Eating to reduce inflammation will lead to greater health and energy.
Today’s hot topic in health news is inflammation and the myriad of ways it can affect our lives.
Some inflammation is beneficial; for example, when you twist your ankle, the swelling is your body’s way of protecting itself and the start of the healing process. Inflammation can also occur without injury, and the signs are often unnoticeable until they become chronic and surface as a bigger problem. The onset of most disease is when our immune system becomes overworked because it is trying to repair damaged tissue that is no longer there to protect us.
Where does chronic inflammation come from? Stress! One of the most influential factors is the harmful foods we consume and the associated stress that becomes a burden to our bodies. Over-processed and refined “food” that is engineered for convenience is often the choice of many who don’t know the damage those substances convey. Loaded with additives and cheap fillers, they’re a major contributor to inflammation and put you on the road to an unhealthy life.
As a holistic nutritionist in training, I hear it all the time: “I’m too tired to cook. I’m exhausted when I get home and prepackaged food is just easier.” Well of course you’re exhausted, I remind these people. That’s what happens when you have chronic inflammation.
Let’s look at one common ingredient found in processed foods: sugar. The body sees refined sugar as a toxin leading to inflammation. Here’s a list of common names for refined sugars: sugar, cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, high fructose corn syrup. Those less familiar are dextran, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, galactose, maltodextran and sorbitol. On ingredient labels sugar can have more than 65 names — talk about confusing!
How about agave? Is it a healthy choice? No. When agave first came onto the market it was thought to be a good option for diabetics and others interested in keeping their blood sugar levels low. Agave is low on the glycemic index due to its low levels of glucose, but it contains more fructose than high fructose corn syrup. Agave’s fructose is processed by the liver and turned into fat, which raises the risk of obesity. It may also lead to liver damage, insulin resistance and high triglycerides.
How much sugar is too much? The World Health Organization states we shouldn’t consume more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. A 12 ounce can of soda contains, on average, 10 teaspoons of sugar. Drinking one can a day comes to 70 teaspoons of sugar per week, a grand total of approximately 32 pounds of sugar yearly. The target goal is less than 24 pounds of refined sugar annually, but the average American eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) consumes 150 to 170 pounds of refined sugar each year, according to a USDA report from 2014.
Personally, when I am looking for sweetness I use dates. They contain glucose and fructose, but because they are in their natural state they include fiber, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The body can process whole foods like dates, which lowers the risk of inflammation.
Let’s look at another common cause of inflammation: trans fats. Most of us would agree that olive oil is healthy for us, and yes it is, until it isn’t. Many healthy oils fall into a category called Cis oils, which are healthy if they haven’t been overheated. Once overheated they become a trans fats. For this reason I always recommend a high-smoke-point oil for cooking, such as avocado oil (rated to 520 degrees). You can add olive oil after food is cooked.
So how can you lower inflammation and increase your energy? Eat whole foods. Wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, nuts, organic fruits and vegetables are all rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Antioxidants prevent damage to the body, while anti-inflammatories repair damage.
The trick to maintaining a healthy, uninflamed body is to eat foods that are nutrient rich, limit refined sugars, choose the correct oils and follow proper cooking times. Lowering inflammation will cause an increase in energy and sense of well-being. Give it a try and you’ll see amazing results!
Cures in the Kitchen Recipes by Alison Urbanek
Chocolate Avocado Mousse
If you choose chocolate chips, your mousse will be richer. If you choose cocoa powder it still will be yummy and faster to make.
WHAT YOU NEED
2 ripe avocados
½ cup chocolate chips (I like Enjoy Life brand) or organic cocoa powder
¼ cup to ½ cup nut milk of choice (almond, coconut, cashew, etc.)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
4 to 8 dates
LET’S GET BLENDING
Soak the dates in hot water to soften, then drain and rough chop. Melt chocolate chips then add them to your blender or food processor. If using cocoa powder just add directly to the machine. Add all other ingredients into blender and blend until smooth. For thicker mousse add less nut milk. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours until mousse sets up.
Single serving: 16 ounces
All ingredients must be organic.
WHAT YOU NEED
1 Tablespoon ginger juice
¼ fresh lemon, juiced
¼ eyedropper cayenne extract
3 Tablespoons unsweetened high antioxidant juice, such as black cherry, black currant, blueberry, cranberry, pomegranate, tart cherry (I like R.W. Knudsen juices)
Add all ingredients together in a 16-ounce glass and top with filtered water. Stir and enjoy. If you would like something bubbly add naturally sparkling mineral water such as Pellegrino. Not soda water as that is filled with carbon dioxide gas.
Serves 4 to 6.
This recipe is influenced by my time spent in the Caribbean with curry, turmeric, black cardamom and bay leaf. I go to the Coastal Co-op at Ten-O-Six on the Beach Road in Kill Devil Hills to find the right ingredients. Nicole always has the most beautiful pumpkins, not those stringy Jack ‘O Lantern pumpkins but the sweet and creamy kind. Those are the ones that make great soup or you can just simply roast and eat.
WHAT YOU NEED
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, chopped
3 to 5 cloves of garlic
2 Tablespoons Balti curry
½ Tablespoon turmeric
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
I pumpkin, seeds removed
1 bay leaf
2 large black cardamom pods
2 cups cashew cream (see below)
1 apple, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
4 Tablespoons roasted cashews, chopped
LET’S GET COOKING
Prep the pumpkin:
Clean the pumpkin: cut in half, scrape out seeds. Save those seeds for roasting.
Option 1: Preheat oven to 350⁰ F, place pumpkin cut side down in a roasting pan with water. Water should be a quarter way up the pumpkin. Roast for 30 minutes. Scoop out pumpkin, mash and place in a bowl.
Option 2: Peel pumpkin, cut into ½ inch chunks, set aside until later.
Make the soup:
Heat a large pot over medium-low heat, add oil, then the onions and sauté until tender (15 minutes). Add ginger, garlic, curry and turmeric and sauté until garlic is tender (3 to 5 minutes).
Add a little chicken stock to deglaze the pot and scrape the bottom to get all the loving goodness, then add rest of the stock and water.
Option 1: Add pumpkin, bay leaf and cardamom, simmer for 20 minutes.
Option 2: Add the pumpkin chunks, bay leaf and cardamom. Increase the heat, bring it to a boil and then cut down to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour or until pumpkin is tender.
Use a potato masher or plunge blender to break down the pumpkin chunks. Stir in cashew cream.
Garnish each bowl with apple, avocado and cashews.
½ cup cashews, raw & unsalted, soaked for 4 to 6 hours
1 small lemon, juiced
½ teaspoon salt
Dash or 2 of nutmeg
Dash or 2 cayenne
1 C – Filtered water – divided
Soak cashews by placing them in a medium-sized bowl adding enough filtered water to cover (room temp or cold, not hot). After cashews have soaked 4 to 6 hours rinse well until water is clear then drain. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender, add ¼ cup of water and blend. Scrape the mixture away from the sides and keep adding ¼ cup of water until you have reached the consistency you like for your cream.
Cooking Vegetables for Optimal Nutrition
When preparing whole foods, it’s important not to overcook them. Overcooking leads to a loss of vitamins and minerals, and even an extra minute can cause the loss of 50 to 80 percent of nutrients. Healthy sauté and quick steam are wonderful ways to cook vegetables.
For healthy sauté, add a small amount of liquid to a sauté pan, when steam starts to rise, add vegetables and cover. On average your vegetables will be done in 5 minutes.
For quick steam, add 2 inches of water to a pot and bring to a rapid boil. Place vegetables in a steaming basket above the water, cover and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Remove immediately to a serving bowl and toss with lemon, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.
For exact cooking times and recipes go to one of my favorite websites, The World’s Healthiest Foods (whfoods.com) and go to the Nutrient Rich Cooking section.
Alison Urbanek is a student of holistic nutrition. Follow her blog at healthravesandrecipes.com.