by Melissa Schreibfeder, RN, BSN, NC
Are you suffering from chronic inflammation? Inflammation is the root cause of many diseases today, such as autoimmune disorders, asthma, arthritis, chronic pain, insomnia, fatigue, mood disturbances, gastrointestinal dysfunction, chronic fatigue, weight gain, chronic infections and much more.
The good news is that you are not powerless in your health! Food can be healing or harmful. Below is a list of super foods with scientifically proven anti-inflammatory properties.
Turmeric has been used medicinally in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. The active component curcumin has been clinically proven to have significant anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-oxidant benefits. Curcumin has been extensively studied for it's anti-inflammatory properties and has been found to be a more potent anti-inflammatory than aspirin and ibuprofen in a 2004 study published by the Journal of Oncogene. Turmeric is widely available at many grocery store chains and can be purchased as a powdered spice, whole root form or in herbal teas.
You can use it to season meats, vegetables, rice and make teas with it.
You can also purchase it in root form to add in smoothies and freshly grate
*For kids, it's easy to sneak it into their scrambled eggs
Garlic has been proven to contain anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and immune boosting properties along with many other benefits. It has even been linked to reducing and preventing the leading causes of death in America including heart disease, stroke, cancer and infections.
After mincing, waiting 5-10 minutes before cooking can maximize the health benefits because it allows the health-promoting alliicin to form.
Garlic has the most potent benefits when eaten raw. Some great ways to consume raw garlic would be in pesto, salsa, salads and using in combination with honey.
Garlic compliments many other foods, so it's it's easy to incorporate into cooking
Garlic powder can be used as a replacement for salt
Some easy ways to cook with garlic would be to roast the bulbs, mince and saute, roast in dishes or cook in soups.
Ginger has been used for thousands of years in traditional healing modalities. Shown in clinical studies to contain anti-inflammatory properties, anti-oxidants and many other therapeutic compounds. Ginger helps to combat nausea, fight infections, lower cholesterol, enhance weight loss, ease menstrual cramps and alleviate migraines. In a double blind, randomized, controlled clinical trial, 1/8 teaspoon of powdered ginger worked just as well as one of the top selling drugs (Imitrex) for controlling migraines without any side effects. Another randomized clinical trial showed that 0.5 gm of ginger twice daily was shown to be just as effective in treating nausea and vomiting in pregnant women than dramamine.
Raw ginger can be added in smoothies and juiced
For cooking, it can be added to just about anything. It's especially great in soups, stir fry, fish and teas.
For kids, you can add a little bit of ginger into honey to get them used to the taste (do not give children honey under the age of 1)
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables are nutrient dense powerhouses that are rich in anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatory flavonoids, phytonutrients and minerals. They can lower the risk of oxidative stress, obesity, cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease. They contain many other beneficial plant pigments due their chlorophyll content. Some common varieties include swiss chard, spinach, dandelion greens, lettuce, kale, bok choy, celery, endive and watercress. Many nutrition experts recommend eating at least 7 servings of vegetables per today. Leafy greens are an excellent choice because they are some of the most nutrient dense.
For bitter greens such as mustard or dandelion, try using lemon juice or vinegar to decrease the bitter taste.
Nutrient content decreases when greens are cooked but they reduce in volume so much that it's easier to consume larger quantities if cooked
Lightly steaming greens may be the best way to cook for nutrient content as it retains up to 70%
If you feel worse after increasing your intake of greens, you may have an oxalate sensitivity and should consider cooking the greens which will reduce the concentration of oxalic acid.
If you are taking a blood thinning agent such as coumadin, please discuss with your provider before making any drastic changes to your diet. You should still be able to eat leafy greens however because coumadin suppresses the enzyme that recycles vitamin K, eating large amounts of leafy greens could cause an influx of fresh vitamin K which is involved in the clotting of your blood and can undermine the effectiveness of the drug. Your dose may require titration.
*For kids, try making kale chips or adding greens to smoothies with fruit (spinach is a great one to start with)
Blueberries are known as a super anti-oxidant. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that blueberries had higher concentrations of anti-oxidants than most other common fruits and vegetables. Anti-oxidants are known to prevent cell damage, and protect against several types of chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Studies haven even shown that blueberries can improve cognitive function, A test tube study in 2014 showed that the polyphenals in blueberries were able to reduce multiple inflammatory markers.
Buy organic - According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 50 pesticide residues cling to conventional blueberries
It may be most cost efficient to purchase large bags of frozen blueberries
Blueberries are low on the glycemic index and can be a great option for those who have blood sugar imbalances.
*For kids, frozen blueberries and blueberry slushies are great treats