Our bodies use inflammation to help heal and protect and it is a natural response of our body's immune system. However, it can get out of hand and become extremely painful. I've suffered with bursitis, tennis elbow and more recently sciatica, which are all types of inflammation and although you try to carry on as normal the pain can grind you down until you stop and rest. Medication can help too in different forms, but do the foods we eat also have an effect?
I have learnt that foods high in saturated fat and sugar can activate inflammation in our bodies. But I don't think my diet is high in either, sure I enjoy a piece of good quality chocolate and I like the odd vegan biscuit - OK Packet! One reason I tend not to buy them, but if they're on offer I just can't resist. I thought saturated fats were mainly found in animal products like cheese, butter and cream but they're also found in palm oil and coconut products. Both palm oil and hydrogenated fat is found in processed food like biscuits, margarine and ready made meals. So I guess I need to start cutting down on the biscuits and margarine as I rarely have a ready made meal, in fact the only one I can think of is vegan sausages! Further research found that some nuts especially brazil nuts were fairly high with saturated fats; brazil 26%, cashews 21% however they also had higher mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which can help lower blood pressure. I think it is time that I started a food diary so I can actually see how much fat and sugar I am taking on board.
But wait, there is food out there, which can help! Its all about making the switch.
|Winter Wellness Chilli Goodness|
Foods to help reduce inflammation include:
Garlic - Yes, its here again thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown that garlic works similarly to some types of pain medications, specifically Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), which are used to treat various conditions.
Whole Grains - It is reported that eating whole grains instead of the refined foods, such as pasta and rice can help keep inflammation in check. Whole grains contain a heap more fibre and have less added sugar so they're way better for you, but we all knew that already, didn't we? When you visit your doctor with a inflammatory condition, they usually take a blood sample and one of the tests they might undertake is looking at the levels of "C-Reactive Protein" which is a marker of inflammation. More fibrous foods have been shown to reduce the "C-Reactive Protein" so another great reason to swap to whole grain! If you only make one change with grains it should be to eat quinoa which is a complete protein containing all essential amino acids, and it will fill you up! Wild rice is another great swap so next time you go shopping just remember quinoa, wild rice and whole grain pasta and you can't go wrong.
Flax, Hemp & Chai Seeds - Yep! These three are all back here as the omega-3s in these seeds can also help reduce inflammation
Leafy Greens - You've already seen that leafy greens are good for your health as they are full of important nutrients, including vitamin E, which is reported to protect the body agains inflammation.
Almonds & Walnuts - Another source of inflammation fighting omega 3's is nuts, which are also a good source of fibre and vitamin E.
Chilli & Cayenne Peppers - These spicy morsels are rich in capsaican, which is also found in creams, lotions, gels and ointments you apply to your skin to reduce pain and inflammation. I think a hot and spicy chilli is in order!
Tomatoes - Another ingredient of a good hearty chilli! Tomatoes are reported to help reduce inflammation throughout the body, thanks to the high levels of lycopene which increases through cooking.
Beetroot - You only have to look at a beetroot and its vivid colour to believe that it has to be good for you. Beetroot is full of antioxidant properties which are reported to reduce inflammation.
Turmeric - This spice contains curcumin, which reportedly has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately it is not absorbed into the bloodstream very well and it is unlikely that you will be able to eat sufficient to make an impact. However it is available as an extract, something that I'm going to look into a bit more.
Berries - Yep! Berries are here again, thanks to being high in antioxidants, but we should have realised that, just look at their vivid colours! One study reported that women who ate more strawberries had lower levels of "C-Reactive Protein" in their blood streams! Roll on summer!
Green Tea - One of the most healthiest drinks you can have, it contains one of the highest amount of antioxidants of any tea and can help reduce inflammation, thanks to the natural chemicals found in the tea called polyphenols.
Soy - Another food which was reported to have reduced the "C-Reactive Protein" and inflammation levels, especially in women.
Dinner - Winter Wellness Chilli Goodness
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1 Block of tofu, frozen and defrosted
2 Tbsp Soy sauce
½ Tsp Turmeric
2 Tsp Cumin
1 Tsp Coriander
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1 Onion, finely diced
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 Chilli pepper, finely diced (do not remove the seeds)
1 Red/Orange Capsicum, finely diced
50g Kale, without stalks
1 Tsp Vegetable Bouillon Powder
100g Beetroot, cooked, finely diced or grated
1 Tsp Cocoa powder
1 Tsp Balsamic vinegar
1 Tsp Garlic granules
1 Tbsp Tomato purée
Salt and Pepper to taste, optional
Squeeze the tofu until the moisture has been removed, it feels like a sponge and you will be surprised as to how much water comes out. Once the moisture has been removed crumble into a sieve and give the tofu one last squeeze. Yes, even more moisture will come out!
In a bowl add the soy sauce, turmeric, cumin and coriander and mix to a paste. Add the crumbled tofu and mix so the paste is evenly distributed. Set to one side to let the flavours mingle, while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Put a little cross on the bottom of each of the tomatoes and place in another bowl. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes and let sit for 5 minutes to loosen the skins.
Pour the oil into a pan and add the onion, garlic and chilli, sauté for five minutes or until the onions start to become translucent. Add the capsicum and stir to incorporate with the other ingredients and sauté for anther five minutes.
Remove the tomatoes from the hot water (carefully) and remove the outer skin and chop the flesh. Mix the bouillon powder with the hot water and stir.
Add the tofu and spices to the pan along with the tomatoes and the kale. Give the mixture a stir before adding the vegetable stock and give the mixture another stir. Let simmer for 5 minutes stirring every now and again to stop the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Next add the remaining ingredients and let the mixture simmer for another 10 minutes or until the kale is cooked, adding salt and pepper to taste, which you may not need.
Serve on a bed of red and white quinoa or wild rice for that extra boost. I served on quinoa as I had no wild rice :o)
Top with vegan sour cream (made with tofu) and sprinkle chives on the top. Or top with home-made guacamole. Enjoy!
I hope enjoyed the Winter Wellness Series, I will be posting more recipes soon using the foods I have found to help with the three most typical health conditions of winter. What are your favourite foods throughout winter and how do they help you? Let me know in the comments below.