Changing one or two aspects of your diet or life may not have the same effect as a holistic approach to improving your overall nutrition and lifestyle. Last week’s blog discussed Anti-Inflammatory diets and the impact of these diets on chronic inflammation. In this blog, I will go a little deeper and share with you five nutritional and lifestyle upgrades for your health. These five upgrades have a synergistic effect when combined. By synergy, I mean that all five of the nutritional and lifestyle upgrades together have a more significant impact on your health than if upgraded individually.
1. Reduce your intake of sugar and starch
Excess sugars and starches put stress on our blood sugar levels and increase your risk of chronic diseases. They also promote inflammation in the body.
Studies have shown that animals who eat sweets and white bread and drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages have higher levels of inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is considered one of the “markers” of inflammation. This “inflammatory marker,” when found in a blood test at high levels, indicate that there is inflammation in the body. Studies in people also show that diets low in sugar and starch have lower than average levels of CRP.
High blood levels of inflammatory markers like CRP are associated with increased risk of diabetes and heart disease. Some researchers believe that levels of inflammatory markers in the blood can predict whether someone is going to develop diabetes or heart disease eventually.
You can upgrade your nutrition in this area by eating fewer sugars (especially “added” sugars) and starches (especially “refined” carbohydrates).
2. Change your fat intake from saturated fats to unsaturated fats
Some lab and animal studies show that increased levels of saturated fats can increase the production of inflammatory markers like CRP and free radicals (oxidants), which are the molecules responsible for adverse chemical reactions in the body. Meals with unsaturated fats seem to reduce the inflammatory response after the meal.
Unsaturated fats like omega-3’s from fish seem to be particularly healthful. People who eat more fish tend to have lower levels of atherosclerosis and heart disease.
Fish-based omega-3 unsaturated fats reduce inflammation in several ways. They reduce the source of inflammation, as well as increase the amount of anti-inflammatory “radical” and “oxidant” molecules.
Tree nuts are another excellent source of unsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory polyphenols.
Why don’t fat-containing nuts promote weight gain?
While nuts do contain a fair amount of fat, many studies show that people who regularly eat nuts do not tend to have a higher BMI (body mass index) or more body fat. Even adding nuts to the diet doesn’t seem to promote weight gain compared to the number of calories they contain. Many studies show no weight gain after adding nuts to the diet.
Several studies show an increase in the resting metabolic rate in people who eat nuts – they seem to burn more calories even when they’re not active. This may be because of the type of fat (unsaturated), protein, fibre and/or the polyphenol content in the nuts.
You can upgrade your dietary fats by eating more fish and nuts. Fish and nuts contain unsaturated fats that have anti-inflammatory effects. They can also improve insulin sensitivity and even enhance the health of insulin-producing cells.
When it comes to fish oil supplements, many studies show a reduction in risk factors for heart disease by improving the way our bodies metabolize fats and its ability to “thin” the blood. However, fish oil supplements have mixed reviews when it comes to reducing inflammation. They can be helpful for some, but I recommend eating the fish itself.
3. Eat more dietary fibre
People who eat more fibre tend to have lower risks of diabetes and heart disease. There are a few ways this is thought to work; one is from reduced inflammation. People who eat more fibre, fruits, and vegetables tend to have lower levels of CRP.
Animal studies show that eating fibre reduces the levels of inflammatory markers and also reduces excess body fat.
This effect can be because fibre slows down the absorption of food from the body, reducing blood sugar spikes. It can also be because of its interaction with the friendly microbes in our gut.
Foods that are high in fibre include whole grains, legumes (i.e. beans and lentils), cocoa, seeds (e.g. sesame), tree nuts (e.g. almonds), avocados, raspberries, and squash.
Canadian women need 25 grams of fibre per day and men need 38 grams of fibre per day. Most Canadians are only getting about half that much. Following a Keto diet or a low carbohydrate diet, makes it very difficult to reach your daily fibre intake.
4. Get moving every day.
Regular exercise helps with many chronic diseases, as well as helping to reduce inflammation.
Levels of inflammatory markers are lower in people who exercise regularly than those who do not. Plus, the people who exercise at a higher intensity tend to have even lower levels of CRP.
Adding regular moderate exercise to a nutritious anti-inflammatory diet has benefits beyond the dietary benefits, like even lower levels of inflammatory markers in the blood (i.e. like CRP).
I encourage you to reduce the amount of time you are sedentary and take active breaks. If you haven’t made it to the gym yet, read and watch Laura Parson’s inspiring TEDx Talk on Snacking on Exercise.
5. Cout your zzz… Sleep
Both acute and chronic sleep deprivation causes an increase in inflammatory markers in the blood.
Sleep loss is a risk factor for insulin resistance and diabetes. When healthy volunteers have restricted sleep, this causes decreased insulin sensitivity.
Upgrade your health by making a good night sleep more of a priority.
And there you have it — three ways to change your nutrition habits and two ways to improve your lifestyle.
Diabetes and heart disease are serious conditions. They have a few things in common, namely excess body fat and increased levels of inflammation. Inflammation can be healthy if it is fighting an infection or healing a wound, but chronic inflammation is associated with many severe conditions.
There are a lot of nutrition and lifestyle issues that can contribute to chronic diseases. There are several ways they can do this; inflammation is just one of them.
The good news is that there are are several nutrition and lifestyle factors you can improve. These include eating fewer sugars and starches, eating more fish, nuts and dietary fibre, and getting regular exercise and quality sleep.
For a custom menu and coaching, I encourage you to book a free 15-minute consultation. I work with individuals, couples and families who are looking for ways to integrate healthy and nutritional balanced meals into their life. During our discussion, you can ask questions and discuss whether nutritional coaching or a meal plan is right for you. Book a time that works for your schedule by clicking here.