Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines.
It’s a fact. No matter whether you have mild or severe joint pain, more often than not, it is the simmering fires of inflammation, not old age, that is causing it. The pain that you feel is your body’s way of telling you that it’s irritated and needs your help.
Scientists are measuring levels of inflammation in our bodies and finding that it can be pretty bad for our health; this is especially true when it's chronic (i.e. lasts a long time).
Inflammation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer's, and diabetes, just to name a few.
If your inflammation or pain started with peri-menopause, it is worthwhile assessing your hormonal balance. Oestrogen levels drop in the decade after menopause, and lower oestrogen levels cause inflammatory changes in the body. A re-balancing of your hormones can often mean a dampening of your aches and pains via a damping of the inflammatory process.
But, there is also a simple strategy you can use to help ease your inflammation starting today:
Eat a diet rich in natural anti-inflammatory foods. Because some foods are packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants!
Here are the top anti-inflammatory foods that I recommend you try:
Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries
Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fibre, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).
Berries, grapes and cherries are packed with phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? These antioxidants such as "anthocyanins" and "resveratrol" are found in these small and delicious fruits.
In fact, berries, grapes, and cherries may be the best dietary sources of these amazingly healthy compounds.
Anti-inflammatory Food #2: Broccoli and Peppers
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains the antioxidant "sulforaphane." This anti-inflammatory compound is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
Bell peppers, on the other hand, are one of the best sources of the antioxidants vitamin C and quercetin.
Just make sure to choose red peppers over the other colours. Peppers that are any other colour are not fully ripe and won't have the same anti-inflammatory effect. (Incidentally, I always buy the red ones – so much sweeter!)
These two super-healthy vegetables are packed together in this week's recipe (see below).
Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, fatty fish)
Fat can be either terribly inflammatory ("trans" fats), neutral (saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory ("omega-3s). This is why choosing the right fats is so important for your health.
The best anti-inflammatory fats are the unsaturated ones, including omega-3s. These are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
Go for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, small fish (e.g. sardines and mackerel), and wild fish (e.g. salmon). And don't forget the omega-3 seeds like chia, hemp, and flax.
Anti-inflammatory Food #4: Green Tea
Green tea contains the anti-inflammatory compound called “epigallocatechin-3-gallate”, otherwise known as EGCG.
EGCG is linked to reduced risk of heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, and Alzheimer's.
Drinking green tea is great, but have you tried Matcha green tea? It's thought to contain even higher levels of antioxidants than regular green tea.
Anti-inflammatory Food #5 - Turmeric
Would a list of anti-inflammatory foods be complete without the amazing spice turmeric?
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin.
This compound has been shown to reduce the pain of arthritis, as well as have anti-cancer and anti-diabetes properties.
It’s added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below which (according to a recent study) only works when it’s added to food as it seems it becomes more bio-available.
Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate, with at least 70% cocoa is packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants (namely "flavonols"). These reduce the risk of heart disease by keeping your arteries healthy. They've even been shown to prevent "neuro-inflammation" (inflammation of the brain and nerves). Reducing neuro-inflammation may help with long-term memory, and reduce the risk of dementia and stroke.
Make sure you avoid the sugary milk chocolate. You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!
In A Nutshell
There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colourful berries, vegetables, and spices, to healthy fats, and even cocoa.
You have so many reasons to add anti-inflammatory foods to your diet to get your daily dose of "anti-inflammation."
Recipe (Broccoli, Pepper, Turmeric): Anti-inflammatory Quinoa
¾ cup dry quinoa (pre-rinsed)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion – diced
1 red capsicum/pepper – chopped
Pinch of salt
½ tbsp turmeric
Pinch black pepper
2 cups broccoli, chopped
In a saucepan place 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the water is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).
Melt coconut oil in a frypan. Add diced onions, turmeric, capsicum and salt, and lightly sauté for a few minutes.
Add broccoli and lightly sauté for 5-6 minutes, until it becomes softened.
Add the cooked quinoa and stir everything together.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Add some cayenne pepper or curry spice for an extra spicy kick.
Click below to listen to a podcast episode I was interviewed for, about building resilience and my journey to being a Health Coach