For thousands of years food was used not only to nourish and fill, but also to heal. As scientific advances allowed for the creation of pharmaceuticals, the use of the healing powers contained in many foods took a backseat in favor of prescriptions. But today research is proving what ancient cultures have known for centuries: the foods we eat play a powerful role in our health and wellness.
While advances in medicine are wonderful, the power of food cannot be overlooked. Especially because the foods we eat have the power to either promote inflammation or to help prevent or reduce internal inflammation.
Why Is Too Much Inflammation Such a Bad Thing?
Inflammation is not inherently a bad thing. A small amount of inflammation can actually be a good thing. It is the bodys response to injury or invader. The problem comes when there is an excess of inflammation in the body, which (thanks to factors such as the standard American diet (SAD)) happens all too often.
Excess internal inflammation plays a key role in a host of problems including joint pain, lethargy, weight gain, autoimmune disease, sleep problems, headaches, and much more. In addition to all of these problems, scientists are continually learning more diseases to which inflammation is a major contributor, including heart disease and some cancers.
How Does Food Affect Inflammation?
You may be wondering what exactly the connection between food and this harmful excess inflammation is. Because of the reactions it causes in the body, food can cause either a pro-inflammatory or an anti-inflammatory response. Foods that are high in omega 6 fatty acids, are difficult to digest, are highly processed, or are high in sugar all promote dangerous levels of inflammation.
Thankfully, there are also foods that help to combat this inflammation. In particular, foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids and/or high in antioxidants are powerhouses for warding off harmful inflammation and its detrimental effects. Harness the power of anti-inflammatory foods by including these top anti-inflammatory foods in your diet on a daily basis.
Shopping List for Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods:
Produce:Because of their antioxidant levels, all fruits and vegetables are beneficial in the fight against inflammation, but the following options contain particular phytochemicals (naturally occurring chemical compound found in plants) that have been shown to be especially effective in reducing inflammation levels.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, & cabbage
Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale (also contain omega 3s)
Omega 3 Fatty Acid Rich Foods:While both omega 6s and omega 3s are essential fatty acids, the typical diet has an excess of inflammation promoting omega 6 fatty acids and a deficit of omega 3s. Aim to remedy this deficit by getting in plenty of omega 3 rich foods each day.
Cold water fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines
Misc. There are a few other dietary options that you can incorporate into your diet regularly to help ward off inflammation.
Perhaps you have heard of clean eating through social media or on a TV segment, but while the term itself is appealing, it is hard to deduct exactly what clean eating is and what it entails. In the simplest terms, clean eating is simply aiming to eat real foods in their natural state- or as close to natural state as possible.
Ultimately, clean eating is really more of a lifestyle than it is a diet. Unlike diets, as long as a food is grown or raised as opposed to being manufactured or processed it is not considered off limits. There are no precise portions to adhere to nor caloric restrictions to follow. Even better, there are no expensive programs to enroll in nor pricy supplements to buy.
As people rid their bodies of refined, processed, and chemical-laden foods, a multitude of benefits are reported. Many people have more energy, fewer aches and pains, and better sleep. Clearer skin and improved mood is often frequently reported.
People who follow clean eating practices focus on the quality of their foods and drinks. While organic choices are not an absolute requirement of clean eating, it is preferable to choose organic, pasture-raised, locally grown, or similar options as much as is applicable and available. These choices are optimal in order to keep harsh chemicals, hormones and antibiotics off of your food choices and out of your body.
Additionally, clean eating principles put a focus mindful eating. As you practice clean eating you are encouraged to pay attention to what you are eating and how it makes you feel. People who follow a clean way of eating learn to pay attention to the cues their bodies give them about when they are full. Rather than eating everything on your plate, simply because it is there, you eat to nourish yourself and stop when you have had enough. As such, even though clean eating is not a weight loss plan, many people do enjoy weight loss benefits when they switch to this more mindful way of eating. Further, the mindfulness encouraged by clean eating helps people to slow down enough to notice if particular foods are hard for them to digest.
A final tenet of clean eating is that people are encouraged to eat several small meals throughout the day. Instead of eating three large meals, it is preferred that you eat five to six small meals throughout the day. This allows you to stay full and helps to avoid the temptation to overindulge.
Switching to clean eating is simple, and can be done as soon as you decide you are ready. For example, instead of a processed protein bar, someone who aims to eat clean would opt for getting protein intake through choices such as high quality meats, eggs, dairy, fermented tofu, nuts, or beans. As you can see through this example, eating choices are broad and plentiful when you are eating clean. This allows you to tailor your food intake to suit virtually any dietary needs or preferences.
Vegetables are arguably the most important part of a healthy diet. Health and nutrition experts advise that people get a minimum of 2 ½ to 3 servings of vegetables each day, with more being even better. Yet despite recommendations and the many virtues offered by vegetables, most of us are simply not getting enough each day. With these simple, surprising tips we can all sneak in more vegetables each and every day.
Puree steamed vegetables in the blender or food processor to create an easy way to add vegetables into sauces, soups, and casseroles. Try adding a blend of pureed veggies to marinara sauces, or stir in a puree of cauliflower to cheesy and creamy recipes such as macaroni and cheese.
Half the battle of adding more vegetables to your daily diet lies in the issue of availability. Just the simple act of having vegetables prepped and ready to grab when hunger strikes will almost automatically help you eat more vegetables. Keep a container of washed and prepped raw vegetables in your fridge so you and your family can grab some to snack on whenever you open the refrigerator door!
Vegetables can make a great replacement for some foods, especially for grains. Try using spaghetti squash instead of pasta, finely chopped (riced) cauliflower instead of rice, and sliced carrots or cucumbers instead of crackers.
Breakfast is a meal that often lacks in vegetables. Begin your day the right way by including vegetables as a staple of your breakfast. Toss spinach, kale, beets, or carrots into a smoothie. Chop leftover veggies to add to your eggs. Dont be afraid to creativeoptions like salads work just as well at breakfast as other times of the day!
Plan for the week ahead by doing things like roasting a big tray of veggies on Sunday afternoon (or whenever you get ready for the week ahead) to add to meals or snacks throughout the week. Toss in a protein like grilled chicken and you have a readymade meal to take to work or to server your family on a busy night!
Dont be afraid to alter a recipe to increase the amount of vegetables included. In most cases it will not negatively affect the recipe whatsoever. Try tossing more mushrooms to top your homemade pizza, layer sliced eggplant in with your lasagna, or add more tomatoes and red pepper to chili.
Adding vegetables like spinach, kale, beets, and carrots to your smoothies or juices is a great way to effortlessly sip on your vegetables. Not only does doing so provide you with the nutrients of vegetables, by replacing some of the fruits, adding vegetables also cuts down on the sugar of fruits.
Find some favorite go-to vegetable options to make getting in your vegetables more fun. You may not like every single vegetable, but you can definitely find some that you adore. Cauliflowers mild flavor makes it a popular choice, and the slight sweetness of many squashes also make them a winner for many. Additionally, experiment with different ways of cooking vegetables. If you dont enjoy a particular vegetable steamed, try broiling or baking it to change the texture to something more appealing!
Whether you follow a vegetarian, paleo, gluten free, clean eating, or calorie counting diet, there is one piece of health and nutrition advice that rings true across the board. AVOID PACKAGED FOODS. Generally speaking, packaged foods are highly processed and full of undesirable ingredients liked added sugars, refined carbohydrates, and chemicals. Yet, despite their drawbacks, packaged foods hold the undeniable benefit of being convenient. And in todays busy world, convenience can be very alluring.
If you find yourself caught between the desire to be healthy and the need for convenience, we have the news you have been waiting for. Careful searching reveals a multitude of choices that come in a package, without compromising nutrition. Reach for one of these healthy and fast options next time you need something to eat in a hurry!
1. Roasted Nuts.
Roasted nuts top the list of healthy convenience foods because they are one of the most widely available quick snacks. Even if you need to grab a snack at a gas station, roasted nuts give you a great option to fill you up on the go. Be sure to select plain, dry roasted nuts to avoid sugars and refined oils.
2. Greek Yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt gives you an easy base for a protein and probiotic packed meal or snack. Make it even better by throwing on some sliced fruit and roasted nuts.
3. Dried Fruit.
Dried fruit (particularly raisins) are another easy to find, quick, and healthy food. Take care to make sure your dried fruit does not contain any added sugar. Add dried fruit to the yogurt for a simple parfait or toss with nuts for a ready to go trail mix.
4. Guacamole Packs.
Guacamole is often grouped in with other junky party foods, but when prepared well and served with plenty of raw veggies, guacamole is actually super food. When you dont have time make your own, readymade guacs are widely availableincluding in single serve portions. Check labels to make sure only the only ingredients are avocados and possibly onions and/or tomatoes and spices.
5. Nut Butter Individual Packs.
Several companies now make nut butters in individual packets which makes them a terrific option as a quick hunger buster. Grab one to add to fruit or veggies or even just enjoy it on its own for an instant source of healthy fat and protein.
6. Snack Bars.
Snack and energy bars can be hit or miss when it comes to being a healthy option. But as the demand for quick and healthy snacks increases, some companies are answering the demand with some healthy options. Check labels and select an option that contains only fruit, nuts, and (optional) spices, like Larabars and Rx bars.
7. Dark Chocolate.
Sometimes we all crave a sweet treat NOW. When that sweet treat demands an instant fix, go for dark chocolate. As long as its 80 percent cacao, this indulgence will give you convenience and antioxidants!
No, they arent technically packaged, but we had to include bananas along with the healthiest convenience foods! With its own natural wrapper right from Mother Nature, its hard to beat the humble banana. Grab an individual nut butter pack (see # 6), and youll be all set!
These days most people know the importance of reading labels on their food and drink choices before purchasing or consuming them. Words like high fructose corn syrup and red dye give health conscious folks the warning they need to avoid undesirable and risky ingredients.
While watching out for such terms on labels is an important first step, unfortunately many other unhealthy and even dangerous ingredients can be found lurking on labels under seemingly innocent names. Take a look to find out the top four food additives you will want to avoid!
4. Cane Sugar/Juice. Research is revealing that all the excess sugar in the standard American diet (S.A.D.) is responsible for a host of serious health problems people are facing. From obesity to diabetes to heart disease, added sugars are causing major impacts on health and well-being. In attempts to keep profits high as people learn to avoid added sugars, manufacturers are labeling sugar under terms that sound healthier. The problem is all added sugars have the same negative effects on your health. Look out for terms like cane sugar, cane juice, fructose, beet sugar, turbinado, sugar in the raw, among others.
3. Caramel Coloring. Caramel coloring is found in everything from soda to crackers and bread. At first glance, it sounds healthier than the artificial food dye names found in other foods. In reality, caramel coloring is just as risky as any other artificial food coloring. In fact, it is considered to be a possible carcinogen due to the chemicals used in making it.
2. Enriched Wheat. Enriched wheat seems like it is wheat that has been made better. The truth is that enriched wheat is wheat that has been stripped of any inherent nutrients it may have initially had and then had a small amount of nutrients added back in. The end result is a refined wheat that contains little to no true nutritional value. Whether you follow a gluten free diet or not, enriched wheat is an ingredient that is best avoided completely.
1. Natural Flavoring. We are taught to believe that natural is always good. While seeking a more natural diet is indeed preferable, the term itself is not regulated. This lack of regulation allows manufacturers to take a wide berth on what they label as natural flavors. Risky ingredients such as MSG, aspartame, GMO additives can all legally fall under the natural flavoring label. Such ingredients can be carcinogenic and/or considered excitotoxins. Dont fall for this vague, misleading, and potentially dangerous term!
Often times, things that are good for us are not overly appealing. Sure, spinach and flaxseed are good for you, but most of us don't crave these super foods. One food stands out as a tempting exception to this rule though. Dark chocolate manages to be both decadent and good for you. Research has shown that this rich, indulgent treat actually comes with a hefty list of health perks. So the next time you want to satisfy that sweet tooth, reach for the dark chocolate knowing that you are doing something good for your taste buds and your body!
1. Top Source of Antioxidants.
Antioxidants help protect the cells in your body from damage done by free radicals. Dark chocolate has been ranked as one of the best sources of antioxidants. A diet high in antioxidants is credited with everything from preventing disease to slowing the effects of aging!
2. Better Heart Health.
Because of the flavonoids found in dark chocolate it has been shown to help to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol. Dark chocolate consumption is linked with a decreased rate of heart disease. One study showed that consuming dark chocolate five times per week could lower the risk of heart disease by over 50 percent.
3. Helps Lower Blood Pressure.
Compounds found in dark chocolate also help to relax blood vessels. This relaxing helps blood to flow better to all parts of the body and decrease blood pressure levels which decreases stress and strain on your veins.
4. Nutrient Dense.
While the antioxidants in dark chocolate are definitely noteworthy, its nutritional prowess does not end there. Dark chocolate also provides notable amounts of iron, copper, magnesium, manganese, zinc, fiber, potassium, and more.
5. Brain Power.
Dark chocolate has also been shown to help improve brain function. Not only does dark chocolate protect brain cells, but the improved blood flow it is responsible for is also a boost to brain power.
6. Blood Sugar Friendly.
Unlike many other desserts, dark chocolate actually has a relatively low glycemic index (GI) number. This mean that your blood sugar levels stay stable, thus helping you avoid the energy crashes and inflammation caused by blood sugar spikes.
The Fine Print: Before you happily decide to make your next meal consist solely of dark chocolate (yum!), keep these caveats in mind. Any dark chocolate you choose needs to have a high cacao content (at least 80 percent) to reap maximum benefit. This is because it is the cacao content that offers all of the above health benefits. Chocolates with lower cacao percentages do not offer as many benefits and also have higher sugar levels. Additionally, remember that while dark chocolate does offer notable benefits, it is still calorie-dense and should still be regarded as a treat food. Keep serving sizes to about two small squares to avoid overindulging and enjoy!
Perhaps you are passionate about your healthy diet. You have seen the benefits of greater levels of energy, trimmer figure, and overall better health. Or perhaps you have medical needs that dictate certain dietary guidelines, such as being gluten free. Or maybe you choose to refrain from meat out of personal convictions.
Whatever your reasons for your healthy diet may be, the simple reality is that not everyone will share your enthusiasm for nutrient-rich foods. In fact, some people may be so set in their ways that the mere suggestion of healthy fare makes them turn up their noses without so much as a taste. The good news is that there are plenty of tasty and healthy options that you can serve that will meet your healthy ideals without ever raising question from party guests. With these delicious and nutritious meals, everyone wins. And don't worry---we'll never tell just how nutritious your menu really is! These options have you covered!
Breakfast or Brunch
Frittata. Need a healthy brunch option everyone is sure to love? Try a versatile frittata. Frittatas are the perfect option to fill with plenty of chopped veggies and lean proteins. Add in herbs and spices for sodium-free flavoring that is packed with antioxidants. Frittatas offer the same protein and vitamin egg filled base as its cousin the quiche, but without the refined carbs and processed oils in a quiche crust. Healthy and delicious!
Crudite Platter. Whether you need an appetizer to bring to a social gathering or one to serve at your own home, a crudite platter is the perfect solution. Not only does a platter of raw veggies make for a beautiful presentation with its rainbow of colors, but it also provides a fantastic alternative to sugary and fried dishes. Try adding some unique options to your crudité, like pepper slices, jicama, and/or heirloom carrots to make it more interesting. To really wow, serve with hummus or yogurt dip.
Taco Bar. Tacos may not initially come to mind when you think of healthy foods, but they are actually a perfect (and healthy!) option to serve to guests who may balk at the idea of healthy fare. To make this menu idea work for everyone, all you need to do is offer your tacos set up in the form of a taco bar. Offer sprouted whole grain tortillas (soft, not hard) and/or large leaf lettuce. Opt for Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or and choose grass fed cheese for friends who like dairy. Stock the rest of your taco bar with nutritious options like avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, and lean proteins (include a firm tofu if you'd like a vegetarian friendly option!).
Soup. Warm, hearty, and easy to make in large batchesit's hard to beat soup as an option to serve for large crowds. As long as you veer away from thick, cream-based soups there are plenty ways you can serve healthy soup that are sure to be crowd pleasers. Try a filling bean-based soup, or make a chicken soup with a bone broth base for all the gut healing benefits of collagen.
Fruit. For a healthy dessert, all you have to do is turn to nature. Mother Nature provides plenty of sweet goodness in fruits and berries. Try a no-cook delicious option by layering fruit with nuts, Greek yogurt, and a drizzle of honey. Or, dip strawberries in dark chocolate (70 percent cacao content or greater) for a decadent treat no one can resist.
Tired of pulling the same old sandwich out of that boring brown bag? It's all too easy to get into a lunchtime rut that leaves you dreading what you have packed or heading out for overpriced and unhealthy fast food. If you are like most people, you are long past due for a brown bag makeover. Lunches can be nutritious, delicious, and quick and easy to make! Make lunch your favorite meal of the day with these easy ways to liven up lunch time.
1. Go Bento! The Asian inspired bento box trend is an instant way to add variety to your lunchtime routine. By filling up the small compartments of a bento box, you pretty much guarantee variety in your lunch. If you don't have an actual bento box (portable boxes with divided compartments), don't worry, you can still have a bento style lunch. Simply pack several small containers with different items such as boiled eggs, edamame, fruit, and raw veggies with hummus. Not only is the variety of a bento lunch fun, it helps you get a wide array of nutrients.
2. Recycle Dinner. It takes no extra work to double your dinner recipe. Try doubling your dinner recipes once or twice a week so you have some of those leftovers for lunch throughout the week. Pack leftovers in a mason jar or glass storage container with lid to make it easy to heat it up in the microwave without plastic's chemicals. Just remember to be considerate of your office mates and stick to leftovers that are not so aromatic that they'll leave an odor for the whole office!
3. Layer the Right Way. Salads are often left off the lunchtime menu because they tend to get soggy by the time lunchtime rolls around. But the good news is that if you layer your salads the right way you can easily enjoy your favorite salads-- no matter how late in the day your lunch is. All you need to do to make salads lunchtime friendly is layer the ingredients in the proper order. Using a glass jar or deep bowl with a lid, start with a layer of salad dressing followed by any other wet ingredients working your way from liquid ingredients on the bottom towards dry or crunchy ingredients at the top. When lunchtime rolls around just mix everything together for a delightful, crisp salad!
4. Breakfast. Who said lunch can't include your breakfast favorites? Break the lunchtime rules and fill your lunchbox with breakfast staples. Overnight oats, avocado on sprouted toast, and Greek yogurt parfaits are just a few of the examples of traditional breakfast foods that make for fantastic lunch options.
5. Take Advantage of Technology. Even if you don't have access to a microwave or fridge, the technology of double insulation can widen your options of what you can take to lunch! The double insulated mugs that have become so popular are good for more than just keeping your coffee hot. Try using one of these cups or mugs to keep soups or stews warm till lunch, or use one to keep a smoothie icy cold until lunch.
Most of us agree that cooking at home is a terrific way to eat a healthier diet and save money. What is not always so easy is doing the actual cooking! Whether you are new to cooking or have spent a lifetime avoiding the stove, these five essential tools will make cooking (almost) effortless for even the most novice cook.
1. Measuring Tools.
Correctly following even simple recipes requires accurate measurements if you want good results. To accurately measure all types of ingredients you will want to make sure you have a set of measuring spoons, a glass measuring cup with a spout for pouring, and a set of measuring cups for dry ingredients. All of these items can easily be found at low price points making them an affordable addition to your kitchen arsenal.
2. Chefs Knife and Paring Knife.
While you can certainly purchase a specialty knife for almost any cutting or chopping task out there, a chefs knife and paring knife (along with kitchen shearssee must-have item #5) can handle almost any cutting or chopping challenge that may come your way. Use the chefs knife as your all-purpose knife as its long blade can efficiently handle everything from produce to meat. Pull out the paring knife for more intricate and delicate work like peeling foods, dicing garlic, and other similar tasks. If properly taken care of, these two knives can last you years and years.
3. Slow Cooker.
If you want to have more home cooked meals, but dont have the time and/or inclination to spend lots of time in the kitchen, the slow cooker is just the solution youve been searching for. The idea that the slow cooker is only good for soups and stews limits the powers of this super helpful gadget. You will be impressed to find you can do everything from roast a chicken to cook a lasagna all from the convenience of a slow cooker. The only cooking skills required are the ability to toss in a few ingredients and set a timer. Youll have a fresh homemade dinner waiting on you by the end of the day!
4. Immersion Blender.
Commercial grade blenders have gained tremendous popularity in recent years, but for most of us an immersion blender will take care of all you needand at a fraction of the cost. Immersion blenders, also known as stick blenders, have a small handheld motor at one end and a sharp rotating blade attached by a thin rod at the other end. This means that immersions blenders take up practically no space in small kitchens, but still allow you to make smoothies, purees, sauces, and more.
5. Kitchen Shears.
Kitchen shears can save you both time and effort in the kitchen. Use your shears for chopping herbs, opening food packages, slicing homemade pizza, quickly cutting salad ingredients, and more. Added bonus: if you are cooking for young children, kitchen shears provide a quick and easy way to cut foods into small, manageable bites.
All parents want their kids to be healthy today, tomorrow, and for a long time to come. Getting your children to eat their vegetables at dinner tonight or convincing them to turn off a video game tomorrow is definitely a victory in this quest. Yet more than making a one time healthy choice here or there, the ultimate goal is really to instill a lifetime of healthy habits in our children. Read on to find out how to help teach your child healthy habits to last a lifetime.
1. Enlist Their Help. Yes, it can absolutely be easier to do things like prep meals on your own, but enlisting your children's help can go a long way in helping them develop healthy habits that will last. First, helping with a project will give your child ownership over it, thus increasing their enthusiasm. Secondly, as you work together with your child on healthy projects you are giving him or her a skill set to do things such as prepare healthy meals independently.
2. Make It a Family Affair. Consider going to a farmers market to get fresh local produce, going on weekly family bike rides, or hiking to a local waterfall together. Making healthy choices can be a fun family affair that will build lifelong habits and traditions.
3. Model Them. Like it or not, the motto do as I say, not as I do has no place in helping to ingrain healthy choices in little ones. Studies have shown that children's eating habits and lifestyle choices are often learned through observation. From an early age, let your children see you enjoying nutrient rich foods and prioritizing self-care choices like fitness programs and relaxation.
4. Encourage Self-Awareness. Life can get so busy, even for young children, that it can be all too easy to ignore how various foods and exercise can make the body feel. Ask your child guiding questions to help him recognize how he feels after that bag of chips versus how he feels after an apple with peanut butter. Help him/her recognize the endorphins he/she gets from running hard at his/her soccer game as compared to the sluggish feeling he/she gets after binge watching a TV show. For older kids, it can be helpful to keep a journal of how food and fitness choices make them feel.
5. Make Choices Fail-Proof. Letting your children make their own healthy choices empowers them to make good choices all by themselves, even when you aren't there to help guide. Start the journey to making independent choices by making them fail-proof. For example, offer the choices of grapes or oranges for snacks rather than 'what would you like for snack?' The first questions guarantees a healthy option, regardless of which choice is preferred, that your child has self-selected. On the other hand,the second question may result in the answer of cookies and ice cream. Fail-proof questions will build your child's confidence in making healthy choices for years to come!
Start implementing these steps today to ensure that your kids develop healthy habits that will last for their lifetime!