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Inflammation & Nutrition

Image: Shutterstock. Description: Selection of healthy food reducing chronic inflammation salmon fish avocado seeds nuts leafy green vegetables berries on a white rustic wooden table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is inflammation & why does it matter?

Inflammation is a natural and protective response by the body’s immune system to an injury, infection or harmful substances.  Symptoms of inflammation include redness, heat, swelling and pain.

There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Imagine cutting your finger or scraping your knee. What happens? The area turns red, is painful and perhaps starts swelling. This is acute inflammation – your immune system is sending white blood cells to your injured finger or knee to protect it. In this way, inflammation is helpful and essential and speeds up the healing process.

In contrast, chronic inflammation happens when the body continues to respond for a long time as if it was under attack by a foreign or unwanted substance. Chronic inflammation does not help the body because it fights against its own cells by mistake. Some diseases or medical conditions associated with inflammation are rheumatoid arthritis, where many joints throughout the body are permanently inflamed, psoriasis – a chronic skin disease, and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.  These chronic inflammatory diseases can last for years or even a lifetime. Chronic inflammation also contributes to heart disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and some allergic conditions.

What you can do about managing inflammation?

With all the conditions that involve inflammation, no wonder people are interested in food choices to help reduce ongoing harmful chronic inflammation. Overall good nutrition is key to enhancing immunity and providing antioxidants that lower the stress of inflammation. You may be wondering about specific foods that have been called out as part of the ‘anti-inflammatory diet’.   Here are FIVE types of foods to keep on top of your list that may help reduce chronic inflammation:

  1. Foods rich in omega- 3 fats
    • Eat oily fish 2 – 3 times / week (salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, trout)
    • Replace regular eggs with omega-3 eggs
    • Choose plant-based sources of omega-3 fats including flax oil, ground flax seeds and walnuts
  2. Antioxidant rich vegetables and fruit
    • Look for colour – dark green, red, orange, yellow, purple and blue – they are chock full of antioxidants
    • Enjoy a variety of vegetables and fruit everyday – make them half your plate at each meal
  3. Fibre
    • Choose fibre rich foods such as vegetables, fruit, pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils) and whole grains. High fibre foods help support your gut health and nourish the beneficial bacteria that help fight inflammation and disease.
  4. Herbs and spices
    • Add flavour with cinnamon, ginger and turmeric which seem to supress inflammation, but evidence is unclear about how often and how much to eat. Have fun exploring some dietitian approved recipes that enhance flavour with these herbs and spices.
  5. Protein
    • Eat protein foods to build antibodies which play a role in supporting a healthy immune system. Include fatty fish (see tip #1 above) and lean white meat in your diet. Use cooking methods that do not char meat such as poaching, stewing, and steaming. Try acidic marinades such as lemon, lime vinegar or yogurt for a health and flavour boost. Acid ingredients tenderize meat and studies show that marinating meats may reduce harmful compounds that can form on meat exposed to high cooking temperatures.
    • Choose plant proteins including tofu, tempeh, edamame, beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds.

 Bottom line

There is no single anti-inflammatory or miracle food!  However, eating an overall healthy diet is an important way to help manage inflammation.  In addition,  getting enough sleep , engaging in regular physical activity as well as other lifestyle factors (such as NOT smoking)  have a direct impact on lowering inflammation.

A registered dietitian can break down the anti-inflammatory diet for you into easy-to-follow steps and provide you with a variety of enjoyable ways to eat well.  Contact us to find out more about our personalized nutrition counselling sessions.

 

Find Your Healthy with Cultural Cuisines

chicken lettuce wraps on a long white platter

Happy Nutrition Month!

This year, dietitians want you to know that healthy eating looks different for everyone. There’s no one-size-fits-all eating plan. Instead, the food we eat depends on so many different factors such as our culture, age, activity level, personal circumstances and health conditions.

Let’s learn about food and culture! Sue and Lucia celebrate the diversity of cuisines and share the meaning of food in their Chinese and Hungarian cultures.

Sue in her kitchen, squeezing lemon over a salad

Sue Mah, Co-Founder n4nn

1. What’s your cultural background? 

I am Chinese.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

Food is a huge part of Chinese celebrations and traditions! For example, chicken, fish and lettuce are enjoyed during the Lunar New Year because they are homonyms for prosperity, abundance and wealth. Special birthdays and weddings are celebrated with a delightful 8-course menu including significant foods like Peking duck and noodles for longevity. My paternal grandfather was a medical acupuncturist, so we also used foods, herbs and special soups for healing and health.

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

It’s probably a tie between Har Cheung which is a steamed shrimp rice noodle roll, and Zongzi, which is a sticky rice dumpling with meat wrapped in bamboo leaves. These recipes are trickier to make, so my go-to cultural recipe are these Chicken Lettuce Wraps – see recipe below  – even my chef Dad eats these, so you know they must be good!

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

Food is delicious, nourishing and brings us together. Take time to embrace your own cultural foods as well as explore new flavours and ingredients.

 

1. What’s your cultural background?

I am Hungarian.

2. What is the meaning of food in your culture? / How is food used in celebrations or traditions?

Food is family – and food is love. Hungarians know how to cook everything – snout to tail, farm to table. Many like my grandmother and sister are excellent bakers too though that’s not my forte.

3. What is your favourite cultural ingredient or food or recipe?

Hungarian Cuisine in short! Paprika is the heart of Hungarian cuisine and the traditions go all the way back to the first Hungarians, and some of the dishes have been cooked the same way for hundreds of years.

4. What would you like to say to Canadians during National Nutrition Month?

Enjoy and explore how your culture, food traditions, personal circumstances & nutritional needs all contribute to what healthy looks like for you. Reach out to a registered dietitian to support your healthy eating journey.

Sue’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Chicken lettuce wraps on a long white platter

Sue’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps

This is an easy and delicious recipe that’s fun to eat. The secret is the hoisin sauce!

Ingredients
4 – 5 T hoisin sauce
2 T light soy sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornstarch
1 pound ground chicken (or diced chicken breast)
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ginger, minced
1 head Bibb, Boston or romaine lettuce
Red pepper, julienned (for garnish)
Green onions, julienned (for garnish)

Directions
1. In a small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Whisk in cornstarch. Set aside.

2. Heat 1 tsp of canola oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the ground chicken and crumble it with a spoon or spatula as you are cooking it. Cook for about 8 minutes or until the internal temperatures reaches 165 F. Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean bowl.

3. Heat 1 tsp of canola oil in the frying pan. Add the onions and carrots, and cook until tender. Add water chestnuts, garlic and ginger. Cook for about 30 seconds.

4. Add the chicken back to the pan. Stir in the sauce and continue cooking until the sauce begins to bubble and the chicken is thoroughly coated with sauce.

5. Gently separate the lettuce leaves. Wash and pat the leaves dry. Place a large spoonful of the chicken mixture in the centre of the lettuce leaf. Garnish with red pepper and green onions. Roll it up and eat it with your hands! Enjoy!

Makes 6 servings.

 

Lucia’s Chicken Paprikás

Serve some veggies on the side such as steamed broccoli or green beans. A fresh cucumber or tomato salad is also fitting. Enjoy! Jó étvágyat!

Chicken Paprikas on a plate with broccoli and red pepper

Lucia’s Chicken Paprikás

Ingredients: 

2 1/2 – 3 lbs chicken thighs or drumsticks
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp Hungarian ground paprika
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups water or low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp flour

Directions:

1. In a large skillet, heat oil and brown chicken on all sides – remove chicken to a plate.

2. Next, add onion to the skillet and cook till golden brown. Add garlic, pepper and tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes.

3. Turn off heat and stir in the paprika and ground black pepper.

4. Return chicken to the skillet and mix well. Add water or chicken broth until chicken is mostly covered. Bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, mix sour cream and flour until the mixture is smooth. Add the sour cream mixture to the chicken paprikas and simmer for 5 minutes until sauce is thickened.

6. Serve with Hungarian nokedli (small dumplings) or penne or rotini. [For a vegetarian version, replace chicken with tofu cubes and reduce cooking time to 10 minutes].

Makes 6 servings.