Tag Archives: Omega-3 fatty acid

Brain Food: Foods that help you to concentrate, increase memory, tune sensorimotor skills, keep you motivated, speed up your reaction time, control stress, and even slow down the aging of brain cells!

The brain requires more food nourishment than the rest of the body combined. Did you know that once the brain cells die, they cannot be replenished, unlike the cells of the rest of the body? Did you know that the higher the quality of whole food nourishment that is taken in by the body, the greater the whole food nourishment fed to the brain. Did did you know that the whole food nourishment fed to the brain, the longer the cell life expectancy and greater the quality of thoughts and reasoning regarding whole life matters?

In our recent article we talk about Foods to Add to the Brain!! Eating Plans to Help Improve Brain Function(http://blissreturned.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/foods-to-add-to-the-brain-eating-plans-to-help-improve-brain-function/).

Food is an easy way to improve brain function because you can build up the nutrients and chemicals needed for your brain to operate at maximum efficiency while also enhancing your overall health. Have you ever noticed if you skip a meal or two you have difficulty concentrating, or perhaps you become a little irritable? That’s your brain telling you it needs a new supply of nutrition to operate properly.

Essential fatty acids- many people are led to believe that dietary fats are bad. However certain fats obtained from foods are critical for optimal brain health. Your brain cells depend on fats for construction, repair, and ongoing communication.

Unsaturated fats are those that must be obtained from diet because the body cannot create them. Among the most important of these are unsaturated omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Omega 6 fatty acids are plentiful in the typical American diet, it’s the omega-3 fatty acids that are less plentiful in our diet.

Our focus here is on those particular nutrients found in foods that enhance neuron firing and cross-linking in the brain. The foods listed below can help you: concentrate, increase memory, tune sensorimotor skills, keep you motivated, speed up your reaction time, control stress, and even slow down the aging of brain cells! So here is a list of 20 different food types that we can add to our diet, their effects, and how they function:

1. Wholegrain Foods

Whole grain is a great brain stimulator because it contains high percentage of folate. Make sure you’re eating a diet rich in whole grain breads, cereals, barley, popcorn, etc., because they can boost your blood flow to the brain. Every organ in the body is dependent on blood flow… especially the brain.
Wholegrain breads and cereals are rich in Vitamin B6, an important brain vitamin. Wheat germ additionally contains memory-improving thiamine.
Nuts

Everything from the most common nuts — such as walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews and almonds — to the more exotic seeds and nuts can clear up that “brain fog” and enable you to think clearer and are positive mood enhancers.
2. Walnuts
Both literally and figuratively speaking, walnuts are “brain food”. Physically the walnut looks a lot like the human brain. The thin, outer green cover that is taken out before the walnuts are sold is similar to the scalp. The hard shell of a walnut is like a skull. The thin sheet inside, with its paper-like partitions between the two halves of the walnut, is like the membrane. The shape of the walnut itself represents the human brain’s two hemispheres.
Walnuts are made up of 15 to 20 percent protein and contain linoleic (omega-6 fatty acids) and alpha-linoleic acids (omega-3 fatty acids), vitamin E and vitamin B6, making them an excellent source of nourishment for your nervous system.
Omega 3 fatty acids found in walnuts are especially helpful in brain function. Our brain is more than 60% structural fat which needs to be primarily omega-3 fats, found in walnuts and flaxseed, for its cell membranes to function properly. Cell membranes, primarily composed of fats, are the gatekeepers of the cell. Omega-3 fats, flexible and fluid by nature, make it easy for nutrients to pass thru the outer membrane of the cell and also helps remove waste efficiently. Definitely worth it when the cell belongs to your brain, don’t you think?
Walnuts may also help correct the human brain’s seratonin levels. Seratonin is an important brain chemical that controls both our moods and appetite. Walnuts may be able to relieve disorders like insomnia, depression, overeating and other compulsive behavior, commonly treated with antidepressant drugs like Prozac, without the dangerous side effects.
3. Cashews
While you’re in the nut aisle shopping for walnuts be sure to pick up some cashews, almonds, pecans and peanuts too. Each nut can enhance your mental health in its own way. Cashews are high in magnesium, known to open up the blood vessels in your body. More oxygen-rich blood = better brain function.
4. Almonds
Phenylalanine, found in almonds, can do wonders for your mental and neurological health. Phenylalanine has the rare ability to cross the blood-brain barrier where it stimulates the brain to generate natural mood-boosting neurotransmitters called dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline. Additionally, almonds are high in riboflavin which is known to boost memory.
5. Pecans
Pecans and peanuts provide choline, another important nutrient for optimal brain function. Choline aids in both memory and brain development.
Berries

6. Blueberries
Eating blueberries and a diet rich in deep pigment from fruits and vegetables helps preserve the brain machinery and boost the potency of neuron signals. Blueberries literally strengthen the brain. They have compounds that turn on key systems in the brain enable other proteins to help with memory or other cognitive skills.
In one recent study, subjects who ate one cup of blueberries a day for two weeks showed an increased birth rate of brain cells in the hippocampus (region responsible for memory), and scored significantly higher in classroom tests than those subjects who did not.
Blueberries are also known to protect the brain from oxidative stress and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia. In addition, blueberries also contain ellagic acid, another phytochemical that has been shown to prevent cell damage.
7. Strawberries


Antioxidant-rich strawberries can prevent age-related neurological declines by improving brain cell abilities to send and receive the ‘signaling’ molecules. The brain uses these signaling molecules to communicate.
Remarkably, these same studies showed that the powerful antioxidants in strawberries, spinach and blueberries can improve the ability to communicate even among brain cells already showing signs of age-related damage.
8. Blackberries
Blackberries contain an amazing class of nutrients called anthocyanins. Our brain is particularly vulnerable to oxidative damage but anthocyanins help protect our brain from oxidation stress, which in turn fights degenerative brain diseases.
One study even found anthocyanin-rich supplements to reverse age-related neurological deficits in subjects.
Seeds

9. Sunflower Seeds
Like nuts, many seeds and nuts can boost your mood and brainpower. Sunflower seeds contain tryptophan, an important amino acid that the brain converts to seratonin, which is a natural way to relieve mild depression and insomnia. Additionally, sunflower seeds are high in thiamine, an important B vitamin, which increases memory and cognitive function.
10. Pumpkin Seeds
Amazingly, the most powerful part of the pumpkin lies in its least used part. The seeds of the pumpkin are a power food, rich in many nutrients including: Zinc, Vitamin A and E, and the precious Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. The Zinc found in pumpkin seeds plays a vital role in enhancing memory and thinking skills.
11. Green Tea

Green tea is a wonderful beverage, and when freshly brewed, it enhances memory and focus and fights mental fatigue. Green tea contains catechines, which help you relax mentally, yet also keeps your wits sharpened.
Green Tea also helps maintain positive mood states and fights against many brain disorders. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants found in green tea that can boost the availability of the important signaling brain substance dopamine in brain circuits. Dopamine is vital in creating positive mood states.
Polyphenols also help the brain and body run smoothly by maintaining a steady supply of our body’s primary fuel: glucose. These powerful polyphenols also help prevent cancer and heart attacks.
12. Eggs
Eggs indeed offer a very impressive nutritional profile for their 70 calories. They are a precious source of high-quality proteins and rich in vitamins and minerals. But there’s more!
Nutrient called choline, found in eggs, can help boost the memory center in the brain. Researchers have found choline to increase the size of neurons, which helps them fire electrical signals more strongly and rebound faster between firings.
Two antioxidants found in egg yolk called lutein and zeaxanthin help prevent the risk of age-related cataracts and macular degeneration, two of the most prevalent age-related eye conditions.
Remember this the next time you open the fridge door. The amazing egg: naturally good.
13. Avocados

For brain health, avocados are nearly as good as blueberries. Avocados contain mono-unsaturated fats, which contribute to healthy blood flow, the main requirement for a healthy brain.
To include avocados to your diet, add 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado to one meal daily as a side dish.
14. Tomatoes
Lycopene, an amazing antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against free-radical damage to cells, which is believed to be a primary factor in cases of Dementia, and particularly, Alzheimer’s disease.
15. Broccoli
Broccoli is labeled as superfood due to its high overall nutrient content. It is a great source of vitamin K, which enhances cognitive function and improves brainpower.
16. Red Cabbage

Red cabbage is full of an antioxidant called polyphenol. Polyphenols reduce brain cell damage and is especially helpful in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimers’ disease.
17. Eggplant
Eggplant skin contains a nutrient called nasunin which keeps our brain sharp by enhancing communication between our brain cells and messenger molecules. Remembering to use the skin pays tremendous benefits in vastly improved focus.
18. Spinach
Spinach slows down the effects of age-related declines in brain function and helps protect the brain from oxidative stress. Researchers suggest that a diet rich in spinach can significantly improve learning capacity and motor skills.
19. Yogurt

Calcium rich foods such as yogurt, milk and cheese improve nerve function. Yogurt contains an amino acid called tyrosine which is responsible for producing the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenalin. In short, yogurt helps improve alertness and memory.
20. Chocolate!!!

What better to end with? It’s hard to believe that anything as incredibly delicious as chocolate can actually be incredibly good for you as well. Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties and contains several natural stimulants which increase the production of endorphins while enhancing focus and concentration. The stimulants found in dark chocolate also improve mood. It has high content of flavanols that facilitate blood supply to the brain and enhance cognitive skills.
Milk chocolate jump starts impulse control and reaction time. It has also been known to improve visual and verbal memory.
More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to chocolate. This is, unfortunately, one superfood that you have to indulge in in moderation.
Conclusion
Our brain is the greediest organ in the body, but its proper nourishment is vital to creative thought, positive mood, memory, and good overall health. It’s no surprise that what you eat affects how you think, feel, remember, and potentially even increase intelligence.
If it’s possible to eat your way to genius, who wouldn’t want to?

Source: http://leftofzen.com/brain-food/2008/01/04/

Lipoic Acid: Our bodies cannot be maximally efficient in producing energy from carbohydrates or fats without the help of lipoic acid.

Lipoic acid is a fatty acid found naturally inside every cell in the body. It’s needed by the body to produce the energy for our body’s normal functions. Lipoic acid converts glucose (blood sugar) into energy. It sits at the end of a process called glycolysis, which our cells use to create energy from sugars and starches. This same spot also occurs at the beginning of the pathways we use to create energy from fats. The placement of lipoic acid at this critical juncture in energy metabolism helps explain its clinical use with conditions like diabetes, where processing of sugar is disrupted, and also with skeletal muscle dysfunction in which muscle cells are unable to produce energy from fats.

 

 

Fresh Swiss chard
Image via Wikipedia

 

 

Regarded as a powerful antioxidant, lipoic acid is claimed to strengthen the effects of other antioxidants (such as vitamins C and E) and to regenerate antioxidants used up in the fight against free radicals. It has also been promoted to prevent or treat liver diseases, cataracts, and to reduce the risk of plaque formation in the arteries. Lipoic acid is an antioxidant that is promoted to protect the body against cancer and other diseases. An antioxidant is a compound that blocks the action of free radicals, activated oxygen molecules that can damage cells. Oxidation may also play a role in causing poor health as people age, and some researchers suggest that lipoic acid may be helpful in slowing the aging process.

 

 

 

Lipoic acid plays an important role in metabolism or the way that cells process chemicals in the body. Recent research has shown it is helpful in treating nerve damage in diabetics. It may have benefit for other conditions as well. There is no reliable scientific evidence at this time that lipoic acid prevents the development or spread of cancer. Its possible role as a complementary therapy to reduce the side effects of radiation therapy or chemotherapy is still unclear.

In 1937, scientists found certain bacteria contained a compound that was later characterized as lipoic acid. The antioxidant activity of lipoic acid has been known and studied since 1939. In 1957, lipoic acid was found in yeast extracts. At one time it was thought to be a vitamin (a substance the body needs but usually cannot make on its own), but it was later discovered that the body does make lipoic acid.

 

 

 

 

Functions and benefits of  Lipoic acid

  • Antioxidant, even 100 times stronger than vitamin C and E. Interacting with vitamins from group B, affect nervous cells with its neuroprotective activity.
  •  Intensify glycogen level in the liver what increase liver protective values.
  • Used in diabetes complication treatment. Diabetic neuropathy is a disease where nerves endings are destroyed on a result of free radicals activity which are after-effect of high glucose level.
  •  Neuropathy manifests with limbs shaking and tingling and is cured by regular doses of lipoic acid.
  • Lipoic acid strengthen nerves and improve its metabolism.
  • Prevent cataract and protect brain and liver cells against free radicals and harmful substances.
  • n a study completed at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, the effect of alpha lipoic acid on the progression of kidney cell damage and the course of diabetic nephropathy was evaluated in 84 patients with diabetes over 18 months. Thirty-five patients were treated with 600 mg alpha-lipoic acid per day. After 18 months of follow up, those on ALA had a slower progression of the disease than the control group as shown by a decrease in the amount of protein lost in urine.
  • Other antioxidants work only in water (such as vitamin C) or fatty tissues (such as vitamin E), but alpha-lipoic acid is both fat- and water-soluble. That means it can work throughout the body.
  • Lipoic acid is an antioxidant found in certain foods, including red meat, spinach, broccoli,  brussel sprouts, potatoes, yams, carrots, beets, other green leafy vegetables like collard greens and Swiss chard and yeast. It is also made in small amounts in the human body.
  • Lipoic acid can be obtained from foods, and the body also produces it naturally. As a person ages, his or her body produces less lipoic acid.
  • Lipoic acid supplements are available in capsule form at health food stores, some drugstores, and online. For maximum absorption, the supplements should be taken on an empty stomach.

Deficiency Symptoms

Because lipoic acid works so closely with many other antioxidant nutrients, deficiency symptoms for lipoic acid alone are difficult to pinpoint. Lipoic acid is required for the maintenance of vitamin C supplies, and symptoms of lipoic acid deficiency can imitate symptoms of vitamin C deficiency. These symptoms can include weakened immune function and increased susceptibility to colds and other infections. In research studies on animals, lipoic acid deficiency has been linked to problems with memory, decreased muscle mass, and failure to thrive (in young animals).

Source:

http://altmedicine.about.com/od/alphalipoicacid/a/alphalipoicacid.htmhttp://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=117

Omega-3′s: Making healthy hormones, preventing heart disease and promoting weight loss!

Gillian McKeith's organic shelled hemp seeds i...
Image via Wikipedia

by Dr. Ariel Policano

When we think of fat in our diet, there often seems to be confusion surrounding the types of fat and the amount of fat that is beneficial. Some say fats are important, some say it should be no more that 10% of your diet. Fats are really crucial for optimal human health, so cutting back on them excessively does not make good sense. Some of the areas that fats play a role in are memory and brain health, preventing cardiovascular disease, creating healthy hormones and maintaining health at a cellular level.

Research shows that longevity and the reduction of illnesses like cancer and heart disease come as a result of consuming plant-based sources of fats (as in nuts and seeds). Saturated fats are typically those that come from meat and dairy and can promote inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation in the body is now associated with heart disease and cancer. A notable exception to saturated fats causing inflammation is coconut oil, which actually has anti-inflammatory properties.

Some form of saturated fat is needed in the human diet, and I will cover that in more depth in future articles. Until then, let me give you some quick advice: Consume coconut oil! Especially vegans. This is a healthy form of saturated fat, which is needed by the cell membrane and helps to give you a complete spectrum of necessary fats for good health.

Unsaturated fats are beneficial for our health because they act as healthy building blocks for hormones as well as our cells. An important part of each cell in our body is the cell membrane. This allows nutrition into the cell and effectively allows waste to be pumped out of the cell. The health of this cell membrane is determined to some degree by the fats that we consume, and our overall health is of course related to the health of our cells. The brain is also made up in large part of fats, and many of these unsaturated fats are instrumental in creating good health.

There are polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Flax seeds, hemp seeds and chia seeds are all a form of a polyunsaturated fat. The nature of a polyunsaturated fat makes it highly reactive. Don’t ever heat polyunsaturated fatty acids because they oxidize very rapidly. This means that by heating or cooking with them, they produce free radicals. Flax seed oil should be consumed as close to the date it was pressed as possible. Similarly, grind your flax seeds right before consuming them, if possible.

Monounsaturated fats are somewhat more stable than polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil is an example of a monounsaturated fat.

People often wonder about the root of the names for the unsaturated fats – omegas 3, 6 and 9. The names take their cue from their chemical structure. This is a bit technical, so hold onto your hat. The location of a double bond, which connects two carbon atoms, determines the name of these essential fatty acids (EFAs). “Omega” tells us that when we start to count the double bond, we start from the end (the right hand side). The “3″ indicates where the first double bond occurs along the chain. The point is that it is the location of double bonds that causes omega-3s to behave differently in the body compared to other fatty acids.

Let’s take a look at some of the omega-3 essential fatty acids. One of that we hear about a lot is called ALA, or alpha linolenic acid. ALA is found in flax seeds and hemp seeds. Then there is EPA (eicosopentanoic acid), which is typically found in fish and DHA (docosohexanoic acid) which is also found in fish like salmon and others. However, marine phytoplankton contains both EPA and DHA! This is truly amazing because these two omega-3 fatty acids are very anti-inflammatory and have been used as key therapeutics in reducing the risk of heart disease. Fish oil has been the knee-jerk recommendation to many people who have or are at risk of developing heart disease. It is wonderful to have an alternative to fish and fish oil to derive the same benefits.

It makes sense that the phytoplankton would be more bio-available because it is the source of EPA and DHA for the fish. The fish eat the plankton and then we eat the fish, so we have quite a task then of extracting the oil from the fish. If we consume the fish oil, there are then other questions. Is the oil truly fresh? With the processing, transport time and the time it sits in a gelatin cap on the shelf of your health food store, does it have a chance to become rancid? Is the fish safe in terms of being free from heavy metal contamination? Marine phytoplankton does not carry any of those concerns. The plankton are very small and are easily broken down and assimilated.

Here is a summary of recommended foods and oils that contain omega-3 fatty acids: flax (seeds and oil), hemp (seeds and oil), chia seeds, walnuts and marine phytoplankton.

The benefits of omega-3s include reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke while helping to reduce symptoms of hypertension, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids support the health of the immune system and may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

One of the most important benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is that they reduce inflammation. The omega-3 fatty acids are the ingredients actually change chemical reactions to produce fewer substances called leukotrienes and prostaglandins. These substances will tend to increase aches and pains in the body. When we compare these to saturated fats, the saturated fats actually promote inflammation. Chronic inflammation, as measured in the blood with markers like C-reactive protein, is now known to be associated with cancer and heart disease.

One of the most interesting things about omega-3 fatty acids is that they do not make you “fat” in the way that saturated fats (as from meat and dairy) do. The omega-3 fatty acids help your body and your metabolism to function much more effectively. And when your body and brain function better, you feel better. Your cardiovascular system functions better because of the effects on the bloodstream.

And finally, here is an amazing key to maintaining healthy weight! By consuming foods that contain omega-3′s like flax and hemp, the body secretes a substance called leptin. The leptin will help you to feel more satisfied with less food. It also improves the body’s ability to respond to insulin. If you process insulin more effectively, you will also regulate blood sugar and manage your weight much more easily. High levels of circulating insulin tell the body “store fat!” and literally block the biochemical pathway that breaks fats down. The secretion of these leptins in response to omega-3 fatty acid consumption will reduce these circulating insulin levels. Pass the hemp seeds, please!

Enjoy the fats listed below in moderation and you will likely experience fewer aches and pains, better mood and memory, better hormonal health and maybe even some weight loss! After all, now you have the skinny on fats.

Healthy Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  • Flax seeds and flax oil
  • Hemp seeds and hemp oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Marine Phytoplankton
English: Flax The seeds of flax are used to ma...
Image via Wikipedia

Dr. Ariel Policano is a leading naturopathic physician with a special focus on women’s health, promoted through her Women Go Raw Health Tours. With over 15 years of experience using raw foods and superfoods to treat conditions that range from fatigue and menopause to cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.

Inflammation: Top Inflammatory Foods to Avoid

Inflammation is when a part of the body becomes swollen and is usually a reaction to an injury, an example would be the swelling of a sprained ankle. But inflammation can be caused by allergies to food, medications or environmental irritants and can manifest in many different parts of the body: skin, muscles, organs, etc. Chronic inflammation can lead to serious diseases such as atherosclerosis (hardening and thickening of the arteries), rheumatoid arthritis and even cancer.

According to the statistics from the World Health Organization, about 12.9 million people worldwide died from some form of cardiovascular disease in 2004. And each year, the World Cancer Research Fund estimated that some eight million people died from cancer. Heart disease and cancer, the deadly manifestation of chronic inflammation, are expected to remain as the leading causes of death in developed countries for many years to come.

Dairy products

But study after study shows that the risk of heart disease and cancer are modifiable by our lifestyle choices which include the food we choose to eat each day. With every bite that we take, we’re either balancing the pro- and anti-inflammatory compounds in the body, or tipping the scale to one end.
To shift the balance to your favor, other than incorporating more natural anti-inflammatory foods in your diet, it’s also equally important to avoid or cut down on foods which are known to promote inflammation. Here, we look at the top ten foods which set the stage for inflammatory diseases:


1. Sugars

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: Excessive sugar intake causes tooth decay and has been linked to increased risks of obesity, inflammation and chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. Recently, it has also finally been proven that sugar, as well as dairy, are the causes of acne.
  • Find them in: Sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks, fruit drinks and punches are one of the major sources of dietary sugars that many have overlooked. Do you know that drinking a can of Coke is as good as sucking ten sugar cubes? Other obvious sugar-loaded foods to avoid or at least limit include pastries, desserts, candies and snacks. And when you’re looking out for sugar in the ingredients list, note that sugar has many names: corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, sorghum syrup and sucrose are some of the creative names used.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Got a sweet tooth? Opt for natural sweeteners like stevia, honey, or blackstrap molasses to flavor your beverages and foods modestly. Natural sugars found in fresh or dried fruits and fruit preserves with no added sugar are also great choices. Not only do they give you the sweetness you crave for, fruits also supply you with vitamins, antioxidants and fibers that you won’t find in sugary foods and drinks. Dates, figs, persimmons, kiwis, tangerines and various types of berries are but some of the natural healthy snacks you can sink your teeth into.

2. Common Cooking Oils

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: Common vegetable cooking oils used in many homes and restaurants have very high omega-6 fatty acids and dismally low omega-3 fats. A diet consisting of highly imbalanced omega-6 to omega-3 ratio promotes inflammation and breeds inflammatory diseases like heart disease and cancer.
  • Find them in: Polyunsaturated vegetable oils such as grape seed, cottonseed, safflower, corn and sunflower oils. These industrial vegetable oils are also commonly used to prepare most processed foods and takeaways.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Replace your omega-6-saturated cooking oils with macadamia oil, extra virgin olive oil, or other edible oils with a saner omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids ratio. Macadamia oil, for instance, has an almost one to one ratio of omega-6:3 fats, and it’s also rich in oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acid.

3. Trans Fats

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: Trans fatty acids are notorious for their double whammy effect: they increase the levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, while lowering levels of the ‘good’ cholesterol. But that’s not all they can do. They have also been found to promote inflammation, obesity and resistance to insulin, laying the ground for degenerative illnesses to take place.
  • Find them in: Deep fried foods, fast foods, commercial baked goods and those prepared with partially hydrogenated oil, margarine and vegetable shortening. Note that items that list 0g trans fats on the label may still contain some amount of this toxic fats. This is because in the US, the government allows items containing less than 0.5g of trans fats to be declared as trans-fat free. Commercially prepared peanut butter is one good example. Your best bet is to read the ingredients list and make sure partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening is not used.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Look for alternative products that contain no trans fats, or don’t have partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening in the ingredients list. When in doubt, assume that all commercially prepared foods contain trans fats unless stated otherwise.

4. Dairy Products

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: As much as 60% of the world’s population can’t digest milk. In fact, researchers think that being able to digest milk beyond infancy is abnormal, rather than the other way round. Milk is also a common allergen that can trigger inflammatory responses, such as stomach distress, constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, acne, hives and breathing difficulties, in susceptible people.
  • Find them in: Milk and dairy products are as pervasive as foods containing partially hydrogenated oil or omega-3-deficient vegetable oil. Apart from obvious milk products like butter and cheese, foods with hidden dairy content include breads, cookies, crackers, cakes, cream sauces and boxed cereals. Scanning the ingredients list is still the safest way to suss out milk.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Kefir and unsweetened yogurt are acceptable in moderation for those who are not allergic to milk. They are easier on the stomach as the lactose and proteins in the milk have been broken down by beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts.

5. Feedlot-Raised Meat

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: Commercially produced meats are feed with grains like soy beans and corns, a diet that’s high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids but low in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats. Due to the small and tight living environment, these animals also gain excess fat and end up with high saturated fats. Worse, to make them grow faster and prevent them from getting sick, they are also injected with hormones and fed with antibiotics. The result is one piece of meat which you and I shouldn’t be eating.
  • Find them in: Unless otherwise stated, most, if not all, beef, pork and poultry you can find in the supermarkets and restaurants come from feedlot farms.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Organic, free-range animals that fed on their natural diet like grasses instead of grains and hormones contain more omega-3 fats. Having more room to roam freely, they are also leaner and contain less saturated fats.

6. Red Meat & Processed Meat

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that red meat contains a molecule that humans don’t naturally produce called Neu5Gc. After ingesting this compound, the body develops anti-Neu5Gc antibodies – an immune response that may trigger chronic inflammatory response. And low-grade simmering inflammation that won’t go away has been linked to cancer and heart disease. The link between processed meat consumption and cancer is even stronger. In the 2007 report by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, processed meat has been stated as a convincing cause of cancers of the colon and rectum, and possibly esophagus and lung cancer too. Processed meat includes animal product that has been smoked, cured, salted or chemically preserved.
  • Find them in: Common red meats are beef, lamb and pork, while processed meat include hams, sausages and salami.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: You don’t need to avoid red meat totally, though the same thing can’t be said for processed meat. No amount of processed meat is safe. Replace the bulk of your red meat with organic vegetables, poultry and fish, and relegate red meat to a weekly treat. When you do eat red meat, remember to choose lean cuts and preferably, that of grass-fed animals.

7. Alcohol

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: Regular high consumption of alcohol has been known to cause irritation and inflammation of the esophagus, larynx (voice box) and liver. Over time, the chronic inflammation promotes tumor to grow and gives rise to cancer at the sites of repeated irritation.
  • Find them in: Beers, ciders, liquors, liqueurs, and wines.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: A refreshing and thirst-quenching glass of pure, filtered water, anyone? How about a cup of anti-aging and anti-inflammatory jasmine green tea? If you find the idea of swapping ethanol for water or tea implausible, at least limit your consumption to no more than one drink a day.

8. Refined Grains

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: A lot of the grains we eat nowadays are refined. They are devoid of fiber and vitamin B compared to unpolished and unrefined grains that still have the bran, germ and the aleurone layer intact. This makes refined grains as good as refined sugars, which are practically empty calories. And like refined sugars, refined grains have a higher glycemic index than unprocessed grains and when they are consistently consumed, can hasten the onset of degenerative diseases like cancer and coronary disease.
  • Find them in: Refined grains and products made out of them are almost everywhere. The common ones are: white rice, white flour, white bread, noodles, pasta, biscuits and pastries. To make things worse, many products with refined grains undergo further processing to enhance their taste and look, and are often loaded with excess sugar, salt, artificial flavors and/or partially hydrogenated oil in the process. A prime example is boxed cereals which contain substantial amounts of added sugar and flavorings.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Go for minimally processed grains if you are not gluten intolerant or allergic to grains. If you’re an avid bread or pastry maker, invest in a grain mill to produce your own flour. It will be much fresher than the stale one found in stores. When buying cereals or other products made from grains, don’t take the words on the packaging for granted. Just because the box says whole grains, it doesn’t mean the grains inside are 100% intact. The problem is due to a lack of an internationally accepted definition for the word ‘whole grain’. When in doubt, if it doesn’t look close to its natural state, don’t buy.

9. Artificial Food Additives

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: Some artificial food additives like aspartame and monosodium glutamate (MSG) reportedly trigger inflammatory responses, especially in people who are already suffering from inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Find them in: Only packaged foods contain artificial food additives. If you need to buy them, read the labels carefully and weigh your risks. If you order Chinese takeaways, make sure you’ve the option to ask for no MSG. Otherwise, look elsewhere.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: Besides limiting the consumption of processed foods, use anti-inflammatory herbs, spices or natural sweeteners to add flavor to your dishes instead of relying on food additives.
Allergic Food

 

10. <Fill in the blank>

  • Pro-inflammatory Agent: Why is this blank? Because it is meant for you to fill in with the food that you’re sensitive to. Many people are sensitive to certain food but are totally unaware about it. Unlike food allergy in which symptoms usually come fast and fiery, symptoms caused by food intolerance take a longer time to manifest. And when they do appear, they are often brushed off as common minor ailments such as tiredness and headaches. But repeated, long-term exposure to food that irritates can cause inflammation and lead to chronic diseases.
  • Find them in: Common food allergens are gluten, milk, nuts, eggs and nightshade vegetables. Contrary to common belief, it is possible to develop an allergy to the foods that you eat often.
  • Inflammation-dousing Substitute: If you suspect that a particular food may be responsible for your food intolerant response, try avoiding it completely for about two weeks and monitor your reaction. At the end of the abstinence period, re-introduce the food back into your diet. If you’re in fact incompatible with it, you should be able to notice the difference in how you feel easily.