Nutrition and Fitness | 11 months ago

Inflamed? It Could Be Your Food Choices

The anti-inflammatory diet is getting a lot of attention lately because of its premise that when you avoid foods linked to chronic inflammation, it leads to fewer chronic diseases.

UPDATE: WINTER ANTI-INFLAMMATORY RECIPES

With the new year upon us, it's important now more than ever to be conscious of the foods we eat during the cold winter months. Inflammatory foods, in particular, are among the biggest of culprits when it comes to weight gain, drowsiness, skin problems, digestive issues, and a host of diseases, from diabetes to obesity to cancer. "To help your body fight the inflammatory response move away from a nutrient poor Western diet that is high in refined starches, empty sugars, saturated and trans fats," says Tricia Azra. "Switch to an antioxidant rich eating pattern that is more plant-based with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, less animal proteins and more plant proteins such as beans, nuts and seeds."

Fight inflammation with these easy-to-follow recipes that are perfect for the winter: 

LEMON HERB SALMON

Ingredients
1 lb. salmon fillets
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Preheat oven to 425F
Coat salmon with olive oil
Add seasonings and lemon juice to mixture
Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
Allow to bake for 10-15 minutes, or until salmon flakes with a fork
Serve alongside a bed of sautéed greens and whole grain rice

TUSCAN BEAN DIP

Ingredients 
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 clove of garlic, chopped
Dash of sea salt
Dash of cayenne pepper

Directions
Place all ingredients except cayenne pepper in blender
Purée until beans form a creamy texture
Add more lemon juice or garlic as required
Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and serve with toasted whole grain pita bread

WINTER FRUIT SALAD

Ingredients
1 large apple, diced small
1 large pear, sliced
2 cups fresh berries (blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, or a mix!)
1 lemon (zest and juice)
3 clementine “cuties,” peeled and sectioned
Walnut pieces, optional at time of serving

Directions
In a large bowl, lightly toss all ingredients together (except walnut pieces). Sprinkle with walnuts if desired and serve instantly. Or for even more flavor, let the fruits merry together for a couple of hours. Enjoy and serve anytime as a snack or a nutritious compliment to any meal.

Smoothie option: take 1 cup of fruit mixture, ½ 100% orange juice and a couple of ice cubes and blend for a personal smoothie!


There are several versions of the anti-inflammatory diet and the idea behind them is to reduce or avoid foods that cause inflammation: animal fats, corn oil, processed foods. Inflammation in the body increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, but it also can make it tough to lose weight, according to the diet’s creator, Dr. Andrew Weil. “Research is currently being gathered on the effects of the anti-inflammatory diet, but in general, the diet supports key elements of healthy eating that I frequently recommend and discuss with my clients,” says Tricia Azra, a registered dietitian and nutritionist at Carolinas HealthCare System. A dietitian for nearly 20 years, her expertise includes clinical nutrition, diabetes education, nutrition counseling and community wellness. “A diet very similar in concept, which has been extensively studied, is the Mediterranean diet,” says Azra.  “And it has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease and increase health and longevity.” The Mediterranean diet includes staples like cold-water fish, nuts, olive oil and other colorful fruits and veggies with proven health benefits. Think berries, salmon and nuts; omega-3- and anti-oxidant-rich foods are star players. There are so many diets, it is important to distinguish which ones are showing health promise versus which ones have had plenty of research and documentation, says Azra. “Healthy eating patterns enhances your health over time and I would highly caution against any diet that touts a specific miracle food or promises a quick, miraculous health benefit,” she says. “You can achieve better health­­­­­­­ by choosing a healthier eating pattern, maintaining a healthy body weight, staying physically active every day and getting plenty of sleep so your body can repair and recover.” To learn more about healthy eating strategies visit choosemyplate.gov.

HEALTHY TIPS AT A GLANCE:

  • Eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Make half of your grains whole grains.
  • Focus on healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and seeds.
  • Choose lean proteins, such as skinless poultry, lean meats, dry beans, eggs, nuts and seeds.
  • Include omega-3 rich seafood such as tuna, salmon and sardines twice per week.
  • Limit saturated fats found in fatty cuts of meat, whole milk, regular cheese, regular ice cream, butter, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, sausage, regular mayonnaise, coconut and palm oils.
  • Avoid trans-fats found in processed foods such as cakes, cookies, crackers, pies, stick margarine, potato chips and corn chips.
  • Savor your flavors. Be adventurous with fresh garlic, chili peppers, turmeric, curry, ginger, parsley, basil, cumin, vinegars and lemon juice. They all pack a powerful antioxidant punch.
  • Reduce sodium found in processed foods, boxed mixes, cereals, canned foods and baking-soda. Avoid the salt shaker.
  • Reduce added sugars found in soft drinks, juices, sweet tea, cookies, cakes and candies.