4 Ways to Get More Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants into Your Diet
It’s widely understood that oxidation leading to inflammation is a serious problem for health – especially for those of us with endometriosis.1,2 Inflammation is an immune response that’s designed to be temporary and as a healing and protective mechanism in response to a wound, irritation or attack from pathogens. But there are some physiological events, like chronic disease or chronic stress, that can cause long-term and systemic inflammation.
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For those of us with endometriosis, chronic inflammation stems from the immune system’s response to endometriosis lesions, but these lesions also release their own inflammatory chemicals. The result is an inflammatory response, triggering pain which then triggers inflammation and a cycle of pain begins.
Thankfully – there is a lot we can do to reduce inflammation, from calming down our nervous system to eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Multiple studies now show that increasing our intake of antioxidants (nutrients that reduce the oxidation process) can reduce inflammation and pain in people with endometriosis.3,4
So, where do antioxidants come from?
Healthy whole foods – and largely, fruit and vegetables. In fact, one study showed that an increase in fruit and vegetables helped to lower oxidation in endo patients.5
So how many veggies are enough? Whilst over here in the UK the NHS recommends a minimum of five portions of fruit and veg a day, health experts have admitted that the research points to 10 being ideal for health benefits and that they didn’t think this was a realistic number for the public to aim for, and so lowered the bar. For people like you and me, we really need those antioxidants – so here’s my suggestion for getting in more of your 10 a day and increasing your antioxidant intake:
Eat the rainbow
The golden rule. The more color, the more variation of antioxidants. Fill your shopping trolley with color and you won’t have to think about it so much during the week – you’ll just naturally have a rainbow of colors to enjoy. Think white cauliflower, orange pumpkin, yellow peppers, pink radishes, red cabbage, purple eggplant, red strawberries, dark leafy greens.
Try to get at least one of each color every day. Try printing off a fruit and veg color chart (there are plenty on Google) and just tick each color off as you eat until you’re in the habit.
Snack on berries
Berries, especially blackberries and blueberries, are particular antioxidant-rich fruits. They’re also low in sugar, which is really helpful for those of us with pain as too much sugar can raise our inflammation levels.
Berries are easy to incorporate into our diets in simple ways. I always suggest my clients just start snacking on them accompanied by a handful of nuts or some yoghurt to keep blood sugar balanced. You can also use them to top off your oatmeal, in smoothies and added to fresh vibrant salads.
Sprinkle nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in nutrients like vitamin E, which have been shown to help reduce period pain6 and keep hormone levels healthy. Sunflower, sesame, pumpkin and flax have been shown to be particularly helpful for hormonal balance.7
Try sprinkling seeds across your meals, making trail mixes, adding nuts to smoothies and creating delicious salad dressings with tahini and other nut and seed butters (pumpkin makes a mean pesto).
Use smoothies, soups, and salads
Don’t love veggies or not sure how to create a meal outside the meat and two veg formula? For those of you who aren’t on the best of terms with veg. They’re a wonderful way of sneaking in veg without noticing and you can get three of your 10 a day in by breakfast!
Soups are also great for getting in extra veggies without noticing, whereas salads are a beautiful opportunity for chucking different vegetables together to create something easy, colorful and nutritious!
And here's two bonus tips - try adding in broccoli sprouts and herbs and spices. Both are packed with antioxidants!
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