Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, or Eid-al-Adha, I wish you many blessings of joy and peace this holiday season! As a special treat to you, I have updated my “Surviving The Holidays” guide and renamed it ““Enjoying the Holidays 2011-2012.” You can download it for free on my website.
I am also hosting a FREE webinar, entitled: “Staying Healthy During The Holidays” on December 19th at Noon Central Time. Please register on my website for this event.
Does Inflammation Have You Hot?
Inflammation, in its ideal form, is the body’s response to infection and injury. When it works properly, it’s a solution addressing pain and invading organisms. But when inflammation is systemic (throughout our body), low-level and persistent, we are neither healed nor protected. Long-term inflammation can be a factor in many illnesses including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, allergies, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.
Inflammation is more common today because our bodies are out of balance. Our bodies produce chemicals called prostaglandins, using nutrients from the food we eat as a raw material. The major nutrients that our bodies use to create prostaglandins are fatty acids from our foods. These are the omega-3 or omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids produce an anti-inflammatory response in our bodies. Omega-6 fatty acids produce an inflammatory response.
Our bodies need an equal amount of each of these fatty acids to maintain a balanced inflammatory status. However, today’s “standard American diet” provides us with up to 20 times as much omega-6 fatty acid as omega-3 fatty acid.
What are the main sources of the inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids?
Sweets, starches (especially grains), and highly processed foods are the main culprits. We consume more cereal grains (and the oils produced from them) than ever before. In addition, the animals we eat are also consuming increasing quantities of these grains (primarily corn). Even fish are being corn-fed in farms that raise seafood to meet our growing demands!
How can I balance these inflammatory factors?
Here are some simple suggestions to add anti-inflammatory choices into your daily routine:
- Exercise regularly
- Minimize stress
- Get a full night’s sleep
- Eat whole foods, especially organic
- Consider taking a high quality fish oil
- Cook with aromatic spices – garlic, ginger, cayenne, turmeric are anti-inflammatory
- Add avocado, kale, spinach, anchovies, wild Atlantic or sockeye salmon, Brazil nuts, and other anti-inflammatory foods
Mindful choices that add in more omega-3 fatty acids or develop relaxing behavior is the place to start! Making anti-inflammatory choices doesn’t have to feel like deprivation. Remember, everything is a balance.
Recipe of the Month: Middle-Eastern Style Lentil Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, cut into medium dice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground cumin, preferably ground from whole seeds toasted in a dry skillet
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
- 7 cups vegetable broth or water
- 2 cups dried red lentils, picked over, washed, and rinsed
- ~ Pinch of red-pepper flakes
- In a large cooking pot, saute the onions in the heated olive oil until caramelized (tender). Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, salt, and pepper, and cook for another minute.
- Add the broth (or water) and heat to boiling.
- Stir in the lentils, cover the pot, and cook until the lentils are tender.
- Stir in the pepper flakes, cover, and cook on high for 10 minutes.
- Serve hot.
Although I have never used cinnamon in this recipe, it is traditional in some Middle-Eastern cultures to add cinnamon, parsley, cilantro or tomatoes to this recipe. These are all healthy additions which introduce subtle flavors. Have fun with this recipe and try it with different herbs & spices.
This dish can be served over rice* and topped with additional caramelized onions. A nice complementary side dish is a cucumber/yogurt/garlic sauce which can be made by combining plain yogurt with crushed garlic and finely chopped cucumber, a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper (dill or mint garnish is optional).
*Note – preferably brown rice that has been soaked prior to cooking.