Before we begin, I’d like to say thank you to mentor and health coach, Yuri Elkaim.
I searched for a long time before I found Yuri. As you probably know, there are so many practitioners in the nutrition space that it’s hard to separate the self-proclaimed “experts” from those who really know what they’re talking about.
I joined one of Yuri’s programs years ago and he’s the one who set my on the right path and ignited a fire within me to help people understand the often confusing and conflicting information regarding personal nutrition.
If you’re struggling to understand how your body processes and reacts to food, you really owe it to yourself to hop on over to Yuri’s site and see what I mean. He helped me a great deal, and I know he can do the same for you.
The man simply knows his stuff!
Now, on to the article!
We all eat foods that cause inflammation every day. Our daily diet is directly related to how much chronic inflammation you’re carrying around with you. After years of eating the same old stuff and not realizing that inflammation is building all the time, your body may sending signs it’s time to rebel.
It will do so quietly at first, so softly you probably won’t even notice any changes. Once it’s reached its limit, signs won’t be so subtle any more.
That’s what we’re trying to avoid here, so let’s dig in.
Saturated fats – This is one of the biggies. And, as it turns out, one of the most controversial as well. I think the majority of Americans have too much saturated fat in our diet. You will find other many other people who believe that saturated fat has gotten bad rap over the years and that it’s not necessarily the evil demon we’ve been led to believe.
So who is right?
Good question, and one that requires much more research on the part of the scientific community. If you feel like doing some extra reading I have some links for you. I must warn you beforehand that these studies can be awfully dry and boring to read, peppered with scientific nomenclature and hard-to-pronounce words.
I believe this reason alone is why some people give up in the quest to become healthier, but they are here for your edification. I won’t go into great detail here because the purpose of this book is to alert you about chronic inflammation and not the evils of saturated fats.
With that said, I’ll let you know what works for me.
I try to limit my intake of saturated fat because I believe there’s a link between too much fat and too much inflammation. A lot of the studies I’ve read show that there is a direct connection between saturated fats and chronic inflammation.
Not only that, I also feel much better when I’m eating lower amounts of saturated fats and sticking with fish, chicken and leaner cuts of meat like pork. I gradually lost my taste for red meat after eating lower fat alternatives for years, and while I believe there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good steak every now and then, I don’t believe it should be a part of your everyday life.
As I said, you will definitely find differing opinions, and you have to do what’s right for you.
It’s my belief that limiting saturated fats will reduce the low-grade inflammation in your body, and also make you feel healthier at the same time.
Don’t confuse the good and bad fats however, and don’t get rid of all fats altogether. There are still plenty of fats that are good for you, like those found in tree nuts and avocados, for example.
Refined Sugar – Here’s another big one, so big in fact that I wrote a whole book on Sugar Detox.
The kind of sugar we’re talking about is processed sugar, the stuff that hides in all our boxed, packaged and processed foods these days.
You can find these processed sugars everywhere, from cereals to yogurt, and soda pop and ice cream as well.
Pastries, pies, fruit juices, chocolates bars, and virtually all packaged foods contain some sort of added sugar. And sugar goes by so many names that it’s difficult to detect sometimes.
Without getting too much into cell physiology, the ingestion of excess added sugar is instrumental in releasing cytokines. These cytokines are released by cells to interact with our immune system.
During normal operation, they play a key role in our overall health, but if something causes our body to release too much of these cytokines, disease can be the result.
As I said, this is a very over-simplified view of what takes place, but needless to say, reducing the amount of processed sugar you eat will certainly help your overall health as well as reduce the amount of chronic inflammation inside your body.
Artificial Sweeteners – Wow, it doesn’t get any tougher when it comes to controversy, does it?
Artificial sweeteners have been on the bad list of a lot of nutritionists for a long time.
The reason people have embraced them is because they seem to be a great substitute when trying to lose weight. Most of them have very little if any calories, so if weight reduction is your goal then these seem like a logical choice.
But upon closer examination, it seems that all of these fake sugars have one thing or another that make than less attractive than at first glance.
Saccharin – If you’re old enough to remember the saccharin studies of the early 70s, you’ll also remember the warning labels this product was required to display. (It turns out that this was reversed in the year 2000 because there’s something in the bladder of rats that humans don’t possess, thereby eliminating the risk in humans).
Aspartame – This sugar substitute goes by the name of NutraSweet™ or Equal™. It’s found just about anywhere food manufacturers need sweetness but want to eliminate calories. Almost all diet sodas contain aspartame.
It’s been known to cause headaches, dizziness, depression, anxiety, diarrhea, and a whole host of other issues.
Not only that, but studies have indicated that aspartame breaks down into Formaldehyde in your body.
That should be reason enough to step back from diet soda, yet they continue to sell vast amounts of these products each year to people who are intent on losing weight. Another irony is that diet soda has also been proven to be responsible for weight GAIN in lots of people.
Splenda™ – Another laboratory created sugar substitute, this concoction has lots of things going for it. It’s as sweet as sugar but doesn’t cause a spike in your blood sugar level. Dozens of foods already contain this artificial sweetener.
Not enough studies have been done I humans to determine the long-term effects of this sugar substitute , but suffice it to say that anything created in a laboratory should be reason enough to do your own research when it comes to putting it in your body.
The list goes on and on. There are sweeteners that are natural instead of manmade that are slightly better, like honey and maple syrup, but they’re not non-caloric so if you’re trying to lose weight you need to be mindful of that.
Like all the other foods we’ve talked about so far, sugar substitutes have their opponents as well as their supporters. I’m not coming down on either side of the fence here, but merely trying to highlight certain foods that have been shown to cause inflammation in the body.
Let’s examine some others.
Trans Fats – Well, finally one we can all pretty much agree upon. In 2006, the FDA stated that trans fat information had to be included on package labeling, and since then, food manufacturers have begun limiting the places where these fats used to pop up freely.
Consumer education plays a huge role in how the food industry plays the game, and when consumers were tuned in to how bad these fats are for us, manufacturers began to pay attention.
Now we can find the No Trans Fat label on a lot of our favorite snack foods and lots of the other products where these fats used to play a major role.
But they still lurk in some spots where we don’t give it much thought, such as the following.
French Fries – Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a French fry addict. I hardly eat them anymore, and only get them where I know they’ve been baked and not fried. Believe me, if you find a restaurant that bakes their fries, you’ll never go back to the fried version again.
Most fast food chains have taken great strides to reduce or even eliminate the trans fats in their fried foods, but there are some out there that still use hydrogenated oils to do their frying, so you should check before you chomp.
If you can’t find the information on the Internet, simply ask.
Pies – Pies and also the crust have traditional been made with products containing hydrogenated oils. Again, fast food places have stepped up to the plate and removed a lot of the trans fats, but you can still find these in the grocery store, so check the label for hydrogenated oils.
Margarine – For years, margarine was touted as a healthy replacement for our beloved butter, but lately research has been showing that margarine, and especially stick margarine, is not as good as we once thought.
The reason is that in order to hold its shape, margarine needs to employ the use of hydrogenated oils.
It turns out that butter may be better, after all.
Pancakes – What? Say it ain’t so! I’m sorry, but I’m afraid it is. Pancake and waffle mixes are notorious for hiding hydrogenated oils. It’s best to read the label because some varieties are okay.
Microwave Popcorn – All right, now I’m just being mean, right? Believe me, I used to eat this stuff like crazy, and I still indulge sometimes, but not nearly as much as I used to. And there are some varieties that are perfectly fine, while others have 15 grams of trans fat per bag! And who doesn’t eat the whole bag?
Cookies – My waistline is allergic to cookies, they cause it to swell tremendously. I love them, but again, I try to stay away. Store bought cookies stay on the shelves for who knows how long, and to do that, they almost always employ hydrogenated oils. Again, label reading is a must.
Crackers – Lots of crackers contain trans fats, although manufacturers have gotten better at reducing or eliminating the bad stuff. Even though the amount may not be that much per serving, they all add up, and even a little is too much of this dangerous type of fat.
I hope that you’re a bit more enlightened than when you began reading this chapter. I’d like to take about one more category here, so bear with me.
Refined Grains – These types of grains are just what they sound like. They have been pretty far removed from their natural state by some sort of processing. The most famous example just might be white flour, which is stripped of its nutrients and also fiber in an effort to make it stable and increase its functionality and stability in the food world.
Unfortunately, it’s also unleashed a whole host of health problems as well.
Let’s think about it. White flour is almost everywhere at every meal. It can be found in muffins at breakfast time, in wraps and slices of bread at lunch, and at dinner time, almost every meal comes with rolls or some sort of bread.
Flour is easy find in almost all of our processed foods these days, and some say it’s wreaking havoc on our waistlines and our health.
Other refined grains include white rice, pizza crusts, white bread, pastas, grits, and crackers.
Try to avoid these at all costs. Their nutritional value is not that great, and they tend to raise the chronic inflammation level in your body.
These foods contained in this chapter are by no means a complete list. I’ve merely tried to stimulate your thought process.
I think you get the idea here. There are two main takeaways from this chapter that I’d like to make sure you really get.
Number one, in order to be the healthiest person you can become, you must be a label reader. The food manufacturers are required by law to label their products, and you’ll find a whole host of information contained there.
Number two, control as much as you can. This means reading labels, but it also means researching restaurant menus before you go out so you can be prepared to order something delicious AND healthy too.
Do I want you to completely rearrange your life?
No. You should still enjoy foods you love, but really limit the ones you know are unhealthy.
Remember we talked about commitment in an earlier chapter. Change will take commitment, but your health is totally worth it, and I’m confident you will find a balance between enjoying life and optimum health.