-inflammatory, Phytonutrients, “Obesity fighters”; Moderate blood sugar and insulin levels:
Kidney, Pinto, Navy, Black Beans, Lentils, Chickpeas
6. Low Fat, Probiotic Dairy Foods
Protein, Probiotics, Calcium, “Obesity-Fighters”:
Low-fat yogurt, kefir, acidophilus milk
7. Whole Grains – Fiber, Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-oxidants, Phytonutrient Obesity-Fighters
Top choices: Buckwheat, Oats, Barley
8. Vegetables: Fiber, Low-calorie, Low-Glycemic nutrition, Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants: Garlic, spinach, kale, broccoli sprouts
9. Some Other Superstars:
Chia Seeds: Chia seeds boost energy, stabilize the blood sugar, aid in digestion and lower cholesterol
Goji Berries: – Chinese medicine practitioners use goji berries to treat diabetes and high blood pressure. These berries are high in vitamins C and E and carotenoids. They also increase metabolism and boost energy levels.
Check out Dr. Perricone’s excellent best-selling book: The Perricone Weight Loss Diet
Jackie Callahan has been interested in health and nutrition for her entire adult life. She is an amateur naturalist and has written over 13 illustrated journals on the flora and fauna of Fish Creek, an outlet of Saratoga Lake, and is currently studying with master herbalist, Dr. Aviva Romm, working toward a certification as an herbal educator. She works as a sales associate in the Healthy Living Market (Saratoga) Wellness department. She lives in Saratoga Springs on beautiful Fish Creek with her husband, John and their son, Alex. She also has two grown children, Danielle and Devin, who live in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and Burlington, Vermont, respectively.