Thursday, June 17, 2010

First step to reduce chronic inflammation

Eat your vegetables. I can't count how many times I heard my Mom say this and how often I repeated it to my children.  There really is wisdom in this statement, especially when it comes to reducing chronic inflammation, among other things.  It turns out vegetables, as well as other plant foods, contain something really good for us called phytochemicals.

Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. Plant foods also contain essential nutrients. Phytochemicals and essential nutrients work synergistically, like a team, in the body.  Scientists aren't exactly sure yet how each specific phytochemical and nutrient in plant foods benefits the body. However, research clearly shows that phytochemicals have a positive impact on the process of chronic inflammation and the progression of cancer. As a matter of fact, some experts believe as much as 30-35% of all cancers are linked to poor nutrition! If you would like more information, check out "Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes" written by a group of researchers from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

It's also good to become familiar with what's called the glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL) of foods. The GI is a measurement of how fast a food causes your blood sugar to rise after you've eaten it. This is important because high GI foods cause insulin levels to rise rapidly and when this occurs repeatedly it can lead to a variety of health problems. The University of Australia has a great website, The Glycemic Index. It lists the GI and GL of thousands of foods.

I've also learned that specific vegetables are particularly important in reducing breast cancer.  These are cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussells sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.  These are nutritionally valuable because they contain something called indole-3-carbonyl (I-3-C), which helps in regulating certain enzymes that deal with estrogen metabolism.  This is especially beneficial for cancer that is an estrogen receptor positive type of breast cancer. 

So, the first step in reducing chronic inflammation is to eat more plant foods, and I'm not talking french fries here. That leads me to the next step: watching what oils you're eating, but that's for next post.  For now, I'm wondering...does beginning to take steps to reduce inflammation seem as overwhelming and daunting to you as it first did to me? I have learned that it's all doable, if I take it in steps. When I get discouraged it also helps to remind myself of the proverb, "Eat to live and not live to eat." This message makes sense to me, and although they're not my Mom's words of wisdom, they're just as motivating.


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