Acute inflammation is a normal and healthy part of the body’s immune response; it is needed for healing an injury or fighting an infection. However, chronic inflammation inside our body diminishes our body’s ability to repair itself. Researchers believe inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s and certain cancers. Eye conditions associated with inflammation include age–related macular degeneration, dry eye and uveitis.
An anti–inflammatory diet helps to promote the lowering of overall levels of inflammation in the body. Certain foods can ramp up the body’s inflammatory response while other foods dampen the response. Two essential fatty acids important to the balance of inflammatory response are omega-3 and omega–6. Omega–3’s form the building blocks of a number of anti–inflammatory compounds and lower the production of inflammatory proteins. Foods high in omega–3 fatty acids include oily, cold water fish like mackerel, salmon and black cod. The pro–inflammatory omega–6 fatty acids are found abundantly in corn, safflower and peanut oils, as well as processed and refined foods. The current recommendation is a ratio of one omega–3 fatty acid to four omega–6 fatty acids.
Culinary herbs and spices contain a vast array of powerful phytochemical compounds many which have anti–inflammatory properties. Turmeric is a highly pigmented root noted for both its anti–inflammatory and anti–oxidant attributes. Turmeric most notably is found in tandoori and curry powders. Ginger root is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine having both anti–inflammatory and anti–nausea properties. Oregano, basil and rosemary are delicious anti–inflammatory herbs. The phytonutrients allicin and quercetin found in garlic and onions have immunity boosting properties. Antioxidants protect the body from the inflammatory effects of free radicals. Colorful food like berries and peppers, as well as kale, beets and green tea are all excellent sources of antioxidants. Food high in fiber helps to minimize the inflammatory response that can occur following a rapid increase or decrease in blood sugar levels. Foods high in fiber include raspberries, beans, legumes, vegetables and cinnamon.
While dietary changes are not intended to supplant traditional medical therapies recommended by your doctor, food offers a delicious symphony of nutrients with anti–inflammatory disease–preventive benefits. The researchers at Oregon Health & Science University state that tart cherries have the “highest anti–inflammatory content of any food.” Making smart food choices to keep the immune system in balance will help facilitate health and well being. According to Emperor Charlemagne in the 9th century, “An herb is the friend of physicians and praise of cooks.”
Makes about 2/3 cup
- 3 T paprika, sweet or smoked
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1 T ground ginger
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 T dehydrated minced onion
- 1 T dark brown sugar
- 2 T dried oregano
- 2 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- Pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
- Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Transfer to an airtight container.
- Store at room temperature for up to one month.
- Sprinkle on steamed vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli or Brussels sprouts.
- Rub onto salmon or cod; drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven.
- For Tandoori Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: Discard the stringy mesh around the seeds but do not rinse. Spread onto an oven safe pan and sprinkle with the tandoori seasoning. Bake at 300 F for 10 – 15 minutes until light and crispy.