Inflammation or oxidative stress is the one thing that is at the core of all degenerative diseases. When you are able to manage your inflammation, you can really turn your health around. 

When we experience an increase of inflammation it is often the consequence of a build-up of toxins in our system due to behaviours and habits that have accumulated over decades. Some of the symptoms you should pay attention to include fatigue, memory loss and/or brain fog, muscle and/or joint pain, headaches and sensitivity to noise, susceptibility to infections, wrinkles and grey hair, and decreased eyesight.

The good news is that the symptoms don’t have to be permanent, and it also does not have to take decades to reverse, because our bodies are usually quite forgiving and resilient if we are willing to support it. That usually just means that we need to give our body the tools to do its job, by removing a few things from our diet that contribute to inflammation and replacing them with nutrients that support it. (I’m not suggesting giving up everything at once.) 

  1. Sugar

Refined sugar and other foods with high glycemic values hike up insulin levels and put the immune system on high alert. Best avoided when possible!

  1. Red meat

Red meat contains high levels of omega-6 fatty acids that produce inflammation, which can attack anywhere in the body, from your heart and arteries to your joints. Mass-produced, low-quality meat can also contain dangerous chemicals which are added through feed and medicines.

  1. Caffeine

The caffeine in coffee increases catecholamines, your stress hormones. The stress response elicits cortisol and increases insulin, which contributes to inflammation. The acidity of coffee is associated with digestive discomfort, indigestion, heart burn, GERD and dysbiosis (imbalances in your gut flora). The consumption of coffee, as little as one cup a day, is associated with an increase in inflammatory markers.

  1. Dairy

Common allergens like casein and gluten (proteins found in dairy and wheat) are quick to trigger inflammatory responses, such as stomach distress, constipation, diarrhoea, skin rashes, acne, hives and breathing difficulties in susceptible people.

  1. Refined grains

A lot of the grains we eat nowadays are refined. They are devoid of fibre and vitamin B compared to unpolished and unrefined grains that still have the bran, germ and the aleurone layer intact. Like refined sugar, refined grains are practically empty calories, devoid of nutrients. They have a higher glycemic index than unprocessed grains and when consumed consistently, can cause inflammation throughout the body. Just skip them.

  1. Trans-fats (and excessive omega 6 with no omega 3)

The omega fatty acids are the anti-inflammation fats that lubricate your circulation, your joints, and your brain. Sadly, the vast majority of people get almost no omega 3 on a daily basis and a lot of omega 6. How much is too much? The ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 in a typical Western diet is 1:20, causing inflammation, pain, and cellular damage. (The healthy diet of our ancestors had a 1:1 ratio.) Trans-fats and partially hydrogenated fats are even worse. They are a huge contributor to inflammation and should be avoided whenever possible.

  1. Processed/Packaged/Prepared Foods

These contain a lot of unhealthy trans-fats and should be avoided. I know they’re convenient but they’re not worth the hassle.

So here’s the plan…

If you’re anything like me you hate it when you get all juiced up by the promise of amazing benefits and then get told that the plan basically equates to giving up everything, being perfect forever-more, never going out with your friends again or dining out, and living off just salads for the rest of your life… It. Never. Works.

It would be easy to say: “Just eat vegetables, low-sugar fruits and healthy fats from now on and you’ll be fine.” But there’s also an easier way: Simply avoid the harmful foods mentioned above where you can – and sneak some anti-inflammation foods into your current meals!

Idea 1: If you’re making a juice, add a heap of beetroot, some celery, some turmeric…

Idea 2: If you’re making a smoothie, add chia seeds for more omega 3, a spoon of flax oil, a pinch of turmeric, some grated ginger… And of course, avocado makes every smoothie super creamy without changing the taste all that much.

Idea 3: If you’re making a sauce for pasta, or a pesto, or anything like that you can always add a pinch of turmeric and an extra clove of garlic. For sauces that normally call for olive oil, you could also use 50% flaxseed oil and 50% olive oil for much more omega 3. 

Idea 4: If you’re making soup, it’s so easy to double the nutrient content. Adding quinoa is a great call as it will not only make the soup more anti-inflammatory but also more filling, while adding  more protein, more fibre, and more omega 3. You can also add celery, beetroot, ginger, turmeric, cauliflower or asparagus to practically any soup. 

Idea 5: If you’re making a salad, it’s easy to turn it into an anti-inflammation superstar. Grate beetroot (or use a spiralizer), add lots of grated ginger, quinoa, grilled asparagus, avocado…

Idea 6: If you’re making a salad dressing, add lots of anti-inflammatory power by using omega 3-based oils such as flax oil. Add minced garlic and mash or blend in avocado to make it extra creamy. 

Idea 7: If you’re eating a pizza, ask yourself what you could add to make this meal much healthier, without a lot of effort or changing the taste too much. My suggestions include drizzling it with flax oil, sprinkling it with chia seeds, topping it with asparagus or avocado, and adding a pinch of turmeric or extra garlic. 

Idea 8: Get into anti-inflammation herbs and spices and use them in everything! These include cloves, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme and marjoram.

These are just a few examples and you can include these foods in any meal. Start small. Every one thing that you do counts!

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