Spotlight: Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Program

Make meals that heal with a dietitian-guided plan

A new 8-week nutrition program at Medcan works to lower inflammation through diet and lifestyle choices. Alexandra Friel, a registered dietitian and the Nutrition Program lead at Medcan, says this plan can help increase energy levels and decrease pain or discomfort. Here’s how:

Tests can indicate elevated levels of inflammation

“As part of the Annual Health Assessment, blood is drawn and analyzed for a number of markers. One marker, called high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), can indicate sustained, low level inflammation that contributes to plaque formation in the arteries and narrowing of blood vessels.  People with an elevated hs-CRP are at greater risk of heart attack and stroke, even if their cholesterol levels are within healthy ranges.

As described at length here, inflammation is a normal and healthy response to injury or infection. Most of the time the inflammatory process “turns on” when it’s needed, and then “turns off” as the body heals. This is called acute inflammation. Sometimes, though, this process goes awry and the body continues to churn out excessive inflammatory compounds. This is known as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can last months or even years and is known to contribute to numerous chronic diseases.

The tricky thing about CRP, says Friel, is that it will be elevated regardless of whether the inflammatory process is acute or chronic. During your health assessment, your doctor can help determine if you are suffering from chronic inflammation.

A customized plan can offer a solution to inflammation caused by diet

It’s long been known that diet plays an important role in easing symptoms of inflammation. Compounds in foods that help fight inflammation include antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fat and phytochemicals.

“Usually clients that try to manage it on their own struggle because they don’t know where to start, or how to modify their diet,” says Friel. “Our anti-inflammatory nutrition program is designed to help reduce inflammation in the body and also increase energy and improve mental clarity.”

Make meals that heal: 4 suggestions

Here are Friel’s four core tips to start lowering inflammation today:

Cut out refined carbohydrates

This means steering clear of white rice, pastas, and breads. Replace them with a variety of whole grains, which are chock full of anti-inflammatory antioxidants.

Instead of white pasta with cheese sauce, try experimenting with ancient whole grains like bulgur.  Recipe: Turkish Kisir with mint and pomegranate molasses.

Get rid of sweetened beverages

This means, juice, pop, sweet teas and coffees. Your best bets for beverages are water (flat or sparkling), unsweetened teas and coffees are best.

Natural compounds in fruit, vegetables, soybeans and tea, called flavonoids, dampen inflammation. Flavonoid-rich fruit and vegetables include berries, cherries, red grapes, apples, citrus fruit, broccoli, kale and onions. Other good sources include green (including matcha) and black tea, dark chocolate, soybeans, edamame and tofu. Recipe: Green (matcha) tea breakfast smoothie with mango and spinach

Have fatty fish twice week

Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are used to make compounds that lower inflammation in the body. To increase your intake of DHA and EPA, aim to eat six ounces of oily fish per week. The best sources of these omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, herring, anchovy, mackerel and sable fish (e.g. black cod). These fish are also low in mercury. For information on sustainable fish use the SeafoodWatch app.

Don’t like fish? You might need a supplement. Your Medcan dietitian can assess your unique needs. Recipe: Sardines on toast with a spritz of lime or lemon juice to minimize any fishy odours and enhance the taste.

Have at least two servings of berries every week.

Whether fresh or frozen, berries (particularly blackberries and blueberries) are chock full of antioxidants. New research has shown that the antioxidant compounds in berries are so powerful, they can actually slow or prevent cognitive decline in older adults. Recipe: For breakfast, top cereal with ½ cup of blackberries. Later in the day, treat yourself with a with a homemade strawberry oat square.

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