Let Food Be Thy Medicine!

food-picWhile we know that our food choices can have an impact on our weight and energy levels, you may not realise that they can also have a significant impact on inflammation. With inflammation at the source of many disease processes, it’s important to be aware of what is driving the inflammatory process and what can reduce/reverse it.

Surprisingly, the human body contains over 10 times more bacteria cells than human cells. This fine balance of bacteria, known as our microbiome, is now understood to have a significant impact on human health. The human microbiome may be implicated in numerous auto-immune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, diabetes and some cancers. Not only is the flora in our gut the foundation of our immune system (>70 percent is housed in our gut wall), obesity may also be exacerbated by a poor mix of gut microbes. These microbes control many functions essential to health, such as synthesis of nutritional compounds, for immune modulation and for inflammatory signalling.

PRO-INFLAMMATORY  ANTI-INFLAMMATORY
sugar  Flavonoid-rich berries (fresh or frozen)
fructose  Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage/kale/cauliflower/Brussels sprouts/bok choy)
Trans fats/processed vegetable oils  Citrus fruits  (lemons/limes/grapefruit)
Flour/processed carbohydrates  High-carotene vegetables (pumpkin/carrots/orange peppers)
Baked goods (trans fats/sugars)  Lycopene sources (tomatoes/watermelon/strawberry/papaya/pink grapefruit)
Excessive alcohol consumption  Green leafy vegetables (spinach/kale/bok choy)
Excessive Omega 6 fats (vegetable oils/nuts and associated products) & low Omega 3 fats (fish/flaxseed)  Herbs & spices (turmeric/ginger/garlic/onion/rosemary/capsicum/dill)
MSG  Wild salmon
Low fibre diet  Proteolytic enzymes (pineapple/kiwi fruit/papaya/miso)
excessive additives and artificial ingredients  Adequate quantity & variety of dietary fibre (see list below)Optimum for men: 30-35g/day and women 25-30g/day

So where does fibre come into it?

Fibre represents a group of carbohydrate-containing compounds that are neither digested nor absorbed in the small intestine. What most people don’t realize is the relevance of the different types of dietary fibres as well as the optimal daily intake. I’d suggest that the vast majority of us are not consuming anywhere close to the quantity and variety necessary for optimum health. Structural classifications have been developed based on either the water solubility or the susceptibility to large intestinal bacterial degradation (fermentation). Although fibre in general is an important source of energy for intestinal microflora, various fibres show different fermentation potentials.

An anti-inflammatory effect of fibre is of special interest because higher fibre intake has been linked to a decreased overall mortality in older adults including mortality due to infectious, inflammatory, and respiratory diseases. High fibre intake has also been associated with lower BMI, likely at least partly due to the low energy density of fibre-rich foods. Researchers are now also considering the alteration fibre causes to the intestinal microbiome and how this may directly affect our weight.

While the adequate intake (AI) of dietary fibre has long been established (25+g/day for women and 30g+ for men), the ideal ratio of the two types of fibre may still require further investigation. Animal studies have demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects with the ratio 1:1 or 2:1 in favour of fermentable fibres. Fermentable fibres are usually soluble, whereas insoluble fibres usually have poor fermentability.

Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a thick gel in your intestines, slowing digestion. This can help to stabilise blood glucose levels and may help to lower LDL cholesterol levels. By slowing down digestion, soluble fibre helps people feel full for longer after eating. Foods higher in soluble fibre include:

  • fruits and vegetables
  • rolled oats (also contain insoluble fibre)

Insoluble fibre, adds bulk and helps to keep the bowels regular. It is the hard outer skins and surfaces of roots, grains and seeds which are not as easily digested. Insoluble fibre is also very filling. Foods higher in insoluble fibre include:

  • whole grains
  • the outer skins of fruit and vegetables
  • nuts and seeds

Both types of fibre are beneficial to the body and most plant foods contain a mixture of both types. Are you getting enough fibre each day?

FOOD SOURCE TOTAL FIBRE (g) INSOLUBLE (g) SOLUBLE (g)
Raw almonds – 1 cup 15.9 14.3 1.6
Apple – med with skin 3.7 2.7 1.0
Banana – 1 med 2.8 2.1 0.7
Tomato – 1 cup  2.0 1.8 0.2
Green beans – 1 cup 3.7 2.1 1.6
Raspberries – 1 cup 8.4 7.5 0.9
Cabbage – 1 cup ckd 3.4 1.9 1.5
Carrot – 1 cup raw 3.3 1.7 1.6
Muesli raw – 1 cup 10.0 7.3 2.7
Kiwi fruit – 1 med 2.6 2.0 0.6
Mandarin – 1 cup 4.5 2.7 1.8
Oat bran – 1 cup 4.8 2.8 2.0
Rolled oats – 1 cup 4.0 2.1 1.9

One of the most powerful (internal) antioxidants in our body is glutathione. Glutathione is different from other antioxidants in that it is intracellular. It has the unique ability of maximizing the activity of all the other antioxidants. It removes toxins from your cells and protects you from the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals, and environmental pollutants.Antioxidants

Your body is quite poor at getting glutathione from your digestive system into your blood. Most oral glutathione supplements have been shown to be poorly absorbed and, quite frankly, a waste of money. In fact, some glutathione supplements may interfere with your own internal production of glutathione.

The best way to boost your glutathione levels by consuming foods (and potentially supplements) which enhance your own production. Some of these foods are listed below:

NUTRIENT TO INCREASE FOOD SOURCES
Glutathione Asparagus/spinach/garlic/avocado/zucchini/grapefruit/strawberries/peaches
Selenium Brazil nuts/meat/seafood
Cyanohydroxybutene Broccoli/cauliflower/Brussels sprouts/cabbage
Alpha lipoic acid Red meat/organ meats/brewers yeast
Riboflavin Sunflower seeds/spinach/avocado
Cysteine Eggs/garlic/whey protein
Flavonoids A wide variety of colourful plant foods including berries/citrus fruits/vegetables/spices and tea

Donna Aston - Author

Nutritionist Certified Fitness Trainer Author of five best-selling health & fitness books Emotional Intelligence Certified Practitioner (Genos) Managing Director: Aston & Co. Pty. Ltd. Fitness advisor: Prevention Australia Magazine & SEN radio CIRQ acrobatic master trainer

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