A Step One Side Benefit: Inflammation prevention
As you know, I created Step One Foods with a pretty single-minded focus: helping my patients prevent heart disease.
It turns out that the same foods that help prevent heart disease are also helpful for a whole host of other health reasons. We like to refer to these extra perks as side benefits.
One of the key bonuses is reducing inflammation. Heart disease, cancer, dementia – the major diseases we are all trying to prevent – are driven in part by inflammation. So what we all should be trying to do is dampen that, not throw gasoline on the fire.
Fortunately, you can do a lot to prevent inflammation by making smart food choices. And Step One Foods fits right into those healthy decisions. That’s because our products are packed with anti-inflammatory compounds such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. For example, check out how our bars compare to items you might consider as being good for you:
Why is there such a strong link between food and inflammation? Research shows that antioxidants lessen the effects of free radicals, unstable atoms that damage cells. Free radicals are produced every single time we eat. The surest way to minimize the damage that causes right then and there is to send along free-radical fighters as part of the food.
And omega-3 fatty acids act through similar pathways as aspirin. Turns out, omega-3 fatty acids inhibit cyclooxygenase (COX), an enzyme which produces prostaglandins which in turn spark inflammation. Aspirin also disrupts a COX-dependent signaling pathway, thus reducing inflammation and pain. By the way, that COX effect is what gives some omega-3 fatty acids mild blood thinning properties and why you might be told to stop fish oil supplements (which contain DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids) prior to undergoing surgery. ALA (the type of omega-3 fatty acid found in nuts and seeds and Step One Foods) has anti-inflammatory effects but less of a blood thinning effect, so you don’t have to stop our foods prior to surgery.
So besides Step One Foods, what else should you consume if you’re worried about inflammation? Harvard Health recommends eating lots of the following:
- Brightly colored vegetables such as cooked tomatoes, carrots, squash, and broccoli
- Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
- Nuts including almonds and walnuts and seeds including flaxseeds, pumpkin and sesame seeds
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
- Whole fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges
- Legumes and whole grains such as barley, oats, and bran
- Olive oil and other plant oils
(Yes, the same whole-food, plant-based diet I recommend, many of which are in Step One Foods.)
Not surprisingly, the reverse holds true as well. To lower your risk of inflammation, you can also consume less of the same foods that cause it in the first place: Limit red and processed meats, fried foods, added sugar, refined carbohydrates and anything that’s ultra-processed. Not only have these foods been found to increase inflammatory markers directly, they also typically contain excess calories, which can lead to weight gain, which is in turn linked to even more inflammation.
I think we can call that a win-win-win-win-win.
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