My day usually starts with a cup of organic coffee sweetened with coconut milk, an apple with almond butter and a dose of science and culture. I haven’t read a newspaper in ages, but I do read feeds from science blogging networks and research publications. I find creative inspiration in everything from gene expression and nutrition to spider sex and evolution. It all seems connected in one way or another.
I tend to follow a rather yogic principle of parsimony.
So, sugar and fish oil? How are they connected?
While trolling research articles early this morning I ran across a collaborative effort by an interesting mix of scientists. While the subjects in the study were mice rather than people, I still found the piece enlightening.
Sucrose Counteracts the Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Fish Oil in Adipose Tissue and Increases Obesity Development in Mice.
Sucrose is the organic compound commonly known as table sugar. It’s refined white sugar and according to the US Department of Agriculture, Americans consume 156 pounds of added sugars per capita each year.
ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-SIX POUNDS.
Imagine that (if you can).
You’ve probably heard that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are protective against inflammation, blood sugar imbalances, heart disease, hormonal disorders, obesity, neuro-degenerative diseases and so on. There’s a lot of compelling research regarding the benefits of high-quality fish oil.
After reading this research article, I’m thinking it might be a waste of money to take an expensive fish oil capsule if you’re going to follow it up with a bowl of fruit loops or a donut. The researchers discovered that high levels of dietary sucrose counteracted the anti-inflammatory benefits of fish oil and increased the development of obesity.
Check here for a detailed run-down on sugar, including the various forms. And for an exposé on fruity, sugary breakfast cereals, check here.
Peace, love and fish oil – without the sugar chaser!
What would your life be like if you never engaged in this health-zapping cycle of overeating, fatigue, craving and weight gain. What if you never again treated your body like a trash can?
Thank you to the lovely Heidi B for that analogy. Heidi is a full-time yoga teacher. A smart, spiritual, beautiful, India-visiting, committed yogi on a seeker’s path.
She walked into the studio at 6:30 AM the other morning to teach her class and asked if anyone else felt like they had been overdoing it during the holidays? She said she was treating her body like a trash can and wondered who else might be struggling with the same thing.
Wow, I respect her honesty. My gosh, she’s a yoga teacher. She’s supposed to be drinking filtered water with a squeeze of organic lemon and eating farm-fresh veggies every day. Not candy, French fries and red wine.
Yes, I did relate and waved my arm in the air from child’s pose, indicating I was guilty of the “trash can” phenomenon as well. I’m a nutritionist and Heidi’s a yoga teacher. We’re not supposed to do that, right?
Almost everyone wanders down that road on occasion. We both ate too much of whatever it is we eat too much of at times like this. We all have our personal comfort cravings. Add in the stress of the holidays (even the good stress) and you’ve got a “recipe” for a food-filled train wreck. I’m typically seduced by pie, muffins, pancakes, syrup and red wine.
Oh, and for the record, I’ll take this opportunity to pat myself on the back for never drinking red wine with pancakes. I do have standards.
Pie and red wine? Now that’s another story.
Here’s my problem (not that you asked). Most of the time my over-indulging takes the form of fairly healthy food, in fact “real” food. Organic food. Often times, it’s even local food. How cool is that? But that can be a faulty premise. Or, at least one that is easy to justify, defend and make excuses for.
Pastured, organic butter and whipping cream, rich in CLA. Local, organic CSA potatoes and pumpkins from Grant Family Farms. Raw, organic cheese. Locally made, organic chocolate bars (73% organic dark cocoa). Smooth, velvety, sulfite-free red wine. Organic, whole grain, gluten-free flour. Local, Rocky Mountain wildflower honey. It’s not like I’m eating fast food. Lovingly put this stuff together and you have the most amazing muffins, twice-baked potatoes, home-cooked French fries, cookies or pumpkin pie.
Get my drift?
Healthy, real food ingredients, but no excuse to shovel it in. Or, stand with the refrigerator door open, eating giant spoonfuls of home-made, organic whipped cream right out of the bowl (conveniently perched at arm level). Maybe dabbing some on a random, nearby muffin.
Not that I know anyone who would do that.
With 2011 upon us, most people have written up lists of New Year’s resolutions. Exercise more. Eat more veggies. Don’t over-eat. Lose weight. Meditate. Do yoga. Same story each year.
What would your life be like if you really believed that everything you needed, you already had? What would your life be like if you simply spent the year treating your body like the temple that it is? No lists, no resolutions, just respect and commitment.
In the spirit of honesty, I do have a few resolutions, but rather than list them, I’m going to keep them to myself and take this time to express gratitude for my health and make a silent promise (over and over) to honor that through awareness, healthy choices and moderation.
And thank God, there’s no more pumpkin pie and whipped cream.
If you’re interested in increasing your mind/body/food awareness, please check here for a past post I did on food, fuzz, movement and inner space. It includes information on how to incorporate healthy eating habits into your life. It’s also a guideline to an anti-inflammatory diet and includes a video that will take you deep inside.
* I can’t end this without a footnote from Heidi B. When I thought about writing this post, I emailed Heidi to ask permission to use her name and comments. Her response to my email was, “Sure! You can use me. I’m still struggling, but totally aware. Yea!”
I love that.
Awareness. That’s the key. The more we understand the magic of what’s going on inside our bodies, the more likely we are to appreciate and take care of this wonderful creation, even as we struggle along.
Wishing you peace, love, awareness and small steps towards more radiant health in 2011.
P.S. Please ignore the fact that my last 3 posts were for gluten-free cherry cobbler, pumpkin pie muffins (the boyfriend bait version) and pistachio cranberry brownies. Hey, this food blogging thing is a struggle.
If I had more room in the title bar, I’d call this post, “inflammation, fuzz, food, inner space, enlightenment, movement, and twisty-bendy stuff.”
In case you’re wondering about the photo, cotton candy has nothing to do with this post, other than it looks exactly like fuzz. I wanted something that would visually compare to fuzz in case you wanted to opt out of the cadaver video.
I bet you’re curious, though.
I’m a nutritionist, but my college education began with a degree in exercise physiology. Because both disciplines are science-based, I’ve ended up taking anatomy, physiology, and bio-chem two different times, from different teachers, at different institutions. My first semester (20-some years ago) of anatomy included a cadaver lab. It was there that I found my religion (seriously) and began my intense fascination with how our bodies work from the inside out.
Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, joint pain and inflammation where a daily thing for me. Nothing debilitating, but it was annoying and constant. I even slept with my arms in a pillow-version of traction because my shoulders hurt so much. I attributed the pain to a lifetime of physical activity and overuse. To make a long story short, a gluten-free, whole foods diet and lots of yoga solved my problems. No more inflammation and very little pain — as long as I eat well and move often. Bend, stretch, twist, twirl, and dance.
I’ll let somanaut Gil Hedley explain why. His approach to teaching anatomy and physiology is humorous, creative, and spiritually enlightening. He’s also brilliant and charmingly geeky, which I absolutely love.
Did that help (and isn’t Gil charming)? Doesn’t fuzz look like cotton candy? Well, there’s no need for either.
Movement is key, but so is food.
On to inflammation, which isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a natural and protective response by the immune system to infectious agents, toxins, tissue injury, temperature extremes, cooties and other icky things. It’s a bad thing when the response is misdirected, never shuts off and targets healthy tissue. Because inflammation is a general and non-specific protective mechanism, the response is similar whether the damage is caused by gluten cooties, poor diet, disease, a fall down the stairs or a misdirected hammer.
So — what can we do to decrease inflammation and enhance our health?
Make anti-inflammatory foods your foundation and twist, bend, stretch, twirl, and shake your booty every day. You might also consider some beneficial body work.
Here are 10 tips to get you started.
1. Eliminate or minimize processed foods, fast food and junk food. Avoid products containing trans-fats, partially hydrogenated fats, high-fructose corn syrup, chemicals, additives and other “non-food” ingredients. Sugar is also pro-inflammatory.
2. Choose healthy fats such as extra-virgin olive oil, coconut, avocados, nuts and seeds.
3. Avoid soda pop and opt for old-fashioned water or green tea. If you choose to drink alcohol, an occasional glass of red wine has been shown to be beneficial.
4. Choose a wide variety of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables. Organic is best. Strive for 9 to 10 servings per day. Eat more veggies than fruit (5-6 servings of veggies, 3-4 servings of fruit). This is just a guideline.
5. Eat healthy non-gluten grains like teff, montina, quinoa, amaranth and brown rice. Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are also a rich source of high-quality plant protein.
6. Choose nuts, seeds, raisins and dates for snacks or an occasional small serving of dark chocolate when you need a “sweet fix.”
7. Season foods with health-enhancing herbs and spices like garlic, capsicum, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, parsley and cilantro. This list is endless.
8. The right balance of EFAs (essential fatty acids) is important. Ingeneral, omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and omega-6s are pro-inflammatory. I’ll do an entire post on this one of these days.
9. If you choose to eat animal products, 100% grass-fed, organic choices are best. Meat and dairy products from 100% grass-fed animals contain higher levels of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which studies show may fight inflammation and have anti-cancer properties.
10. Reduce stress, think positive thoughts, get adequate sleep and exercise.
Your body truly is a temple. Treat it as such. Go inside, learn as much as you can about the inner workings that make up the divine space in which you live. As Gil so eloquently expresses in his book, Reconceiving My Body – Take Two, From The Heart, “I realized that I had been sitting for my whole life outside the doorsteps of the most finely wrought Cathedral ever built, without ever having gotten off my arse to walk through the doors and have a look about. My body in all its complexity represented the wonders and workings of God’s creation. Rather than being some insufferable obstacle to spiritual growth, my body as a temple could become my greatest resource for beholding the hidden face of the Divine within me.”
Go forth and explore inner space. The more we understand the magic of what’s going on inside our bodies, the more likely we are to appreciate and take care of this wonderful creation.
Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and
should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.