Physical wellbeing is an important baseline for creating your best life. A great place to start building the highest level of well-being is with the foods that go into our bodies. We can choose to eat overly processed foods with little nutritional value and high sugar content that strain our resources and reduce our energy, or we can provide our bodies with foods that nourish and strengthen them.
Last week we talked about inflammation as the main cause of most disease in westernized countries, draining so many people of their energy, and mental clarity. The first step in calming chronic inflammation is to remove as many things that contribute to it as possible, starting with certain foods. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is full of processed foods that have little or no real nutritional value and plenty of inflammation inducing ingredients.
Eating whole foods does not have to be as expensive or scary as most people think. A bag of frozen vegetables with rice (just add your favorite spices) can be just as inexpensive and as easy to cook as frozen mac and cheese. A bag of baby carrots and a tub of hummus are just as easy (and actually cheaper) to pick up on the way to book club as a bag of corn chips and salsa. It's all about being aware and making choices. It makes me sad to say that many of us treat our material possessions much better than we treat the containers in which we keep our spirits. Your body is your true home, and you deserve to have it be useful and comfortable as long as possible.
Studies repeatedly show that the risk of most disease can be modified by lifestyle choices including the foods we put into our bodies. In fact, if you were to look up recommendations for foods to avoid when suffering from MS, Cancer, IBS, Arthritis, Heart disease, or Autoimmune disorders, you will find those lists all surprisingly similar.
THE 9 TOP FOODS THAT FAN THE FLAME OF INFLAMMATION
• Artificial sweeteners
You might be looking at this list and thinking, "I eat those foods all the time and I feel just fine." I challenge you to think about whether that is actually true.
• Is your skin completely clear with no acne, rashes or eczema?
• Do you wake up with a spring in your step every morning without aches and pains?
• Are you at your ideal weight?
• Do you have plenty of energy to get through your day?
• Do you have sinus congestion, post-nasal drip or allergies?
• Do you catch colds easily?
I wasn't always so picky about what I was putting in my body. I knew that health gurus recommended staying away from most of the foods on this list, but since I didn't have noticeable digestive issues, I figured I was in the clear. I didn't understand that my acne, sinus problems, and autoimmune (thyroid) issues were actually all a result of gluten and dairy sensitivities. I didn't know that reactive arthritis triggered by a virus could spiral quickly out of control into full-blown widespread chronic pain when my immune system was left without the extra resources it needed to fight back because it was already spread so thin.
These 9 reactive foods can create symptoms that manifest as:
• Digestive issues
• Acid reflux
• Sinus and respiratory issues
• Chronic post nasal drip
• Headaches due to internal sinus pressure
• Autoimmune disorders.
All of these are symptoms of inflammatory processes that keep the immune system busy, using up resources it could be using to go after bigger, scarier invaders. Of course, not everyone will experience identical reactions, but when my clients eliminate these from their diet for 3 weeks, almost everyone reports some level of improved mental clarity, less achiness, alleviation of bloating, clearer skin, congestion relief, and increased energy after the first week without these foods (In my book: The Vibrant Living Project, I go into deep detail on how these foods affect the body, as well as providing multiple studies for each). People don't realize how bad they are used to feeling until they begin to feel good again.
Now for some good news. Here are a few of my favorite staple foods to help you feel energized and vibrant. While this is far from a comprehensive list, I recommend including each of these on a daily basis. A food journal is a great way to track how you are feeling as you increase your intake of these inflammation-reducing foods. This is a quick a summary of the benefits of each (again, for a deep dive into the benefits and multiple medical studies for these foods are pick up a copy of The Vibrant Living Project book).
*Green Leafy Veggies-
I know you have heard this one; it is tried and true. Yes, no matter what diet plan you’ve tried I guarantee that it included green leafy vegetables. That is because they are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Antioxidants are essential for inflammation reduction.
*Broccoli and other Cruciferous Vegetables-
These contain high levels of flavonoids, sulforaphane (a sulfur-containing food molecule), and many other beneficial compounds. These compounds give them their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
These fantastic berries are full of anthocyanin; an incredible antioxidant that protects our cells from damage, which in turn reduces inflammation. Blueberries also contain quercetin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory.
If you haven’t tried this one yet, I highly recommend it. Bone broth contains glucosamine and chondroitin in a form that is very easy for the body to absorb, soothing achy joints and reducing inflammation.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the many benefits of drinking green tea including weight management, prevention of cancer, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s. It is a true powerhouse!
This breakfast staple is high in fiber and has been shown to help lower C-reactive protein (a marker for inflammation). It keeps blood sugar levels even, which reduces mid-day fatigue. This helps you stay satiated longer so you won’t crave those sugar-laden snacks mid-morning.
What is green juice? It is not the same as sugar-laden apple or orange juice, nor is it a smoothie, which is basically a complete liquid meal (great for breakfast on the run). Green juice stands on its own as a restorative cleansing powerhouse which helps reduce inflammation.
Here is my favorite recipe for a very Restorative Green Juice:
2 large organic cucumbers (vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid, vitamin C, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc)
1 head of organic celery (vitamin K, folate)
1 square inch fresh ginger (antibacterial, anti-inflammatory)
2 cloves of garlic (antibacterial anti-inflammatory, vitamin B6, vitamin C, selenium)
½ fresh lemon (antibacterial, Vitamin C)
Using a Juicer, juice all items (saving celery for last due to the stringiness).
Pour into a glass and get those beautiful vegetable enzymes pumping through your system to start your day right!