As the streets become adorned with festive lights, we’re reminded that party season is very nearly upon us once again!
Following last week’s post about the health benefits of oily fish, this week we’re looking at the issue of mercury and other potential contaminants in fish. Is it worth limiting our fish consumption for this reason? And do we need to be worried about fish oil supplements too? Continue reading
Have you ever wondered why we’re often told to eat more oily fish? Or even what the difference is between oily fish and non-oily fish? Here are some answers.
If you thought pumpkins were just for Halloween, think again! They’re highly nutritious and a great seasonal autumn food. And they have delicious sweet flesh that can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes. If you want the best flavour and the most nutritious pumpkin, don’t use the flesh from a large carving pumpkin; choose a smaller culinary pumpkin that’s specifically grown for cooking.
Inflammation is a natural and helpful process in the body. It’s a vital part of healing from injury and a key factor in our body’s immune defence.
But excessive or long-lasting inflammation can be problematic. Pain is the most obvious result of too much inflammation – in fact, where there’s pain, there’s nearly always inflammation. Excessive inflammation is also a factor in most (if not all) chronic health conditions, including skin conditions such as eczema, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
So keeping inflammation at normal levels is vital to have a long and healthy life, as well as stay pain-free. Key steps we can take include eating a healthy diet based on whole foods, avoiding processed and high-sugar foods, eating plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit (aim for seven servings a day rather than just five!), and limiting coffee and alcohol consumption.
In addition, here are some natural foods and supplements that can have particularly powerful anti-inflammatory activity.
Please note that these are not intended to replace anti-inflammatory medication. If you are taking medication, always consult your doctor before taking supplements, and before stopping any medication.
- Oily fish/fish oil
You’ve probably heard that taking cod liver oil or fish oil can benefit your joints. But they don’t literally ‘oil your joints’. Instead, the omega-3s they contain – especially EPA – can convert into substances that reduce inflammation in the body.
You can get a good intake of these omega-3s by eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines three to four times a week (only one or two times a week in pregnancy). If you struggle to achieve this – or if you need additional help with pain or inflammation – then consider taking a daily fish oil supplement. In general, fish oil is a better source of omega-3 EPA and DHA than cod liver oil.
Note that the omega-3s from seeds and nuts – such as flaxseeds – are not the same form as those found in fish, and they will not have the same benefits.
Bromelain is an enzyme (actually a group of enzymes) that’s found in pineapple. Bromelain may help with inflammation by reducing the production of inflammatory prostaglandins1 – substances that ramp up inflammation in the body. You can get some bromelain by eating fresh pineapple; and as a bonus, pineapple is high in vitamin C, which plays an important role in collagen and cartilage production for the joints.
However, most of the bromelain in pineapple is in the woody core of the fruit, which we don’t generally eat. This is why a bromelain supplement may provide more anti-inflammatory benefits for those in need, such as with arthritis.
As well as adding delicious flavour to your cooking, ginger may have a multitude of health benefits. It can help with nausea, is traditionally used for improving digestion and stimulating appetite, and may also have anti-bacterial and anti-parasitic effects. A lot of research has also been carried out on its anti-inflammatory activity, including for arthritis2.
Fresh or ground ginger is easy to use at home, of course. As well as adding it to homemade curries, Asian-inspired soups and stir-fries, try making a hot ginger tea with grated fresh ginger. Or if you’re really brave (and have a good juicing machine), make fresh ginger juice for the most potent anti-inflammatory effects. It can also be a great tonic if you’re coming down with a cold or flu! Ginger can also be taken as an individual supplement, and is commonly found in products targeted towards inflammation or joint health, together with ingredients such as glucosamine, quercetin or bromelain.
Together with oily fish, turmeric is perhaps the best-known natural anti-inflammatory food. Turmeric and curcumin (thought to be the main active constituent in turmeric) have been researched in thousands of scientific studies, showing good results for the pain of osteoarthritis3, pain after surgery4, and inflammation in colitis5 (a type of inflammatory bowel disease), amongst others.
Like ginger, turmeric is fantastic to use in homemade curries. Or try making a turmeric latte with almond milk for a delicious anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting boost.
Have a read of our article on Nine amazing health benefits of turmeric for more on this super-spice.
- Green tea
Green tea is another natural substance thought to have a number of beneficial effects, including powerful antioxidant and protective activity. Compounds called catechins in green tea are thought to be responsible for the majority of these benefits. Catechins are also known to have anti-inflammatory action in the body by inhibiting an inflammatory enzyme called COX-1 (cyclooxygenase-1)6, and may also inhibit inflammatory prostaglandins7, like bromelain can.
So replacing your tea or coffee with green tea can be a good way to help reduce inflammation. Green tea can also be taken in supplement form and is a good way to get a more concentrated dose of catechins. However, some green tea supplements can contain caffeine, so it can be best taken in the morning – and may not be suitable if you’re sensitive to caffeine.
Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that’s found in small amounts in vegetables and fruits – especially red onions, apples, berries and broccoli. Bioflavonoids in general have anti-inflammatory activity8. Quercetin in particular could work in a variety of ways to reduce inflammation, including helping to prevent the release of histamine from immune cells – the chemical that causes the symptoms of an allergic response.9 It’s a popular supplement for hay fever, as well as being included in supplements targeted towards inflammation support.
- Devil’s claw
This may sound like something a witch would put in her cauldron! But it’s actually a herb that’s traditionally used for pain and inflammation in the joints and muscles. Its name comes from the hooks on its fruit, which look a bit like claws. Devil’s claw is currently one of the most widely available and most popular supplements targeted towards joint and muscle pain (‘rheumatic’ pain).
This flavoursome kitchen herb has many secret qualities too. It may have memory-enhancing effects, especially associated with the odour, and it may also have anti-bacterial effects and a protective action for the immune system. Compounds in rosemary have also been found to have anti-inflammatory activity, especially carnosol and carnosic acid10.
Fresh rosemary is fantastic with roasted vegetables or with chicken, lamb or fish. Add it to soups, removing the stalks before serving or blending. In supplement form, rosemary is sometimes found in combination products targeted towards inflammation, but not often as a single supplement.
- Lotz-Winter H et al. On the pharmacology of bromelain: an update with special regard to animal studies on dose-dependent effects. Planta Med. 1990 Jun;56(3):249-53.
- Fouda AM, Berika MY. Evaluation of the effect of hydroalcoholic extract of Zingiber officinale rhizomes in rat collagen-induced arthritis. Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2009 Mar;104(3):262-71.
- Belcaro G et al. Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Dec;15(4):337-44.
- Satoskar RR et al. Evaluation of anti-inflammatory property of curcumin (diferuloyl methane) in patients with postoperative inflammation. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther Toxicol. 1986 Dec;24(12):651-4.
- Ukil A et al. Curcumin, the major component of food flavour turmeric, reduces mucosal injury in trinitrobenzene sulphonic acid-induced colitis. Br J Pharmacol. 2003 May;139(2):209-18.
- Mohseni H et al. COX-2 inhibition demonstrates potent anti-proliferative effects on bladder cancer in vitro. J Surg Res. 2004 Jun 15;119(2):138-42.
- Choi JH et al. Effects of green tea catechin on polymorphonuclear leukocyte 5′-lipoxygenase activity, leukotriene B4 synthesis, and renal damage in diabetic rats. Ann Nutr Metab. 2004;48(3):151-5.
- Alexandrakis M et al. Flavones inhibit proliferation and increase mediator content in human leukemic mast cells (HMC-1). Eur J Haematol. 2003 Dec;71(6):448-54.
- Mlcek J et al. Quercetin and Its Anti-Allergic Immune Response. Molecules. 2016 May 12;21(5).
- Poeckel D et al. Carnosic acid and carnosol potently inhibit human 5-lipoxygenase and suppress pro-inflammatory responses of stimulated human polymorphonuclear leukocytes. Biochem Pharmacol. 2008 Jul 1;76(1):91-7.
If you’re following a low-carb diet – or just trying to cut your carb or sugar intake – it can be difficult to find healthy but tasty snacks. Here are some of our top suggestions.
Do you eat with the seasons?
Eating locally produced, seasonal vegetables and fruit can be better from a nutrition and taste point of view. This is because they can be picked at their prime, allowing their full flavour and nutrient profile to develop, and eaten within a few days so the nutrients and flavours are retained. They can also grow naturally, requiring fewer interventions such as fertilisers and artificial temperature control. In contrast, produce grown in other countries and transported is often picked before it’s ready, and stored for potentially months at a time, artificially preserved with gases and cold temperatures. It’s no wonder that a lot of it tastes bland!
Are you plagued by sugar cravings? Whether you’re a true ‘sugar monster’, or simply can’t resist temptation when the donuts or cake are passed around, we’ve got ten top tips to help you get back in control.
Although there can be many approaches to healthy eating, most nutritionists agree on at least one thing: ‘eating a rainbow’ – lots of different-coloured vegetables and fruits – is great for our health.
Here we have a look at the unique benefits of the different colours and how you can easily incorporate them into your meals and snacks.
Did you know that what you eat can have a direct affect on your eye health and vision? Your eyes need many nutrients in order to work optimally, as well as to help protect them from damage. Given how important our sight is to our daily lives and our wellbeing, we should all be doing whatever we can to nourish our eyes.
Here are some of our top foods for great eye health.