Here we are, well immersed in the midst of summer. Hot days and warm nights summon up plenty of opportunities for barbeques’, picnics, and frolicking in the water.
Today, we are going to take a quick dip into the topic of food, nutrition and inflammation.
Given the spirit of the season, we will gracefully skirt around those grilled hot hogs, burgers and ice cream we may have eaten, because everyone deserves a treat once in a while. But, let’s think about some foods we might to focus on much of the time that will support great health.
Inflammation is the hub of our conversation today. It conjures up quite a few images…both good and not so good. Let’s consider.
When we cut our toe walking on the seashore we should be thankful for the inflammatory response which is generated quicker than we can holler “Ouch.” There has been a breech in security and we want the inflammatory army to mobilize. Within seconds, our body jumps into a healing response. Our blood starts to clot to stop the bleeding, and a whole bevy of white cells spring into action.
The wound may become red and swollen- as the immune system troops pile up and take up residence to combat any infectious materials and rebuild the injured area. There is some pain in that healing process for sure. After a few days, the battle is completed, the troops recede and the swelling calms. With nary a deep breath, I imagine, those white blood cells remain on high alert for any other offending invaders.
Food can cause a similar immune response. Some of the foods we eat support the health of the troops, and some foods keep our immune system army in a state of stress. The inflammation takes place deep within our cells, tissues and organs, and can weaken us over time. By choosing more foods that support optimal health, we can impact our energy levels in a good way.
Let’s consider a few foods which are anti-inflammatory (Good for us!) and one food that can cause inflammation. (Not so good for us!)
- Berries, berries, berries: any kind of berry is a good berry. Blueberries, cherries, strawberries, raspberries. All are nutrient dense superstars which support stellar health. Mother Nature hit a home run here.
- Fresh vegetables: take advantage of summer harvests and fill up on crunchy veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, bok choy and arugula. With each chomp you are providing your body with nutrients that your immune system army will use for good.
- Good quality dark chocolate: a small amount every day (1 small square@ 70% cocoa) of high quality dark chocolate or cocoa is good for your blood and good for your gut! Research suggests this tiny powerhouse can decrease blood pressure and help your body regulate insulin.
The Not So Good (in fact- down right bad for you)
You can make one bungee leap into better health by avoiding sugar and trans-fats. Trans-fats are also known as partially hydrogenated oil. These are vegetable oils which have been modified to provide for a longer shelf life. However, this type of fat can cause more damage than a boatload of Ping-Pong balls set loose at the top of a roller coaster. These hardy little rascals scurry about impacting cholesterol levels in unhealthy ways and can contribute to heart disease.
Your overall health level will skyrocket if you avoid trans-fats. Here’s the tricky part. Trans- fats are sneaky, and you need to have your sleuth skills honed to discover them. They can be hidden deep within an ingredient list, so make sure to bring your reading glasses when going to the grocery store. Common culprits: Prepared food- those packages of cookies, baked goods, cookies and cakes, chips, some types of packaged microwave popcorn, deep fried foods, refrigerator dough, biscuits, rolls. Even non-dairy creamers and margarine. Look at labels. If you see partially hydrogenated oil listed in the ingredient list, avoid it like a sunburn.
With each simple change we make in the direction of better health, our immune system grows stronger. Think about what one change you might be willing to make this week, and be proud of yourself for making it! Success begets success, so getting started down the path of better nutrition in even small ways opens up a whole landscape of new possibilities if we are willing to do a little exploring.
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