There’s been a lot of talk about fats lately. In my last article, “Fats: the truth!” we discussed the importance of saturated fats and their role in blood sugar and insulin regulation, and therefore energy, satiety and weight control. You can read more about this here. We also briefly touched on the importance of getting the balance of omega-6:omega-3 polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) right, where the ideal ratio is 1:1. Time to delve a little further into this.
It is important to firstly acknowledge why we take omega-3 in the first place. The aim is not to consume as much as possible, but rather, to offset the imposing presence of omega-6. Remember, omega-6 PUFAs are inflammatory and need to be minimized. This is best achieved by cooking only with saturated fats, and limiting processed food products, deep fried food and refined sugar. Easy? I think so.
For some, the challenge lies in the discovery of the fact that some of our healthy, natural and favourite foods contain omega-6 PUFAs – namely nuts, seeds and avocados. Instead of freaking out and removing these foods all together, keep in mind that their nutrient profile and associated health benefits will certainly outweigh their omega-6 content. They are straight from nature after all.
The key is to keep your omega-6 intake low by removing seed oils and processed junk and you simply won’t be consuming excess omega-6 in the first place. Secondly, ensure you eat an overall anti-inflammatory diet: one that not only contains omega-3, but antioxidants, phytonutrients and you guessed it – an abundance of natural foods. Here’s how:
My Top Eight Anti-Inflammatory Foods
1. Oily Fish
Salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and anchovies are rich sources of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), our anti-inflammatory omega-3’s. These smaller fish also ensure your mercury intake is kept low – essential for those of us that choose fish as our preferential protein source. From a fish quality and environmental standpoint, always opt for organic wild salmon where you can, and aim for at least two pieces per week. My Simple Salmon Salad is a great place to start.
2. Grass-Fed Animal Protein
Grass fed meat and eggs from pasture-raised chickens have comparatively higher amounts of omega-3 as opposed to animals that are grain fed. Grains are full of phytates, which are anti-nutrients – that is, they limit nutrient absorption. Free-range meat and eggs are not only more ethical, but also least inflammatory, as stressed-out animals raised in poor conditions results in a lower quality and a potentially inflammatory end result.
3. Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage are some of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. Packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, consume these as often as possible. Cruciferous vegetables are also high in sulforaphane and therefore exhibit anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties. Yes please!
4. Anything green!
The darker the fruit or vegetable, the higher the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory superstar it will be. Antioxidants scavenge the free radicals we are exposed to on a daily basis and therefore help to prevent cell damage and oxidative stress – the cause of disease. I guess our parents got one thing right with their persistent “eat your greens” mantra.
High in phytonutrients, berries offer anti-inflammatory protection against many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, cherries…eat them. If you haven’t yet made my All Natural Cherry Ripe, you must.
Pumpkin contains one of the richest supplies of bioavailable carotenoids known to man. Carotenoids are powerful antioxidants – integral for our cell health and integrity. Pumpkin is also high in beta-carotene, which offers protective qualities to our skin and lungs. My Paleo Pumpkin Muffins and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread should help.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice, commonly found in pre-mixed curry powder. It contains curcumin, which protects against oxidation of dietary fats during cooking and against oxidative stress in the body following consumption. Some studies have found that turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects are equivalent to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Hydrocortisone and Motrin, without their potent side effects!
A relative of turmeric, ginger contains gingerols – powerful anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic compounds. Ginger is often used in the treatment of dyspepsia and motion sickness. It also contains antiviral properties, so it is a fantastic natural cold and flu remedy. Ginger tea is one of my favourite things.
So there you have it – natural nutrition is always the answer. Time to write your shopping list don’t you think?