Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Foods to Combat Inflammation

In recent posts I've made reference to the health benefits of eating less meat.

I'm not a nutritionist, but I like to research, and specific to this blog, topics related to the correlation between diet and health.

There's a driving force behind my research: the annoying aches and pains I experience more frequently these days and my awareness that those niggling discomforts are more often than not, directly related to what I eat.

I'm aware too that my aches and pains are starting to feel a lot like the ones my parents complained about. In other words, there's also a genetic component to the aches that come with age.

So between understanding that I have a genetic predisposition to arthritis, and that food either feeds that condition or fends it off, I make dietary choices to keep inflammation, which is at the root of arthritis, at bay.

According to my research inflammation is increasingly recognized as the underlying cause of many serious illnesses and the diseases and complaints associated with aging.

Though I'm not a Dr. Andrew Weil junkie, I do like the look of his anti-inflammatory diet; it's a simple and sensible approach to eating whole, unprocessed foods and so it mirrors the way I try to eat.

If you clicked on the link in the above paragraph, you probably noticed his food pyramid.

At the top of the pyramid are those foods he advises we consume sparingly i.e. desserts. Toward the middle are those foods he advises we eat a few times a week i.e. animal protein.

Further down are the healthy oils and fats such as fish, nuts, seeds and oils -- foods he suggests we eat 2-to-6 times a week, followed by grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits which we should eat daily.

Animal proteins are not an every-day food on the anti-inflammatory diet because regular meat and dairy consumption can, over time, lead to inflammatory conditions, which as stated above, underlie many serious illnesses.

On the other hand, deep-sea fish, like wild-caught salmon, and healthy oils are foods which help to inhibit inflammation because they contain nature's own anti-inflammatory: omega 3 fatty acids.

Canned fish like wild-caught salmon (wild caught is considered the "best choice" by Seafood Watch) and wild-caught sardines are highlighted on Weil's food pyramid as are herring and black cod.

And before curling up your nose at the thought of sardines, the pic to left is a delicious dish I posted this time last year.

Thai Vegetables and Sardines is an unusual flavor combination of sweet (Thai sauce) and smoky (sardines), plus it makes the most of a medley of colorful spring vegetables.

The pic at top is a dish I posted late last spring. Noodles with Mahi Mahi, Cilantro and Cucumbers can be made with fresh or frozen wild-caught salmon and for the budget conscious, tinned wild-caught salmon is a great choice.

Most importantly, both meals demonstrate that with little fuss, it's easy to combine foods from the first four tiers of Weil's healthful food pyramid: fresh vegetables, grains, pasta, healthy oils and deep-sea fish, to create nourishing, seasonal meals.

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