Cavemen had it easy. They didn’t have the temptation of sweet potato fries, or Dairy Queen Blizzards, or margaritas. All they had to eat were nuts, berries and seeds; lean meat; fish and plant foods. Their primitive diet struck the perfect balance of anti-inflammatory Omega-3s and pro-inflammatory Omega-6s. What does today’s “caveman” diet look like? Steak. Potato. Bread. The scales are tipped in one clear direction. In a span of a few hundred-thousand years, from hunting and gathering to the fast food industry, our pro to anti-inflammation ratio has gone from 1:1 to a bloated 30:1. Say, “Do I look swollen?”
It might be another story if McDonald’s got its start selling salmon and spinach Happy Meals. But the reality is most of the foods and fast food we eat are processed and fatty. And the more we eat, the more inflammation builds up in the body. It’s what causes aches and pains and leads to allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Of course inflammation speeds up the aging process in general too. Hello, wrinkles. So when you hear of the powerful antioxidents in blueberries, or the wonders of green tea, or the new superfood – acai, or whatever is touted as the next season’s fountain of youth … it all comes down to the food’s ability to fight inflammation.
The trick is to eat less of the really pro-inflammatory stuff (processed foods, sugar, red meat…) and more of the anti-inflammatory stuff (veggies, nuts, fish, whole grains…). Go primitive. In your diet that is. No loin clothes.
I like to think that if I can strike a balance, I’m in good shape. The good cancels out the bad, right? Do the math: 1 Butterfinger Blizzard + 6 oz. salmon + 1 Spinach salad + 1/4 cup blueberries = 0. That’s a wash.
Here’s a quick list of some inflammation fighters:
nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
fish (wild-caught salmon)
dark leafy greens (spinach, mixed greens)
whole grains (brown rice)
berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
And some inflammation instigators:
high-fructose corn syrup
vegetable oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower and sunflower oils)
wheat flour (white bread)
packaged snack foods
For a visual, check out Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.
Want more? Read: Jack Challem’s “The Inflammation Syndrome”
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps families find healthy routines that work, with no more “what’s for dinner?” stress, and a lot better food. Her family meal plans help moms take charge of their kitchen and their own health, leading to more vegetables and less junk all around. Megan also shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.