Memorial Day Greetings! I hope you are well this weekend, enjoying family, friends and some healthy holiday habits. I encourage you to take a moment and reflect upon how lucky we are in this country for those who have served—both present and past—to preserve the freedom we appreciate. Sometimes we forget to take a moment and think about what holidays such these are really all about.
I see images online of women spending the day resting on top of their lost husband’s grave, some with children and I vow even harder to make these long weekends a special time for my family. That means taking care of myself and being mindful of ways I can extend my time on this good earth. And, that’s my very awkward transition into today’s topic—and, my current wellness focus. Swelling and inflammation. Or, decreasing swelling and inflammation in midlife through mindful eating.
In my youth, I didn’t see evidence of swelling and inflammation. I certainly didn’t pay much attention to it. I was under the impression for years that you just need to keep your salt intake to a minimum and you were golden. Come to find out, salt and swelling is one thing. Inflammation and a myriad of other foods is another. There is a difference and both are important to reduce for good health. Swelling is often a symptom of inflammation.
So, why do we want to reduce inflammation? Over the last decade, an increasing amount of medical research has focused on the role of inflammation in aging and disease.
Certain conditions, such as asthma, allergies, arthritis, and autoimmune disorders, have an obvious inflammatory component. However, chronic, low-level inflammation (sometimes referred to as “systemic” or “silent” inflammation) has now been linked with diseases ranging from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer to depression, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis. Inflammation also appears to be a key factor in skin aging and other outward signs of aging. Yes, it all comes back to aging.
I’ve been working hard (and, with decent success) to reduce swelling and inflammation through diet. You don’t have to search much to find out that there are several “foods” that promote and escalate inflammation. Many things we consider to be “foods” are not. Instead, these items are processed, adulterated, refined, diluted, sweetened, salted, or changed in some way. Some say that “any food with a brand name is not real food anymore because the ingredients have been processed for a long shelf life, which means that most of its beneficial anti-inflammatory components have been lost and salt, sugar, and bad fats and preservatives have been added.”
Below is a list of suggested “foods” that can be eliminated or minimalized to reduce inflammation (Source—Women’s Health magazine).
Milk is designed by nature to make calves gain weight quickly. And since we are not calves—or even babies any longer—our bodies do not require milk. Contrary to popular belief and advertisement, bone strength does not come from consuming milk and other dairy products but from plant foods. In fact, dairy is a highly inflammatory food for most people. And more processing (“skimming”) does not make it any healthier, only more inflammatory.
The sugar industry tries to sell us on the fact that sugar is natural because it comes from sugarcane. But it’s not natural because all the cells within the sugarcane have been eliminated during the refining process. Molasses, at least, retains some of its original minerals—such as iron—in processing. Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners have their drawbacks, too—they are suspected to cause many diseases, not to mention weight gain.
These should be avoided altogether, along with milled, fortified, and sweetened grains. Limit your intake of pasta to once a week, and avoid refined grains in white bread, cereal, and pizza.
Grain-fed animals that are kept in concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs) are sick and unhealthy because they are not doing what comes naturally to them: grazing and living outdoors. They are barely kept alive by antibiotics, hormones, and other drugs. When we eat their meat, we become sick, too. And on top of it, processed meats are laced with preservatives, colorings, and artificial flavorings.
Vegetable oils (like corn, soy, and canola), all hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) oils, and all oils that have been heated for frying or deep-frying should be avoided.
The hardest “food” for me to eliminate has been sugar. If you’ve kept up with this blog, that’s no secret. I recently saw a quote somewhere that saide, “sugar is as addictive as cocaine.” That says a lot. I have my good and bad days, but I certainly do notice a big improvement when I keep sugar to a minimum. A nice side-benefit has been the way I feel in general. And, when I feel good—I make sure and take a moment to appreciate the way I feel. I work hard to remember the bliss of good energy and the absence of feeling arthritic in my hands and back.
And, that’s how I’m feeling today. Which, means I’m going to really enjoy that late afternoon hike by the river with my husband. And, then I’ll still have energy to grill-up a healthy dinner for my family—marinated of course (per Heidi: http://bodyofeve.com/grilling-meat-marinate-it-to-protect-your-health/)!
Enjoy the day and be grateful!