Not all fats and carbohydrates are created equal
In my last post, I described how a diet of unhealthy fats and carbs contributes to inflammation in our cells and tissues. Here are some examples of their healthy counterparts and how they can help us reduce our inflammation load.
Unrefined carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains contain fiber so are digested more slowly than their refined white flour and sugary snack food counterparts. Slower digestion supplies a lower and more steady dose of sugar in the bloodstream which reduces the development of inflammation.
Happy gut bacteria
Fiber also feeds our gut bacteria, and when these microorganisms are healthy, they have been shown to produce anti-inflammatory effects inside our bodies.
Antioxidants including phytonutrients and vitamins, are also contained in unrefined carbohydrates, and help balance the oxidative stress created from the sugar component of these food.
Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy polyunsaturated, fats. Walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds are especially full of the beneficial omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, which have been found to reduce inflammation (1).
In the market for a sweet treat? Because fruit packs a good dose of fiber and phytonutrients in addition to its sugar content, it is a much healthier choice over processed sugary snacks. Add a smear of nut butter to that apple slice and you've further slowed digestion while adding even more anti-inflammatory properties from this healthy fat addition.
Mix a savory salad
Combine salad greens, tomatoes, carrots, olives and lemon juice with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and a splash of organic extra virgin olive oil, and you have created a beautiful and healthy fat and carb balance.
Prefer to sip your fat-carb combo?
Blend an avocado with an apple, handful of spinach leaves, 1/2 bunch cilantro, 1/2 lemon, 1 teaspoon organic extra virgin olive oil and water or ice as desired. Get creative and swap out the apple for a pear or mango, use an orange instead of a lemon, consider the addition of chia or hemp seeds to add more healthy nutrients.
Seafood to boost omega-3 fats
If seafood is part of your family's diet, cold water fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, sardines or mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3. If you can't get your kids (or yourself) to eat fish in its natural form, pop anchovies into a blender with organic extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard and garlic for a heavenly salad dressing. This is one of my favorite recipes from Melissa Clark at the New York Times.
Olive oil for lower heat cooking
Olive oil is loaded with phytonutrients which have been well studied for their anti-inflammatory benefits (2). It is one of the few cooking oils that is made without the use of chemicals and industrial refinement. In addition to it being an excellent choice for salads and drizzled over steamed vegetables, it can stand up to low to medium stove top cooking (typically reaching 250-350 degrees Fahrenheit) as the smoke point for virgin olive oil is 420 degrees and 320 degrees for extra virgin.
To reap the most benefits, choose cold-pressed, organic and non-GMO oil.
Turn up the heat with coconut oil
Like olive oil, coconut oil is rich in phytonutrients, and can also be produced without the use of chemicals and industrial refinement. The chemical properties of its specific fats allow it to stand up to high heat cooking without breaking down into harmful chemical components. It is also a makes a healthful raw addition to smoothies.
As with olive oil, choose cold-pressed, organic and non-GMO oil.
Ditch the industrial vegetable and seed oils
Unlike olive and coconut oils, most commercial vegetable and seed oils are not minimally refined and are highly processed. High heat is often the initial step used to extract oil from these plants. Then the petroleum based solvent hexane is often added to extract more oil from the plant. At this stage, the product is dark and odorous so bleaching and deodorizing is done to create the end oil. Phytonutrients are generally destroyed in this industrial processing, and further heating to which the oil is exposed when we cook, subject it to oxidation which becomes pro-inflammatory when we ingest it.
Add some anti-inflammatory spice to your life and your meals. These spices pack an excellent punch of anti-inflammatory nutrients add great taste as well: garlic, ginger, basil, rosemary, cayenne, and turmeric.
1. Nutrients. 2010 Jul; 2(7): 652–682.Published online 2010 Jun 24. doi: 10.3390/nu2070652PMCID: PMC3257681Health Benefits of Nut ConsumptionEmilio Ros
2. Curr Pharm Des. 2011;17(8):754-68.Molecular mechanisms of inflammation. Anti-inflammatory benefits of virgin olive oil and the phenolic compound oleocanthal.Lucas L1, Russell A. et al.