Welcome to my plate! A dedicated runner, outdoors enthusiast and cross training advocate, I eat for performance. I love finding innovative ways to integrate clean, plant-based ingredients, and the latest nutrition research to match my training goals. Enjoy a genuine look at what I put on my plate, as an athlete and nutritionist.
I became motivated to emphasize anti-inflammatory foods in my diet for several reasons. Re-occurring knee injuries, a stress fracture in my foot that was taking forever to heal, frequent digestive bloating, and, most significantly, a family history of heart disease—were all types of inflammation that I wanted to manage. Anti-inflammatory foods are nutrient powerhouses due to high antioxidant levels and/or plentiful in Omega-3 fatty acids. It needn’t take a major life event or injury to spur you toward following an anti-inflammatory diet though. Ideally it’s a way of eating you can incorporate proactively. Use this one day anti-inflammatory meal plan as a guide, or for inspiration.
It’s the weekend! Today I am meeting a friend for a morning Spin class, taught by another friend, and fellow Vegatopian, Bridgette. I woke up 30 minutes before class (Spin Society is in the heart of downtown Vancouver, a short walk from my place), and I have a couple pieces of diced pineapple to wake up my digestive system. Bromelain is an enzyme naturally occurring in pineapple which supports digestion. I often find pineapple helpful for its quick digestion time as a pre-workout snack, but also to reduce bloating or gas associated with sluggish digestion (helpful if you had a heavier dinner the night before, or wake up with swollen or stiff joints, which could be a signal for a food sensitivity from an ingredient in your meal). Studies on bromelain are still very limited but it is also shows potential for managing osteoarthritis.1, 2. I mix a Vega Sugar-Free Energizerto take with me to class, and am thankful once I start to sweat. A few of my favorite ingredients for inflammation support includes Devil’s claw for joint support3, Turmeric, used in traditional herbal medicine to help reduce inflammation4, and panax ginseng, used in herbal medicine to help enhance physical capacity and performance5. Traditional wisdom for a modern athlete.
My recovery drink today is an organic, raw, unpasteurized, cold pressed green juice from local Juice Bar, Krokodile Pear. I chose the “Pacific Spirit” today, with kale, spinach, parsley, romaine, cucumber, celery, apple, lime and ginger. This combination will be high in vitamin A and C, two crucial antioxidants.
For my first main meal of the day, I decide to make a plate full of chard wraps. These are filling, hearty, satisfying, and yet don’t weigh you down. Plus they’re plant-based—without any dairy or gluten, common food sensitivity ingredients. Sensitivity aggravating ingredients act as a trigger for the inflammatory response in the gut. Symptoms completely unrelated to our digestion (such as brain fog, or joint pain), can be attributed to food sensitivities, as leaked food particles (through an inflamed gut lining) can enter your blood stream and irritate other body systems.
These chard wraps are stuffed with sautéed cabbage and onion, raw shredded carrot, slices of avocado, and warmed marinated tempeh strips. I ate 6 of them. Guilt-free! Fermented foods such as tempeh are easy on your digestive system, and help support absorption of nutrients, like the amino acids abundant in protein rich tempeh. Cabbage and onion are sources of sulfur, which is necessary for collagen production. Collagen is the protein found in connective tissue, keeping your joints, tendons and ligaments healthy.
This afternoon I have been writing, and working on content for a workshop I am co-hosting in spring 2015, called Eat2Run. It’s been a great deal of mental work, which can be equally as exhausting as physical work, just using your brain muscle instead of skeletal! We operate from our sympathetic nervous system when we are in “work mode” (think: fight or flight). When our cortisol is spiked, we allocate blood, nutrients and energy to our extremities and brain (versus our digestion). This makes it harder to digest foods eaten during times of (perceived or real) stress. I need something refreshing, and simple.
The best, easy to digest, anti-inflammatory snacks during a busy day are smoothies (blending reduces digestion time), plant-based energy bars (nutrient dense, quick to consume), or small portions of fat-based snacks. These yield a more stabilized blood sugar release than a high carb muffin or scone, and therefore deliver no energy crash shortly after the “sugar high”. Fat-based snacks could include nut and seed medleys, olives, or half an avocado with balsamic vinegar and spices, like I had today. Earlier when I was preparing lunch, I also diced up fresh organic mint and lime, into a pitcher of water. Letting it steep for a couple hours has made for a really fresh and flavorful hydration combo. Traditionally, mint is used to harmonize digestion.6 Are you sensing a correlation on my plate between foods that boost digestion and a body low in inflammation? Tip: a body with low inflammation also has a healthy digestive system.
Dinner tonight is bursting with flavor. A simple rule of thumb is that herbs and spices are loaded with antioxidants, crucial to the body in reducing inflammation. I always prefer fresh seasonings whenever possible for the most potent benefits. Tonight I am using fresh grated turmeric, for its active component curcumin, a proven inflammation fighter.4 Wear gloves, and grate onto parchment paper, or a paper towel, as it will stain everything! Authors note: a cutting board was lost in the making of this article.
I prepare 2 cups of diced, hearty veggies (butternut squash and Brussels sprouts), toss in roughly 1 tablespoon of grated turmeric and 3 teaspoons softened coconut oil, and then roast everything in the oven for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F. I combine seasoned, roasted veggies with a legume-free hummus made with a base of hemp seeds and tahini (sesame paste), see below for recipe. Hemp seeds are rich in Omega-3 essential fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties.7 They are also the complete protein to accompany this meal. I steamed an artichoke in vegetable broth for 10 minutes so it’s easy to separate the leaves with a good portion of the “choke” at the base of the leaves, ready to dip into the hummus. Artichokes are great foods for supporting the liver, which is directly related to the quality of your blood, since it helps filter toxins.
Hemp Hummus Recipe:
- 1/2 cup hemp hearts
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tbsp Vega Antioxidant Omega Oil
- 1 tsp pressed fresh garlic
- ½ tsp paprika and/or cumin
- Pinch sea salt
If you need an additional snack at night (activity levels, body mass, etc. will dictate hunger), try this chia pudding, also a great source of Omega-3s. There you have it! A day on my plate, featuring my favorite anti-inflammatory foods. I challenge you to add a new anti-inflammatory food or recipe to your plate this week in support of your 2015 health goals.
- Brien S, Lewith G, Walker AF, Middleton R, Prescott P, Bundy R. Bromelain as an adjunctive treatment for moderate-to-severe osteoarthritis of the knee: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study. QJM. (2006) 99.12: 841-850.
- Brien S, Lewith G, Walker A, Hicks SM, Middleton D. Bromelain as a Treatment for Osteoarthritis: a Review of Clinical Studies. Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2004) 1.3: 251-257
- Health Canada. (2012). Natural Health Products Database Monograph: Devil’s Claw. Accessed 12/29/14 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=77&lang=eng
- Health Canada. (2012). Natural Health Products Database Monograph: Turmeric-oral. Accessed 12/29/14 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=216&lang=eng
- Health Canada.(2009) Natural Health Products Database: Panax Ginseng. Accessed 12/29/14 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=146&lang=eng
- Health Canada.(2008) Natural Health Products Database: Peppermint. Accessed 12/29/14 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=144&lang=eng
- Calder, P., (2006) n–3 Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation, and inflammatory diseases. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 83, No. 6, S1505-1519S.