Foods That Fight Fat & Inflammation

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I used to be that active athlete you’d find diving into a hamburger, French fries, and an energy drink—three common staples of hard charging exercise enthusiasts. But over the past several years, I’ve realized there’s just a smarter way to do things, and there is one critical concept that comes into play when choosing the way you’re going to eat to stay slim and healthy:

Certain types of foods cause inflammation. The inflammation can cause insulin insensitivity and a host of chronic diseases. One particularly annoying byproduct of inflammation is fat deposition and weight gain.

Let’s delve a bit deeper and develop a practical solution to tackle it.

Certain types of foods cause inflammation—these include foods that cause a “hyperglycemic” response, or a quick release of blood sugar. Included among the most notorious inflammation-producers are muffins, cookies, juices, pasta, bread, baked goods…you get the idea. And any sugar that is refined or processed and is low in fiber falls into the inflammation camp.

In a nutshell, the inflammatory response is a response of your body’s eicosanoids and cytokines—pro-inflammatory molecules—and increased production of arachidonic acid, a pro-inflammatory omega-6 fat, all of which are triggered by high blood sugar and high insulin levels.

The result of constantly high circulating blood sugar levels is a resistance to insulin, one of your body’s most important hormones, and the hormone that is responsible for delivering sugars into the muscles to be stored as energy. As your body becomes less sensitive, or resistant, to insulin, you’re less likely to take up storage sugars for use during exercise and more likely to leave those sugars circulating in the bloodstream, where they’re eventually dumped off into the liver and converted into fat.

The conversion of the sugar into fat can cause high blood triglycerides and high levels of something called “small oxidized cholesterol,” the most dangerous form of cholesterol.

Another result of this “hyperglycemia” is something called leptin resistance. Leptin is your primary appetite-regulating hormone, and when you become leptin resistant, you stop listening to your body’s cries to “stop eating” or “feel full.” The result is carbohydrate cravings and weight gain.

Finally, your immune system becomes activated into a hyper-alert status due to the chronic state of inflammation from hyperglycemia and high circulating insulin levels. This means you get sick more easily when you are exposed to germs.

So let’s review:

  • Refined sugars that are low in fiber cause hyperglycemia…
  • Hyperglycemia causes a chronic inflammatory state…
  • Inflammation causes an unstable appetite, frequent episodes of sickness, and weight gain.

So are you worried that your body might be in a chronic inflammatory state?

What is the solution?

Solution #1: Emphasize low-glycemic index carbohydrates.

Low-glycemic index carbohydrates will cause a far less pronounced increase in blood sugar, and typically result in a slower and steadier insulin release, thus reducing potential for a chronic inflammatory state. When consumed in moderation these types of carbohydrates provide nutrient-dense, stable energy sources that support a healthy weight.

Here are some of the top-ranking low-glycemic index carbohydrates that should be your high priority picks for maintaining healthy blood sugar and a healthy weight.

  • Apples
  • Applesauce (unsweetened, add cinnamon for even greater blood sugar control)
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Pears
  • Nectarines
  • Grapefruit
  • Blueberries
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Full-fat milk (rice, coconut, almond, or goat’s milk)
  • Full-fat plain yogurt (avoid sugar-sweetened varieties)
  • Nuts and nut butters (except peanuts, which are actually legumes)
  • Eggplant
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Nearly any vegetable

Not low-glycemic, but also much less potential for chronic inflammation and more energy dense than several of the sources listed above:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Winter squash like pumpkins and butternut squash
  • Beets
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Millet

Solution #2: Consume an “anti-inflammatory” diet.

To shut down inflammation, inclusion of the characteristics of a classic anti-inflammatory diet is highly important. Here are two important first steps:

Step 1: Consume an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.

Here’s why supplementing with omega-3s is important: There has been a huge shift in our diets from a balanced ratio of pro-inflammatory omega-6s and anti-inflammatory omega-3s to one in which omega-6s far outnumber omega-3s. Farming practices have evolved to give animals mass-produced grain-based feed that is high in omega-6 fatty acids, but low in omega-3s. Even fish raised on fish farms is relatively low in omega-3s since farm feed does not provide the omega-3 rich phytoplankton that wild fish eat. As if that weren’t enough, food manufacturers rely heavily on cheap, omega-6 rich oils like soy, corn, and cottonseed, so most processed and packaged “convenience” foods are high in omega-6s.

So why are these bad things?

  • In Japanese studies, a direct correlation has been observed between omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies, increased consumption of omega-6 fatty acids, and an increase in Western degenerative diseases and illnesses (more than 50 of them, in fact).
  • Omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation in the body, which can result in cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis. Omega-3, on the other hand, is anti-inflammatory and supports healthy heart, brain, nerve, and eye function. Unfortunately, the current ratio of omega- 6 to omega-3 in the typical American diet is about 10:1 to 20:1. Go ahead and check out the nutrition label of most foods, and you’ll find omega-6 rich sources like sunflower, safflower, peanut, soy, and corn oils.
  • For those of you not worried about chronic disease, consider that in just a three week period of time, omega-3 fatty acids have been observed to cause a two-pound increase in completely fat-free lean muscle, with no other dietary changes!

The omega-3s are found in a limited number of foods including walnuts, grassfed beef, and wild-caught cold water fish, but to really get optimal amounts, an omega-3 supplement is best.

Step 2: Include a large amount of foods that contain inflammation-fighting phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients such as anthocyanins and polyphenols in dark vegetables and fruits help quell inflammation. So eat your fruits and veggies, and choose the most colorful ones possible including:

  • Blue/Purple: The blue and purple hues in foods are due primarily to their anthocyanin content. Try: Eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, pomegranates
  • Green: The natural plant pigment chlorophyll colors green fruits and vegetables. Try: Broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens like kale, collards, and chard
  • Red: Lycopene is the predominant pigment in red fruits and veggies. Try: Tomatoes and tomato products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, cranberries
  • Yellow/Orange: Yellow and orange foods are high in beta-cryptoxanthin, vitamin C, and beta-carotene, which are particularly good antioxidants. Try: Carrots, mangos, cantaloupe, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apricots

To Re-cap:

Certain foods cause inflammation and inflammation can lead to a host of health problems, including weight gain. Your first strategy to fight inflammation is to consume foods that are low in the glycemic index. Eating anti-inflammatory foods in the form of darkly colored fruits and vegetables and consuming omega-3 fatty acids is your second strategy. Put these two strategies together and watch the fat melt off your body!

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