Inflammation is a natural process that protects the body from an injury or exposure to a harmful substance. We all have experienced it – bruises that we see on our skin or dry blood formation from a cut. These types of inflammation are usually short term or also known as acute. When inflammation becomes chronic, lasting from weeks to years, it can lead to diseases that affect our immune system such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), to name a few. People with chronic inflammation are also at greater risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.
Why do people end up with chronic inflammation? There can be many contributing factors, including poor nutrition, stress, a bacterial or viral infection, aging, and long-term exposure to environmental toxins. While not all factors can be avoided, we can always work on how we eat, exercise, and manage our stress and sleep, in order to support a healthy immune system.
Let’s talk about how we can eat to boost our immune system! I call it the ‘Anti-Inflammatory diet’ but this really isn’t a diet that people usually refer to. This diet is not about following a meal plan; it is about incorporating foods that contain potent nutrients that help reduce our body’s inflammation processes. Omega-3 fatty acids and phytonutrients (nutrients that are mainly found in plant sources) have been well recognized for their anti-inflammatory properties. Fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, anchovies and rainbow trout, contain excellent sources of omega-3s. Ground flax seeds also contain good amounts of this fatty acid. You can easily sprinkle ground flaxseeds onto your salads or blend them with a smoothie. Supplement forms of omega-3s are not necessary if you consume enough through your diet. Only 2 servings (75 ounces each or size of a deck of playing cards per serving) of fatty fish a week can provide plenty of omega-3s to your diet!
As for phytonutrients, they actually contribute to the colours of vegetables and fruits that we see. Based on the Canada’s Food Guide recommendations, try to aim for 7 to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits combined every day. Choose your fruits and vegetables in different colours every week, in order to ensure that you get the full spectrums of phytonutrients. Don’t like vegetables? Try adding them to casserole dishes or soups. Keep a bag or two frozen vegetables in your freezer as they are just as nutritious as the fresh ones.
Getting enough important nutrients into our body can be really simple – all we need is food! No matter what your goals are, whether that be adding a new vegetable every week or getting one more hour of sleep each day, just remember moderation is the key! Everyone likes to indulge a little. As long as we are eating healthy most of the time and making sure that we get enough varieties, we should not feel guilty about the dessert we want on the weekends. Happy eating!
If you would like more direct support, we are here to help. Alongside You can help you meeting your nutritional needs and achieve your health and nutrition goals. If you’d like more information, please give me a call at 604-283-7827 ext. 712!
Annie Tsang, Registered Dietitian