Reducing inflammation via our food choices and diet is one of the most important things that we can do for our bodies. Thankfully, eating to bust inflammation is delicious and easy! One of the most simple diets to follow for anti-inflammatory benefits is the Mediterranean diet which is low in red meats, high in fish, fresh vegetables and fruits, and has little to no processed foods.
While today’s modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our over abundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease. (National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases)
I began my shift to anti-inflammatory foods in earnest about five years ago in order to help control my lupus. May is Lupus Awareness Month and something that most of my readers may not know is that I have lupus. I was diagnosed in 2001 and I have been very, very lucky to control my disease through diet and without medication except during flares. Getting my food under control and really paying attention to my body and how it reacts to certain foods has been a vital part of keeping my lupus from running rampant.
Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can affect and damage any part of the body, including the skin, organs, and joints. The disease ranges from mild to life-threatening and it is estimated that approximately 1.5 million people in the USA are affected (although many more could be undiagnosed). For those of us with lupus, our immune systems create antibodies that attack and damage healthy tissues and organs. Lupus is not contagious at all. Lupus may be hereditary. About five years ago, my Father was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (also an autoimmune disease) and my doctor said that my Father’s side of the family is most likely where the autoimmune came from. Since then, a cousin from that side has also been diagnosed with lupus. Sadly, to date, there is no cure for lupus. Sharing information about lupus, helps us to raise money to continue research for new medications and hope for a cure.
Diagnosis of lupus can be very tricky and take months or even years. Part of the difficulty comes from the way that the disease manifests in flares and remissions. When my symptoms became impossible to ignore, I thought I had the flu until it lasted for more than a month. Some of the common lupus symptoms are chronic fatigue, mild to severe joint pain, swelling of joints, fever, a butterfly-shaped rash on the face (mine looks like I have sunburn), photo-sensitivity, and hair loss. Many of these symptoms occur with other more common disorders and diseases which is why it may take some time to diagnose lupus. Thankfully, my doctor did a blood test immediately for the antibodies which enabled him to make the diagnosis. Lupus also comes hand in hand with some other diseases like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
My doctors have been wonderful. My first doctor was very frank about what this disease could mean for me, how it might impact my home life, my working life, my emotions, and how I needed to be clear in choosing my mindset moving forward. I was 31 years old, a single Mom, and I not only worked full-time, but I was also on-call 24/7 every other week. I determined from the beginning that I was not going to allow this disease to run my life and I am proud to report that 99.9% of the time, this is true. It has been an enormous lesson in living mindfully, learning to listen to my body, and understanding that there is no shame in honoring the dictates of my body instead of pushing through needlessly. It has also been a huge lesson that food can be medicine or poison and that we are faced with that choice every single day.
One of the reasons that I am passionate about food that loves us back and mindful eating is because it has, quite literally, saved my life. I don’t always make the right choice (ring dings have a bizarre compulsive siren call for me), BUT, I do know that becoming a food blogger and recipe creator has kept me focused on finding foods and creating recipes that not only support me, but are wonderful guidelines for healthy eating for all of us.
I stay away from processed foods, avoid GMO’s when possible, and limit my alcohol intake to a few sips here and there per year. Whole grains and especially quinoa have become vital to my diet. I take L-Carnitine (an amino acid) and turmeric daily (herbal supplements can be tricky for those with lupus so consult your doctor before starting anything). Coconut water has been a boost to hydrating my body and sparkling mineral water from Whole Foods helped me quit my soda addiction. Keeping a food journal is really important. I have been able to track my body’s reaction to foods and compare it to how I feel or what seems to trigger a flare. All early warning systems are welcome in the land of lupus.
I am still experimenting. I still eat ring dings. I am not a nutritionist (but I am looking for one to work with!). I am not perfect. However, being aware and listening to my body has made all the difference and allows me to move into a deeper and more satisfying relationship with my Self.
Meditation and my mantra practice are also vital everyday activities that contribute to my mind, body, spirit focus. Integrating spirituality into my approach to food is not something that I talk about a lot but happens daily. Finding positive focuses and practices is just as vital to combating disease as the food and activities we choose.
Creating new recipes is an adventure and feeling good about food and eating brings our minds into alignment with our health! I chose 8 of my favorite anti-inflammatory foods and included some recipes. At the end of the post are some resources to explore further. I would love to hear from you in the comments about your food journey and how food has helped you shift or control health issues.
Sharing about lupus during May is a great way to help spread the word and raise awareness and funds. Thank you for being part of my food journey and connecting with Hungry Goddess! You inspire me to keep cooking and creating!
Fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines. Not only do the omega-3’s reduce inflammation, they are also excellent for those that may be prone to heart disease. King Oscar is your go-to source for all of these delectable omega-3’s.
- Lemon Oven-Roasted Salmon with Fennel and San Marzano Tomatoes
- Lemon Tarragon Salmon with Greek Salad and Yogurt Dressing
- Summer Napa Cabbage Wraps with Mackerel, Quinoa, & Veggies with Lemon Garlic Aioli Dressing
- Thai Green Papaya & Mango Salad with Sardines Recipe
Eat your dark, leafy greens! Greens like kale, spinach, collard greens, and Swiss chard help repair cellular damage, bring potent antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory flavonoids.
- Stuffed Acorn Squash with Homemade Chicken, Fennel Seed & Kale Sausage
- Best Kale Chopped Salad with Pomegranates and Roasted Delicata Squash
- Summer Pasta with Tomatoes, Black Olives and Spinach
Beets! Beet benefits include repairing cells and adding high levels of inflammation-fighting potassium and magnesium.
- Spiralized Beet and Zucchini Salad with Sumac Roasted Chickpeas and Feta
- Homemade Beet Hummus with Pepitas
- Beet and Fennel Soup
“Broccoli is an antioxidant powerhouse, with key vitamins, flavonoids and carotenoids. These work together to lower oxidative stress in the body and help battle both chronic inflammation and the risk of developing cancer.” (WHFoods)
- Creamy Broccoli Almond Soup
- Stay tuned for my broccoli bites with amino acids and garlic coming soon!
Give me more blueberries! “One antioxidant in particular stands out as an especially strong anti-inflammatory, and that’s quercetin. Found in citrus, olive oil and dark-colored berries, quercetin is a flavonoid (a beneficial substance or phytonutrient that’s prevalent in fresh foods) that fights inflammation and even cancer.” (UMM)
- Freekeh with Blueberries, Hemp Seeds & Blood Oranges
- Peach and Blueberry Kefir Smoothie Recipe & Kefir Superfood Facts
Spice that fights inflammation – I take turmeric in pill form everyday, as well as using it in some of my favorite dishes. Dr. Mercola lists cloves, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric as the top four anti-inflammatory spices.
- Quinoa Khichuri with Purple Sweet Potatoes
- Quickie Chicken Curry with Quinoa and Avocado
- Spicy Chicken, Mung Bean and Chickpea Stew
- Fresh Turmeric Hummus
- Tom Kha Gai – Homemade Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
- Beet and Ginger Dip
Give me a kiss? I just ate 5 cloves of garlic! Garlic is a staple in many kitchens and has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and antioxidant properties.
- Lechon Asado – Cuban Roast Pork with Chimichurri
- Roasted Garlic Lemon Rosemary -Thyme Chicken
- Spiralized Yellow Squash Noodles with Basil Almond Pesto
Time to call on the Quinoa Goddess – Quinoa has been a life-saver in so many ways for me. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet may also include swapping out delicious, healthy whole grains for your carbs and, IMHO, quinoa is one of the best. Bonus, it is a complete protein!
- The Quinoa Goddess – Eat More Quinoa and how to cook quinoa
- Fennel Pollen Scented Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate & Mint
- Quinoa & Black Rice Fall Salad with Butternut Squash & Pumpkin Seeds
- Scrambled Quinoa Omelette with Veggies
Don’t forget some of these great inflammation busters: Chia Seeds, Flax Seeds, Tea (Tulsi and Matcha are the best), Coconut Oil, Fermented foods like kimchi and miso, Bone broth, and Walnuts.
- Miso and Honey Glazed Verlasso Salmon with Roasted Vegetables
- Purple Sweet Potato Chips with Thyme
- Chilled Avocado Soup with Walnuts
Resources and Inspiration: