Reduce Inflammation With These Key Foods

Inflammation. It’s not just for health headlines.

It’s a fact.

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.

But, instead of writing all about what it is, how it's measured, and where it comes from; why don't I focus on some foods packed with anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are proven to help reduce it?

Here are my top anti-inflammatory food recommendations:

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #1: Berries, Grapes, and Cherries Why save the best for last? Perhaps the most amazingly delicious anti-inflammatory foods are a sweet favorite of yours?

Berries, grapes, and cherries are packed with fiber, and antioxidant vitamins (e.g. vitamin C) and minerals (e.g. manganese).

Oh, and did I forget to mention their phytochemicals (phyto=plant)? Yes, many 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 colors. Peppers that are any other color are not fully ripe and won't have the same anti-inflammatory effect.

I pack these two super-healthy vegetables together in this week's recipe (see below).

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #3: Healthy Fats (avocado, olive oil, chia seeds)

Fat can be terribly inflammatory (hello: "trans" fats), neutral (hello: saturated fats), or anti-inflammatory (hello: "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.

Opt for fresh avocados, extra virgin olive oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and flax seeds.

 

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 steeped 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.

I've added it to the broccoli and pepper recipe below for a 1-2-3 punch, to kick that inflammation.

 

Anti-inflammatory Food #6: Dark Chocolate Ok, ok. This *may* be slightly more decadent than my #1 pick of berries, grapes, and cherries.

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 “candy bars.” You already know those aren’t going to be anti-inflammatory!

 

Conclusion There are just so many amazingly delicious and nutritious anti-inflammatory foods you can choose. They range from colorful 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) 1.5 cups of vegetable broth 1 medium onion, diced 1 bell pepper, chopped 1 dash salt ½ tbsp turmeric 1 dash black pepper 2 cups broccoli, chopped

In a saucepan place 2 cups of veggie broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the quinoa and simmer until the veggie broth is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

Add diced onions, turmeric, pepper 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.

References: https://authoritynutrition.com/13-anti-inflammatory-foods/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4717884/ https://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea/ https://authoritynutrition.com/matcha-green-tea/ http://neurotrition.ca/blog/brain-food-essentials-cacao http://leesaklich.com/foods-vs-supps/foods-vs-supplements-the-turmeric-edition/

Raw vs. Cooked - Which Contains More Vitamins and Minerals?

 

Let’s finally put an end to the debate of raw vs. cooked.

 

Of course, in the grand scheme of a well-balanced, nutrient-dense, varied, whole foods diet, the cooked vs. raw debate isn't that critical for most people.

 

Where this can become a consideration is for vitamin and mineral deficiencies (or "insufficiencies"). These may be due to digestion or absorption issues, or avoidance of certain foods (due to allergies, intolerances, or choice).

 

And I'll tell you that the answer isn't as simple as "raw is always better" or "cooked is always better."  As with most nutrition science, it depends on several factors. Some vitamins are destroyed in cooking, while others become easier to absorb (a.k.a. more "bioavailable").

 

Here is the skinny on vitamins and minerals in raw foods versus cooked foods.

 

Foods to eat raw

As a general rule, water soluble nutrients, like vitamin C and the B vitamins, found mostly in fruits and vegetables, are best eaten raw.

 

The reason why is two-fold.

 

First, when these nutrients are heated, they tend to degrade;  this is from any heat, be it steaming, boiling, roasting, or frying. Vitamin C and the B vitamins are a bit more "delicate" and susceptible to heat than many other nutrients.

 

Of course, the obvious way to combat these nutrient losses is to eat foods high vitamin C and B vitamins in their raw form (like in an awesome salad) or to cook them for as short a time as possible (like quickly steaming or blanching).

 

Fun fact: Raw spinach can contain three times the amount of vitamin C as cooked spinach.

 

The second reason why foods high in vitamin C and the B vitamins are best eaten raw is that they're "water soluble."  So, guess where the vitamins go when they're cooked in water?  Yes, they're dissolved right into the water;  this is particularly true for fruits and veggies that are boiled and poached but even for foods that steamed as well.

 

Of course, if you’re a savvy health nut, you’ll probably keep that liquid to use in your next soup or sauce to preserve those nutrients that are left after cooking. Just don’t overheat it or you may lose what you were aiming to keep.

 

But, how much loss are we talking about?  Well, of course, it ranges but can go from as low as 15%, up to over 50%.

 

In short, the water soluble vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins degrade with heat and some of what's left over after they're heated dissolves into the cooking water. So be sure to cook your fruits and veggies as little as possible, and keep that cooking water to use in your next recipe.

 

Soaking nuts and seeds

Regarding raw nuts and seeds, it may be beneficial to soak them. Soaking nuts and seeds (for several hours at room temperature) allows some of the minerals to become "unlocked" from their chemical structure, so they're more absorbable.

 

Foods to eat cooked

Cooking certain orange and red “beta-carotene rich” veggies (e.g. tomatoes, carrots, & sweet potatoes) can help make this pre-vitamin A compound more absorbable.

 

Fun fact: One study found that absorption of beta-carotene was 6.5 times greater in stir-fried carrots than in raw carrots!

 

Of course, eating your fat-soluble vitamins with a bit of fat will help you to absorb more of them, so that’s one factor to consider.

 

One vegetable that’s best eaten both raw and cooked is spinach!

 

And I’m not just saying this to get everyone to eat it any way possible (although, I would love for this to happen...unless you’re allergic, of course).

 

Spinach contains so many beneficial compounds that it's great eaten both raw and cooked.

 

Eating raw spinach preserves the water-soluble vitamins C & the B vitamins.

 

Eating spinach cooked allows the pre-vitamin A, as well as some of the minerals like iron to be better absorbed. Not to mention how much spinach reduces in size when it’s cooked, so it’s easier to eat way more cooked spinach than raw spinach.

 

Conclusion:

The old nutrition philosophy of making sure you get a lot of nutrient-dense whole foods into your diet holds true. Feel free to mix up how you eat them, whether you prefer raw or cooked just make sure you eat them.

 

Recipe (cooked spinach): Sauteed Spinach

Serves 4

 

2-4 teaspoons seasoned veggie broth

2 cloves garlic

1 bag baby spinach leaves

1 dash salt

1 dash black pepper

Fresh lemon

 

  1. In a large pan heat veggie broth.  
  2. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add spinach, salt, pepper and toss with garlic and oil.  
  4. Cover pan and cook on low for about 2 minutes.  
  5. Saute cook spinach for another minute, stirring frequently, until all the spinach is wilted.
  6. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on top.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Enjoying the cooked spinach with the vitamin C in the “raw” lemon juice helps your body absorb more of the iron.

 

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/cooking-nutrient-content/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/10-ways-to-get-the-most-nutrients

 

5 Cholesterol Myths and What to Eat Instead

There's a bit of an over-emphasis (borderline obsession) about cholesterol in the media and when we talk with our doctor.

He always tells us to get our numbers lower, right?

Before blindly swallowing a red or blue pill to make that happen, it's important to understand the why and what.

Let's jump into some myths of what exactly cholesterol is.

 

Myth #1: “Cholesterol” is cholesterol

While cholesterol is an actual molecule what it is bound to while it's floating through your blood is what's more important than just how much of it there is overall. In fact depending on what it's combined with can have opposite effects on your arteries and heart. Yes, opposite!

So cholesterol is just one component of a compound that floats around your blood. These compounds contain cholesterol as well as fats and special proteins called “lipoproteins”.

They're grouped into two main categories:

HDL: High Density Lipoprotein (AKA “good” cholesterol) that “cleans up” some of those infamous “arterial plaques” and transports cholesterol back to the liver.

LDL: Low Density Lipoprotein (AKA “bad” cholesterol) that transports cholesterol from the liver (and is the kind found to accumulate in arteries and become easily oxidized hence their “badness”).

And yes, it's even more complicated than this. Each of these categories is further broken down into subcategories which can also be measured in a blood test.

So “cholesterol” isn't simply cholesterol because it has very different effects on your body depending on which other molecules it's bound to in your blood and what it is actually doing there.

 

Myth #2: Cholesterol is bad

Cholesterol is absolutely necessary for your body to produce critical things like vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, your sex hormones (e.g. estrogen and testosterone), as well as bile to help you absorb dietary fats. Not to mention that it's incorporated into the membranes of your cells.

Talk about an important molecule!

The overall amount of cholesterol in your blood (AKA “total cholesterol”) isn't nearly as important as how much of each kind you have in your blood.

While way too much LDL cholesterol as compared with HDL (the LDL:HDL ratio) may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease it is absolutely not the only thing to consider for heart health.

 

Myth #3: Eating cholesterol increases your bad cholesterol

Most of the cholesterol in your blood is made by your liver. It's actually not from the cholesterol you eat. Why do you think cholesterol medications block an enzyme in your liver (HMG Co-A reductase, to be exact)? 'Cause that's where it's made!

What you eat still can affect how much cholesterol your liver produces. After a cholesterol-rich meal your liver doesn't need to make as much.

 

Myth #4: Your cholesterol should be as low as possible

As with almost everything in health and wellness there's a balance that needs to be maintained. There are very few extremes that are going to serve you well.

People with too-low levels of cholesterol have increased risk of death from other non-heart-related issues like certain types of cancers, as well as suicide.

Myth #5: Drugs are the only way to get a good cholesterol balance

Don't start or stop any medications without talking with your doctor.

And while drugs can certainly lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol they don't seem to be able to raise the “good” HDL cholesterol all that well.

Guess what does?

Nutrition and exercise, baby!

One of the most impactful ways to lower your cholesterol with diet is to eat lots of fruits and veggies. I mean lots, say up to 10 servings a day. Every day.

Don't worry the recipe below should help you add at least another salad to your day.

You can (should?) also exercise, lose weight, stop smoking, and eat better quality fats. That means fatty fish, avocados and olive oil. Ditch those over-processed hydrogenated “trans” fats.

 

Summary:

The science of cholesterol and heart health is complicated and we're learning more every day. You may not need to be as afraid of it as you are. And there is a lot you can do from a nutrition and lifestyle perspective to improve your cholesterol level.

 

Recipe (Dressing to go with your salad): Orange Hemp Seed Dressing

Makes about ¾ cup

½ cup hemp seeds

½ cup orange juice

1 clove of garlic, peeled

dash salt and/or pepper

Blend all ingredients together until creamy.

Serve on top of your favorite salad and Enjoy!

Tip: Store extra in airtight container in the fridge. Will keep for about a week.

 

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cholesterol

http://summertomato.com/how-to-raise-your-hdl-cholesterol

https://authoritynutrition.com/top-9-biggest-lies-about-dietary-fat-and-cholesterol/

Brussels Sprouts and Grape Flavor Burst

Brussel Sprouts and Grapes This one's got a little character to it and just the right zing and zang to satisfy your pallet. Brussel sprouts are amazing for alkalizing the blood and cleaning out the digestive system, but often times they get a bad rep for being boring.

Well not THESE brussel sprouts!! We add just the right amount of grapes to be a tastefully sweet contrast to perfectly overload the senses with a burst of flavor in one of my favorite dishes.

Eat it as a side to most any meal or make it with some quinoa to have as a main course for plant based eaters.

Ingredients: • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved • ½ lb. seedless red grapes, halved • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil • 2 cloves crushed garlic • ½ tsp. pink Himalayan sea salt • ¼ tsp. ground pepper • 1 tbsp. balsamic glaze

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine Brussels sprouts, grapes, and garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive and season with salt and pepper. Toss everything together until the Brussels sprouts and grapes have a nice light coating of the olive oil and seasoning. Spread everything out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, flipping half way through, until Brussels sprouts are golden brown. Transfer to your favorite serving dish and drizzle with 1 tbsp. balsamic glaze. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup

soup

Ingredients: Makes 6 cups (4-6 servings) • 3 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (about 8 cups) • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil • 2 onions, chopped • 2 apples, peeled, seeded and chopped • 1 tsp. sea salt • ½ tsp. black pepper • 4 cups low sodium, organic chicken broth • ½ tsp. curry powder

Directions: Preheat oven to 425. Divide squash, onions and apples in two rimmed baking sheets. Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil over each tray of fruit and veggies and seasons with salt and pepper. Gently toss all the ingredients together until they all have a light coating of olive oil and seasonings. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Once the ingredients cool to room temperature, put them in the blender (one tray at a time) and add two cups of chicken broth and ¼ tsp. curry powder. Blend for 30-60 seconds or until the soup is rich and creamy.

Pour into a large pot and repeat with the second tray. Warm the soup over a medium-high heat until heated through. Adjust the seasonings and enjoy!

Raw Carmel Brownie Bites

Here is a super amazing shareable dessert I found on the Vedge. We will blend up a gooey, authentic tasting [but less guilty] caramel center – which has an amazing creamy and soft texture. I could eat this caramel forever and never be tired of it. True Story! And what would a raw dessert be without some kind of chocolate? (Hey, the brownie part doesn’t count!) A creamy chocolate mixture to top it all off!

I think you are going to make A LOT of friends with these little slices of heaven. So share!!!

Raw carmel bites

 

This decadent raw treat has 3 different desserts combined into one amazingly delicious, gooey, chocolatey, caramely dessert heaven! Oh boy enjoy!!
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Prep time
Total time
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Serves: 12 large slices

INGREDIENTS

Brownie Base:
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts, soaked overnight
  • ⅓ cup cacao powder
  • 1 cup medjool dates (about 12), pitted
Caramel Filling:
  • 1½ cups medjool dates (about 18), pitted
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1½ cups full fat coconut milk or cream from a can
  • ½ cup almond butter, macadamia butter, cashew butter or other nut butter
  • 1 Tbsp mesquite powder
  • 1 Tbsp lucuma powder (optional)
  • pinch of salt
Chocolate Topping:
  • ¼ cup full fat coconut milk or cream (whatever is left from the can from the caramel filling)
  • ½ cup date soak water or maple syrup
  • ½ - ⅔ cup cacao powder
  • ¼ cup coconut oil

METHOD

Make the Brownie Base:
  1. Prepare a square 7" x 7" pan or container, and line with parchment paper.
  2. In a food processor, combine the pecans and cacao powder and process into a flour. Add the medjool dates and process into a dough.
  3. Press the brownie base into the pan using the base of your hands. Set aside.
Make the Caramel Filling:
  1. Put the pitted medjool dates in a small bowl and pour ½ cup of boiling water over them. Leave them to sit and soften for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the remaining caramel filling ingredients in a high speed blender (I use aVitaMix).
  3. Drain the medjool dates, gently squeeze out the excess water. Add the dates to the blender and set aside the date soak water.
  4. Blend the mix, using the tamper stick as needed. Be careful blending this as it's a very thick mixture, working up the speed slowly, use the tamper stick, and if you're having trouble blending it add some more liquid like water or coconut oil.
  5. Once the mixture is blended smooth, pour over the brownie base. Use a spatula to smooth the top. Set aside the pan in the freezer.
Make the Chocolate Topping:
  1. In a high speed blender, combine the chocolate topping ingredients. If you don't have ½ cup date soak water left, add more maple syrup to bring it to ½ cup.
  2. Blend until smooth, and pour over the caramel filling the pan. Use a spatula to smooth the top.
  3. Leave it to set in the freezer for at least a few hours, overnight is ideal. I like to keep it in the freezer, but if you want it a little bit softer store it in the fridge.
  4. Slice and enjoy!

Strawberry Avocado Jalapeño Salsa {Gluten-free and Vegan}

strawberry salsa This is perfect for sports season! It's a slightly sweet, kinda tart, and a little bit spicy, Strawberry Avocado Jalapeño Salsa, and is just as amazing as it is beautiful. We have already had some hot weather here, so I have been enjoying summery treats a little early. This salsa is simple to make and just full of so much flavor. I don’t always love fruit in savory dishes, but this one is incredible. I have a feeling this is going to be a staple snack around here this strawberry season!

Strawberry Avocado Jalapeño Salsa

1 pint strawberries, diced

1 avocado, diced

1 jalapeño, seeds removed and finely minced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 handful fresh cilantro or parsley

juice of 1 lime

salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients, toss together and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from: Strawberry Avocado Jalapeño Salsa