Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why refined grains are inflammatory

English: A Loaf of Lifestyle Bakery's Sprouted...

English: A Loaf of Lifestyle Bakery’s Sprouted Grain bread. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When we hear the term ‘processed foods’, a little, red flag goes up in our brains that reminds us that we’ve heard those things are unhealthy. Most of us, myself included, don’t often take that extra step to say that refined grains are a part of that group. Processed foods provide empty calories and have been through lots of processing, go figure, which has removed much of the food’s original, nutritional value. The food gets refined and bleached so that most of what is left is starch. That starch is then mixed with sugars and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (we’ve talked about why THOSE are bad) to form a big mess for your body to try and digest.

On some level, the food production companies know this and enrich their products with vitamins and minerals that may have been there in the first place to make you feel better about what you’re eating. You might be eating white bread, but it’s enriched so it must be good for you on some level, right? I’m not too sure about that. For one, their effect on your blood sugar and C-reactive proteins is almost the same as pure sugar. Yep, you’re practically wrapping your ‘healthy’ tuna sandwich in some sugar. Also, wheat and rice contain a family of proteins called lectins. Lectins are known to interfere with your absorption of vitamins and minerals. So, even though your bread is enriched, the lectins may be stopping you from absorbing the added nutrition. Lectins may also be the source of some of the inflammation itself, as some research points to them as a factor in rheumatoid arthritis.

After reading this, you may say that you are glad that you have switched to a whole grain bread in your diet. While there are some advantages to this, they are still a major source of starch. If you are overweight and eating whole grain breads, you are not doing yourself any favours. Even whole grain breads are processed to some degree. I’m not suggesting you cut them out of your diet completely if weight loss is the only thing that you are looking for, but consider doing so if reduction of inflammation is something you are striving to achieve. Some of you, like my dad, may be inflamed because of an overabundance of yeast in your system. Some of you may have mild gluten intolerances, which are causing you to swell up. That is a whole other article on its own, so I’ll leave it at that. These breads, whole or not, have an affect on your blood sugar. Losing weight while battling against your blood sugar issues (ones you may not even be aware of) is nearly impossible.

Have you ever cut refined grains out of your diet? What differences did you notice?


Mega, inflammation fighting omegas

Salmon in a market, Seattle, USA

Here fishy, fishy, fishy!

So, as I’ve said previously, inflammation is a good thing. It is the body’s way of dealing with injuries, infections and other attacks on the body. The problem is, too much of a good thing, becomes a bad thing. In North American society, also quickly spreading around the world, our diets are so high in foods that promote inflammation that our bodies balloon up and don’t come back down. Highly processed foods are low in the nutrients that prevent inflammation and high in the ones that promote it. When we have too many dietary triggers for inflammation and not enough levelers, we suffer from chronic inflammation.

When we think of going on a diet to lose weight or to get healthy, the first thing we think of is cutting fat. That is why we’re ‘fat’, right? Wrong. It is over-consumption of fats and of the wrong kinds of fats that have that negative effect on our bodies. Our bodies need fats, but in the right ratios. There are many different types of fats, some healthy ones that reduce inflammation and some unhealthy that promote inflammation.

Pro-Inflammatory fats:

Trans fatty acids – We’ve heard of this one before, it’s been getting a lot of deserved, bad press lately. Sometimes, they are hidden in products using the term ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable oils‘. Sounds relatively harmless, especially with the word vegetable in there. Trans fats are bad enough on their own, but when they are ‘partially hydrogenated”, they take on the characteristics of saturated fats. There’s a whole whack of science to understand this part of it, but I think the basic points here are that they promote inflammation in the body, raise your LDL (the bad cholesterol) and lower your HDL (good cholesterol).

Sometimes Pro-Inflammatory fats:

Omega 6 family – Omega 6 fatty acids supply the building blocks for many inflammation causing substances including prostaglandin E2 and leukotrin B4, but also supplies is with blocks to build gamma-linolenic acid which is anti-inflammatory. The catch with this fat is that the ‘parent molecule’ for Omega 6s is linoleic acid, which is essential for our health. Remember that “too much of a good thing” statement I made earlier? This is exactly what I was talking about. Think of it like a family with some fantastic people as parents, but they just keep having kids. Some kids are helpful and caring, like our little gammas but many are destructive and violent. They may be able to control one or two of them, but they keep having more and more. Eventually they destroy the entire community. Now think of that community as your body. You wanna keep those fantastic people, but make sure they don’t have too many kids in your community. The local ‘inflammatory’ law enforcement can only handle so many peter prostaglandin E2s and lucy leukotrin B4s.

Wow, that was like an ‘after school special’ explanation, but I love it!

Anti-inflammatory fats:

Omega 3 family – Much like our parents that have a mix of rotten egg and angel children in the Omega 6 family, the Omega 3 family provides the building blocks for a whole family of powerful, anti-inflammatory substances. The difference is, their children are all little angels, as far as our body is concerned. The most potent omega 3s are found in coldwater fish, so if you are not a big fan of sea food, it is time to start taking an omega 3 supplement derived from the fishies. Along with all of their angelic offspring, omega 3s also remind our body to turn off the inflammation process when it is no longer needed.

GLA or gamma-linolenic acid – As mentioned before, GLA is technically an omega 6 fatty acid, but even the worst family has a few good eggs. GLA behaves more like its omega 3 cousins, suppressing inflammation

Omega 9 family – This family is found mostly in olive oil, avocados and macadamia nuts. The omega 9s are always working with the omega 3 family to create anti-inflammatory substances to help your body.

Now that you have a better idea of what the fats do, you may be wondering why it is now becoming such a rampant problem. We never had to worry about this before, simply because we ate better. Omega 6s are not bad for us if they are balanced with omega 3s. The issues is that they are not balanced in the average person’s diet. Whereas people used to consume roughly equal amounts of omega 3s and 6s, they now consume twenty to thirty times more omega 6s. That is an astronomical number! On top of that, the quality of the omega 6s are often low. No wonder we are so inflamed! All the people walking around with a condition that ends in ‘-itis’, take note. You could be perpetuating that condition every time you eat a meal if you’re not careful.

Do you have an inflammatory condition? Have you tried the use of omega 3 supplements?

I am a Food Porn Offender

I just happened to stumble on to this article this morning and realized immediately…I am a food porn offender. In fact, so is my husband. For those of you who live in Ontario, you know that if you visit an LCBO (our liquor commission) that every quarter they release a magazine called “Food & Drink”. It is a fantastic little publication that pairs the liquor they have with fantastic recipes. Ones that make you drool uncontrollably and your eyes roll back into your head. We sat on our bed last night and leafed through the latest edition. I have to say, I love their fall pubs, they make me feel all cozy inside! However, after reading this article, I’m not sure that I should look at these magazines ever again…ever. It talks about the ghrelin production that occurs just from looking at these pictures. They are made to stimulate that part of our brain that used to keep us alive as humans thousands of years ago. All that shiny, fatty, dessert goodness. That gorgeous glaze for meats. We are wired to think, “YUM!”

Brussel Sprouts

Try as I might, these are the sexiest sprouts I could find.

I’ve heard people joke about porn being the major use for the Internet, but I never thought it would include food porn! They have some suggestions about how to control the problem, including cooking at home. That way you can control what you are putting into your food and the portion size. That’s great, but I’m sure my Food & Drink isn’t the best thing to be selecting recipes from. I don’t often pick up my heart healthy cook book and have to wipe down the pages from all the drool falling onto them. Maybe they need to take sexier food photos…hm. All these cues, driving your dopamine levels up. You start imagining the taste in your mouth, that savory sensation. My mouth is watering just writing about it. The article suggests that really great pictures taken of healthy foods may be able to do the same thing but I’m not convinced. See the brussel sprout shot? Not super sexy.

I sort of have issue with the idea that I should take my inspiration from food porn and cook at home in order to avoid added calories and over-consumption. Have they ever actually observed someone cooking tasty desserts? I, personally,  end up snacking on ingredients while I do so. Licking the spoon is a baking tradition! This is why I’ve avoided baking altogether recently. I mean, why put my will power under even greater strain. Maybe after I’m done cooking and to the serving part I eat more mindfully, but the during is so hard to resist.

How about you, are you a food porn offender? What techniques do you feel would work best for you?

“The Food Porn Problem”

By Theresa O’Rourke

“It’s your classic money shot, the camera tight to reveal every detail of steamy cinnamon buns drizzled just so. Jam-glazed pork falling off the bone. A slice of buttery-crusted apple pie letting it all hang out. Sweet or savory, slow baked or flash fried, it’s food porn–and experts say it’s whetting our appetites in ways we never imagined. “Like the sexual kind, food porn allows us to lust after taboo things,” says psychologist Susan Albers, Psy.D., author of Eating Mindfully. “And now it’s on our terms: We can search for exactly what turns us on, enlarge the images, and linger for as long as we want.”

Just a few short years ago, food sites were predominantly recipe-driven. Now, a growing number shamelessly flaunt the fact that few people visit for the articles. (tagline: Click, drool, repeat.) stripped away recipes altogether in favour of luscious panned-in shots. Food images are also the fastest-growing category on the hugely popular inspiration-board site Pinterest, where they generate 50 percent more re-pins than fashion and style photos. If you don’t find anything that turns you on there, you can log on to Flickr’s Food Porn Group. Boasting nearly 600,000 images, it’s one of the most active categories on the photo-sharing site. (Search: Food photography)

Problem is, that Flickr group isn’t the only thing that’s growing. Photos seem harmless, but they provoke a real emotional and physical hunger response that can be tough to control, says neuroscientist Laura Martin, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center who studies how we respond to food. And straight out of the insult-meet-injury department: Those who are overweight appear to be more sensitive to the effect of viewing irresistible food. Does that mean you can never ogle your cake without eating it too? Not necessarily. There are savvy ways to curb your appetite–online and in real life.

Eating with Our Eyes
The best food porn plays on the fact that the more indulgent a photo appears, the more likely it will trigger our instinct to eat. “Food porn relies on a phenomenon called supernormal stimuli, which exaggerates qualities we’re already hardwired to love,” says Deirdre Barrett, Ph.D., an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School’s Behavioral Medicine Program and author of Waistland: The Revolutionary Science Behind Our Weight and Fitness Crisis. Usually, that translates to visual cues that a food is high in calories–things like pooling oils and the sheen of sugar–which were coveted assets back in hunter-gatherer days, when calories (particularly the gooey, fatty ones) were harder to come by, says Barrett. That might explain why, according to a recent study from 360i, a marketing firm that studies online trends, pictures of desserts are the most likely to be shared online. Cheesy, oozy comfort foods also get favourited more frequently on sites like Food Gawker.”

To continue reading this article, go to the original posting at

Inflammation and the diet connection rant

You know how things come into your life at the time you need them most? Well, it just so happens that all my research about diets and inflammation, as well as the rest of my Year of the Detox is coming in really handy right now. My dad

The original Fruitopia logo

The original Fruitopia logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

has been having osteoarthritis problems in his wrists lately. Really, really bad ones. His left wrist was swollen, almost to the point of not being able to move the fingers. Painkillers weren’t helping and the pressure cuff he was wearing made it only marginally better. I made an appointment for him with my integrational therapist, Adele. She identified the source of the inflammation as there being too much yeast in his system. Now, I don’t mean to ‘get down’ on the medical system, but every doctor he had been to see just wrote him a prescription for stronger drugs. Now he has been slowly eliminating foods that feed yeast from his diet and has already, in just two weeks, started to see a marked improvement. Adele said with the overabundance of yeast that he has, it will take months to get him back to normal. But the fact that we are now treating the cause and not just trying to control the symptoms is a fantastic start.

The reason I added ‘rant’ to this blog title is because I am not really quoting anything I’ve researched, just listing off my opinion. As I read more and more about the inflammation connection to many of the diseases our bodies suffer, I really think people should start being more educated about what their diet could be doing to them. Many people don’t have a clue what is healthy and what isn’t. I was at the mall the other day trying to eat healthy while out, getting some greek food. Over near the A&W stand, I overheard a grandmother talking to her grandson saying that he had to choose something ‘healthy’ to drink with his meal. “Pop isn’t healthy.” , she said knowingly. “Fruitopia!”, He yelled. To which his grandmother responded, “Okay, that’s healthy.” Now, I don’t think A&W has fruitopia, but I didn’t stay long enough to find out what the end choice was. The point is, Fruitopia, while it sounds like it might be healthy is not really a “healthy” choice. Just because it has the word fruit in it. Fact is, it has 32g of sugar (8 tablespoons) in one can. The only health benefit it has is vitamin C. Healthy, grandma? Healthy? You’re at A&W for crying out loud! If you want your grandson to eat healthy, taking him to a fast food restaurant is your first fail. Your second fail comes as you convince not just him, but yourself that something like Fruitopia is a healthy choice for a child. Your third fail comes from the mixed messages you send to him, allowing him to eat french fries or whatever else, then acting like it is balanced by the fact that he is drinking a healthy drink. I’m not saying kids should never be allowed fast food. I think that occasionally it is fine, as long as it’s kept in strict moderation. The problem that I see here is the mixed messages that parents/grandparents are sending their kids when it comes to nutrition.

The major problem with calling out this issue is that, let’s face it, the average person has limited understanding when it comes to nutrition. Things are categorized by good or bad. Companies take advantage of this by naming products with health buzzwords like the ‘fruit’ in Fruitopia. Now, I’m not putting all the onus on companies either. We as consumers should educate ourselves if our health is important to us. As shows like Dr. Oz play, more books get published and the Internet is updated with health news on a daily basis, we have no excuse NOT to inform ourselves.

The other problem I see is the medical system. Though I’ve never attended medical school, I also think nutrition and its effects on the body should be more of an in depth study for all doctors. The doctors I’ve had experience with know little about nutrition past the Canada Food Guide. The ones that do have done their own research into the matter. It’s true that we have other health care providers that are more informed on these matters, such as naturopaths, nutritionists, dieticians etc. But it is rare I hear, “My doctor referred me to this nutritionist for my…” unless it has something to do with their weight or dietary deficiencies. My dad had been taking pills and pills, the more he hurt, the higher the dose he was given. They were treating the symptom, not the cause. I don’t blame the doctors, they are just working with what they were taught. The medical education system should really pay more attention to the health wisdom that has been around for years that revolves around nutrition.
And that is my rant for today. Wow, I had more to say than I thought I did! How about you? Anything to say on the matter? Any personal stories you’d like to share?

Month 9: Reduce Inflammation

When you see the word inflammation, what images come up for you? Most people, including myself, would say they see puffy, red and angry looking wounds. Or maybe just swollen ankles or wrists.  Inflammation is an essential part of your body’s defenses. When you cut yourself, your body inflames in order to get your immune system up and running on the issue. The area around your wound swells allowing multiple white blood cells to arrive on scene. The same thing goes for if you strain a muscle. Your body inflames so that fresh, oxygen rich blood can get to those muscles to protect and heal. This is a true definition of inflammation, but inflammation also happens to be inside your body in places that you can’t see. The inflammation that I am talking about is bodily inflammation that is caused not by wounds or muscle strains, but by the diets now prevalent in North American society.

A lot of people are walking around, right now as you read, with inflammation and they don’t even know it. Inflammation is somewhat handily categorized and hidden in medical terms that end with ‘-itis’. Arthritis, rhinitis and diverticulitis, just to name a few. They are inflammations of a certain area of the body, my examples being  joints, nasal passages and intestines, respectively. Although there are many drugs out there to deal with the symptoms of these diagnoses, few medical practitioners look at treating the cause. In this case, the cause often being diet. People are unique in this situation as far as dietary allergens or stressors, so I cannot claim to have the one, cure-all answer to get rid of your inflammation. However, I can give you a place to start.

The rules for this month are:

1. Avoid all dairy products.

2. Eat 2 servings of cold water fish every week.

3. Avoid refined grains.

4. Snack on raw nuts and seeds.
Dairy products and refined grains are common digestive stressors that lead to inflammation. Cold water fish and raw nuts or seeds help combat inflammation. As we go through the month, I’ll be writing about these things in a more detailed way, but for now, I just wanted to get these down so you can start your month with me.

If you’ve ever gone on a diet to reduce inflammation, I would love to hear your story! Please, do share.