Anti-Inflammatory foods: the new Superfood diet?

As we move into springtime, changes abound.

The trees start to flower.  Allergies are in full bloom.

Cute little bunnies scamper over the lawn.

Clocks are turned forward, to the disgruntlement of students everywhere.

And bikinis make their appearances on department store walls.

Emerging from the heavy indulgences of winter hibernation, I decided a healthier diet was in order.  Most of it’s common sense- more fruits, more vegetables, and a strict supervision of how many Girl Scout cookies I inhale.  (Thin mints are my weakness).  But I found myself wondering if there were certain foods I should be concentrating on more than others.  Which are better for my overall health?

That’s when the google led me to the anti-inflammatory diet.

First off, what exactly is inflammation?

Commonly speaking, inflammation is the redness and swelling we associate with our bodies fighting infections.  Without it, white blood cells would not be as effective in eradicating bad bacteria or healing injuries.  However, just like having your cake and eating it too, too much will make you sick.  Or at least fat.

Hence, the dieting.

But choosing anti-inflammatory foods isn’t simply a matter of losing weight.  Unlike Atkins or any of those fad celebrity diets, this system of eating isn’t meant to “drop 20 pounds in two days” or any of that unrealistic crap.  Instead, I figured a more long-term approach focused on less-processed and more nutrient filled was the better way to go.  Does this mean I’m gonna give up that proverbial chocolate cake?  Hell no.  But maybe I’ll skip on the Chic-Fil-A.

Top foods on the “good to eat” list:

1. salmon: the key here is omega 3 fatty acids, which blast inflammation to oblivion.  Other benefits of this tasty fish include helping to prevent heart disease and certain cancers.  A real perk of choosing salmon is its meaty feel- for those of you who aren’t seafood people, give dense fish a try.  Alaskan fish, the wild-caught type, is usually more pollutant-free than the Atlantic (i.e., farmed) kind.  Other healthy choices include tuna, mackerel, anchovies and sardines (yuck).

2. walnuts: contain vitamin E key to preventing heart disease in men, as well as calcium, fiber, and potassium.

3. avocados: surprisingly, a common theme of this diet seems to be fat intake- that is, good-for-you fats.  While these berries are packed with fat, its the essential kind that helps the body burn off the bad stuff and lowers LDL while raising HDL (the good cholesterol).  It is also potentially anti-cancerious.

4. mushrooms: immune-boosting, cancer-fighting, flavor-packing little powerhouses!  Not only are mushrooms extremely tasty, they can prevent colds when eaten several times a week.  Extremely versatile, they also have a meaty feel to them and are a great substitute for less-healthy options.

5. green tea: pretty much everyone knows that this Far East export is full of antioxidants that reduce the risk for cancer and heart disease.  However, its flavonoids are also anti-inflammatory.  Added bonus: steeped green tea bags make GREAT under-eye depuffers.

6. blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries: antioxidants galore!  Berries are great sources of fiber and vitamins.  The scientific name for their inflammation fighters is phytonutrients; all you need to know is how great these little guys are at preventing cancer and dementia.

7. cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbages contain nutrients that fight carcinogens.

8. almond milk: a great and tasty substitute for cow’s milk.  Unlike lactase and hormone-based milk, this almond beverage doesn’t irritate the immune system or cause breakouts.

Other tips: cook with olive oil, preferably extra-virgin.  Polyphenols protects the blood vessels from plaque build-up and joints from rheumatoid arthritis.

Spices are your friends!  Cook with basil, chamomile, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and turmeric for their medicinal benefits.  Who wants bland food anyways?

Avoid omega-6 fats found in corn, peanut, and sunflower oils.

Most importantly: hide the Girl Scout cookies.

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