Inflammation is a hot topic in nutrition and medicine because it seems connected to almost every known chronic disease, including autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease and more)
Figuring out how to find and treat the underlying causes of inflammation in chronic disease is truly the solution. When we choose foods that are nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, immune-system regulating and supportive of digestion, all at the same time, we are truly embracing food as medicine to decrease inflammation.
EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
A high quality EVOO contains extremely high levels of polyphenols—18 different ones, to be exact—which offer extraordinary antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
High levels of the antioxidant vitamin E in olive oil also protect cells from damaging free radicals.
To ensure you’re purchasing the highest quality oil, look for dark-glass bottles that indicate the olives’ harvest date on the label (not just the expiration date). You want to consume olive oil within two years of harvest. When you taste test the oil, you should be able to taste the olives, and you might detect some bitterness or pepperiness at the back of your throat. Authentic olive oils reveal layers upon layers of flavor.
As a cold water fish, salmon is packed with omega-3 essential fats, selenium and vitamins D and B12.
The fats in salmon helps calm your immune response naturally. A really unique benefit of eating salmon is the bioactive protein peptides it contains. They provide special support for joint health and control inflammation in the gut.
Have you heard about the wonders of bone broth? Made by slowly simmering a variety of animal bones, the broth becomes filled with bone marrow, collagen, gelatin, glycine, proline, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. Being so nutrient-rich, bone broth acts like a supplement, helping to maintain healthy bones, glowing skin, pain-free joints, and various cellular processes that occur throughout our bodies every second of every day.
Bone broth is an ideal food for the cells that line our gut, which is excellent news since research has shown leaky gut is one the cause of autoimmune disease.
All the powerful health benefits of turmeric are linked to a compound called curcumin. It has been shown to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, support detoxification, reduce cancer risk, improve brain function, balance blood sugar…and the list goes on and on.
There have been studies showing curcumin lessens the symptoms of autoimmune disease and can potentially slow down disease progression. But, what about turmeric, the actual food from which curcumin is extracted? Curcumin isn’t very bioavailable when turmeric is consumed, but there are some ways to improve its medicinal properties when turmeric is used in cooking.
1. Add fat to your food or drink that has turmeric. Curcumin is fat soluble, so consuming it with fat will improve its availability.
2. Heat the fat—one study showed this increased curcumin’s bioavailability 12-fold.
3. Add black pepper—there’s a reason traditional recipes combine the two. One study showed pepper increased absorption by 2,000 percent! Cracking a little black pepper into turmeric tea gives it a nice spicy flavor.
4. Ferment it—fermented foods are magical for many reasons, one of which is their ability to increase food’s digestibility. If you're looking for convenience, Sotru makes a nice turmeric ginger fermented drink mix.
Greens are bursting with natural folate, a B vitamin essential to cellular health throughout the body. Eating the natural form of folate provides the nutrient in a form that’s easily useable and accessible by the body. Low glutathione levels are also correlated with autoimmune disease.
Start your day off right with two autoimmune superfoods at once in this antioxidant-rich Kale and Turmeric Smoothie. Yum!
Like turmeric, ginger is a powerful rhizome, offering a myriad of health benefits. It’s also easily absorbed by the body. Ginger supports digestion, relieves nausea, reduces inflammation and acts as a potent antioxidant. There’s even a study confirming its application as a pain reliever for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Ginger honey tea is an awesome way to consume ginger. Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of minced or grated ginger to a mug, pour boiling water on top and let steep for 5 minutes. Strain out the ginger, and add a little raw honey, to taste.
You’ve heard to eat all the colors of the rainbow, and the deep, brightly-colored hues of berries is evidence of their richness in flavonoids—powerful phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Do note, the only berry to avoid, especially for people with autoimmune disease, is the goji berry, which is a nightshade—a plant family that tends to increase inflammation.
Ditch the foods that perpetuate your symptoms. These three autoimmune smoothies contain nutrient-dense foods to support your immune system and make you feel so good, one sip at a time. What types of autoimmune superfoods do you like to eat? Eat these foods regularly and you will start feeling less inflammed.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods