Our 7 top tips for reducing inflammation

What do I need to know about an anti-inflammatory diet?

Inflammation has been a hot topic lately, with a lot of circulating information about anti-inflammatory diets, foods and supplements. And for good reason – research has now shown that certain foods and eating patterns can reduce the occurrence, symptoms and severity of inflammatory conditions. In particular, an anti-inflammatory diet can supplement the effects of physical therapy and medication for managing arthritis, and has been shown to reduce symptoms of pain, joint stiffness, swelling and tenderness.

Still wondering what the term “inflammation” actually refers to? You’re not alone. As a recent buzz word, many are yet to learn that inflammation refers to the body’s protective response to illness or injury. Inflammation can be either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is the body’s immediate response to short term illness or infection, such as swelling when you stub your toe. On the other hand, certain conditions can cause a prolonged inflammatory response that we refer to as “chronic” inflammation. These conditions include arthritis, coeliac disease, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammation can also occur after we exercise as our body adjusts to increased stress and loading. Lastly, many people don’t realise that conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes are in fact “inflammatory” (a.k.a. inflammation producing) conditions.

Inflammation and diet

Whilst certain superfoods and supplements often steal the limelight as “anti inflammatory foods”, the most effective way to manage inflammation through our diet is to consume a wide variety of healthy, anti-inflammatory foods. Foods that reduce inflammation include fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, oily fish, nuts and seeds. These food groups are commonly associated with a Mediterranean diet pattern, which explains why a Mediterranean diet has been proven to lower levels of inflammatory markers and reduce symptoms of arthritis and generalised joint pains. You’ll also notice that that an anti-inflammatory diet is consistent with general healthy eating recommendations.

In terms of anti-inflammatory foods, variety is key, as each anti-inflammatory food functions differently. Different foods contain unique compounds (including types of antioxidants, polyphenols and fibre) which target different inflammatory processes. Because of this, no single food or nutrient will “cure” inflammation. Likewise, we also know that certain foods can contribute towards inflammation and should be avoided, including junk foods, alcohol and processed meats.

7 top tips for reducing chronic inflammation

1. Eat five servings of different coloured vegetables daily

The benefits of our “2&5” are extremely underrated. Vegetables contain many important vitamins, antioxidants and phenolic compounds that help reduce inflammation in the body. Aim to incorporate a variety of different colours, as different pigments provide different nutrients, which each possess different anti-inflammatory properties.

 

2. Experiment with recipes containing legumes and beans

The resistant starch in legumes and beans is a type of fibre that helps to fuel the bacteria in our gut. Throughout it’s fermentation process, resistant starch helps to reduce inflammation in the gut and throughout the body.

3. Cook with extra-virgin olive oil

Olive oil contains an antioxidant called oleocanthal which produces similar benefits to the anti-inflammatory drug ibuprofen.

4. Consume oily fish 2-3 times per week

Oily fish such as tuna and salmon contain omega-3, which metabolises into anti-inflammatory compounds called resolvins and protectins. Nuts, chia seeds and flax seeds are also sources of omega-3 that can help to reduce inflammation.

5. Flavour foods with spices such as turmeric, cinnamon and ginger

Spices, especially turmeric, contain chemicals that block inflammatory pathways throughout the body. Plus, they taste delicious and are a fantastic alternative to flavouring foods with salt.

6. Enjoy nuts/seeds as snacks, through salads or as breakfast-toppers

Nuts contain many anti-inflammatory compounds such as omega-3, magnesium, l-arginine and vitamin E. But remember, nuts are easy to over-portion and can contribute to weight gain when consumed in excess. The recommended serving size of nuts and seeds is 30g, or a small handful.

7. Replace refined carbohydrates for wholegrains, and limit fast foods, fatty meats and sugary drinks

Not only will this help to maintain a healthy weight and happy gut, but will prevent the production of inflammation.

 

Feel like you’re running in circles trying to eat healthy, manage your nutrition and meet your health and fitness goals? Personalised dietary advice is more effective than “dieting” when it comes to losing weight, and keeping it off. Our Accredited Practising Dietitian, Regina Tilyard, will work alongside your needs and preferences to create a nutrition plan that will deliver results.

 

This post was written by Regina Tilyard. Regina is an accredited practicing dietitian and longstanding member of the Stafford Physio team. Contact us to book an appointment with Regina. 

How to pack a healthy lunch box for work (including snacks!)

Do the words ‘work lunch’ get you dreaming about Uber Eats, dreading squished up bananas at the bottom of your bag, or lusting after your coworker’s delicious home-cooked meals? Although packing a healthy lunch – and actually eating it – seems like a huge effort, it’s valuable time spent on achieving a nutritious diet and healthy metabolism. After all, most of us eat five lunches and ten morning or afternoon snacks at work every week! Read on for some inspiration and tips on packing a healthy, delicious lunchbox, that will leave you as the envy of your office.

The science

Recent studies show that meal preparation is associated with reductions in body weight and improved dietary quality and variety. Packing a healthy lunch gives us the chance to plan what foods we need the most of, and deters us from a tempting vending machine, local takeaway or meal delivery option. Eating regular meals is also associated with an improved metabolism, improved energy levels and concentration, and reduces the risk of excessive hunger leading to over-eating.

So what should we have in our lunchbox? We should be eating a balance of fruit, vegetables and legumes, wholegrains, dairy or dairy alternatives and meat or meat alternatives.

LUNCH

Try following this portion guide that illustrates the types and quantities of foods that we should be aiming to incorporate in every main meal (lunch and dinner):

  • ½ plate (1.5-2 cups) of vegetables or salad
  • ¼ plate (80-120g) of lean protein such as red/white meat, eggs, tofu or legumes
  • ¼ plate (1/2 cup) of carbohydrate foods such as potato, sweet potato, corn, pasta, rice or bread
  • 1-2 tablespoons of healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds

A healthy salad, homemade stir fry or curry, sandwich or wrap would definitely fit the bill.

SNACKS
 Fruit:
  • 1 medium piece of fruit (apple, banana, orange or mandarine, pear), 2 smaller fruits (apricots, kiwi fruit, plums) or 1 cup of diced, free fruit (melons, berries).
  • Yoghurt covered berries: using a toothpick or clean hands, coat fresh blueberries, strawberries or raspberries in reduced fat yoghurt. Freeze for one hour.
  • Banana toppers: Slice a banana once lengthwise and once widthwise. Coat with thin spread of nut butter (eg. low salt/sugar peanut butter) and topping of your choice (try shredded coconut, chia seeds, blueberries, muesli).
Vegetables:
  • 1 cup raw or salad veg dippers (try carrot, celery, capsicum, sugar snap peas) with nut butter, hommus, or cream cheese (reduced fat).
  • Spiced chick peas: drain and pat dry a can of chickpeas. Coat with 1 tsp olive oil and spices of your choice (try cumin, paprika, ginger, ground coriander). Roast for 30 minutes at 180 degrees. 100g = 1 serve of veg
  • Veggie chips: Peel veg of choice (try sweet potato, beetroot, kale, carrot) into thin slices. Drizzle with olive oil and coat with dried rosemary or oregano. Bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden, turning halfway.
  • If packaged snacks are your go-to for convenience and shelf life, look for snack packs of roasted chickpeas, fava beans, low-cal popcorn, sugar snap peas or edamame.
Breads and cereals:
  • Home made pita chips: brush a wholegrain wrap lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with chilli flakes, parmesan cheese or dried rosemary. Bake for 15 minutes at 200 degrees or until golden. Cool and cut into chip-shaped triangles.
  • 1 slice multigrain bread, 3 crispbreads or ½ medium multigrain bread roll. Topping suggestions: Avocado and tomato, cream cheese and tomato with rocket, nut butter and banana, hommus with cheese and tomato, cheese and pear slices, cream cheese with blueberries or banana.
  • 30g muesli (look for no added sugar, check the nutrition panel for >4g fibre per 100g, and read the ingredients list to avoid excessive dried fruit, clusters and honey/maple syrup). Great with: 200g reduced fat yoghurt
  • Packaged options: rice wheels or corn thins are often available in snack-size packets.
Dairy/alternatives:
  • 250mL reduced fat milk, or a calcium fortified milk alternative (check the nutrition label for at least 100mg of calcium per 100mL). Serving suggestion: serve with ice and 30mL espresso for a tasty iced latte. Or blend with fruits of your choice for a tasty smoothie. These store well in a sealed glass bottle to keep in the work fridge.
  • 200g reduced fat yoghurt. Label suggestions: look for 2% fat or less. The healthiest choice is a plain yoghurt, which you can sweeten with fresh fruit if necessary. If choosing flavoured yoghurt, try to find an option with less than 12g of sugars per 100g.
  • 2 slices or 40g hard cheese (a matchbox size). Great with: tomato and a multigrain cracker
Lean meat/alternatives:
  • A boiled egg Great with: sliced avocado, a spread of hommus, cracker pepper or chilli flakes, sliced tomato and cheese on a multigrain cracker
  • 30g unsalted nuts, seeds or nut butter. Create your own trail mix by mixing nuts and seeds of your choice in an airtight container. Try almonds, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds. Add dried fruit with caution, as they have a high concentration of natural sugars and can easily contribute extra calories!
  • Home made bliss balls – at 120 calories per bliss ball, these homemade alternatives are a great low-kilojoule alternative to processed, sweetened options available on the supermarket shelf: combine ¼ cup seeds of your choice, 300g raw whole nuts (almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews or a combo of your choice!), 2 tablespoons cacao powder and one teaspoon cinnamon in a food processor. Add 8 pitted dates, 1/2 cup desiccated coconut and 2 tsp vanilla extract and continue processing. Loosen with ¼ cup of water (or as needed). Roll into 3cm balls, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one month. Makes 20 bliss balls.

 

This post was written by Regina Tilyard. Regina is an accredited practicing dietitian and longstanding member of the Stafford Physio team. Contact us to book an appointment with Regina. 

Our favourite dietitian-approved recipes

An essential part of a healthy diet is enjoying a wide variety of fresh, flavoursome foods to keep our taste buds happy, help us stay on track and most importantly, provide our body with an array of important nutrients. For a sustainable approach to a healthy diet, focus on enjoying more of the right foods, rather than trying to limit the “wrong” foods. To provide some recipe inspiration and help us appreciate the nutritional value of tasty home cooking, we asked our physiotherapists here at Stafford Physio and Pilates to provide us with their recipe go-tos. Our consulting dietitian, Regina, has provided some commentary as to why the meal is a good choice.

Allyson: Salmon Soba with Ginger and Citrus Dressing

Click here for the recipe by Jamie Oliver from Jamie Magazine

Regina says: Salmon, soba and citrus: a nutritious and flavoursome combination to add excitement to any weeknight dinner. Oily fish such as salmon are not only tasty and refreshing, but a powerhouse of important nutrients. Salmon is a fantastic source of omega-3, which is an essential fatty acid that the body can’t produce on its own. Omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to help regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and protect against heart disease. Salmon is also an excellent source of protein, making this dish a great post-workout choice – especially when paired with soba noodles. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, which is a high quality protein based on amino acid composition and digestibility. Soba noodles are also packed with fibre to keep our digestive system healthy. Lastly, the addition of citrus fruit provides us with antioxidants for reducing cell damage, including the powerful antioxidant vitamin C that assists with the synthesis of collagen, connective tissues, bones and teeth. Overall, this nourishing combination provides one serve each of wholegrains and lean meat. To boost the vegetable content to two serves, dish up each portion with a side of 100g steamed green and/or orange vegetables per portion (fresh or frozen).

 

Lucy: Sticky Vietnamese Pork Meatballs with Rice Noodles and Pickled Veg

Click here for the recipe from Delicious Magazine

Regina says: When it comes to maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, it’s crucial to find ways to truly enjoy the foods we’re putting on our plate. This recipe is a taste explosion providing a great example of how we can combine fresh, whole foods to maximise flavour. Chilli, lemongrass and herbs are an excellent way to flavour food without contributing additional kilojoules or sodium. However, this recipe does contain a high amount of salt and high sodium sauces, making it an occasional treat to enjoy. But for those looking to reduce their sodium intake or those with high blood pressure, there’s a few easy replacements that can be made to enjoy similar Asian recipes. Try using salt reduced soy sauce, and diluting high sodium sauces with lime juice, pineapple juice or even water. Peanut oil, chilli oil and sesame oil are also delicious, low-salt alternatives that don’t sacrifice the desired taste. Once again, this recipe is protein packed due to the contribution of pork. Red meat is a complete protein source, meaning it contains all essential amino acids that help us build muscle amongst other functions. Red meat is also a fantastic contributor of many important nutrients including iron for carrying oxygen and making red blood cells, zinc for wound healing and cell growth, and B12 for DNA synthesis and energy production. Lastly, this recipe highlights a recent health trend of “pickled”veg. However, it’s important to keep in mind that pickling foods with vinegar such as this recipe does not have the same fermentation effects of pickling food in brine. Again, these pickled veg are a high sodium choice making this recipe a tasty treat to be enjoyed on occasion. For a low salt alternative, simply julienne or grate some fresh veg such as carrot, zucchini and cabbage. Follow these steps for this tasty, Vietnamese favourite:

 

Fun fact: Ever wondered why our population is split into those who love coriander vs. those who can’t stand it? Based on genetics, some people have highly sensitive smell receptors resulting in the perception of coriander as a soap-like taste!

 

Sandra: Baked Salmon Fishcakes

See recipe below, this one is a family favourite from Sandra’s Mum!

Regina says: Passed down from Sandra’s mum, this seafood favourite is without a doubt worth adding to your repertoire. We’ve spoken about the sensational nutritional value of salmon, which might be made more appealing to the kids and non-seafood lovers when packaged into a tasty fishcake. The Heart Foundation recommends that we consume fish or seafood 2-3 times per week for a heart-healthy diet. As an added bonus, tinned salmon is a cheaper and longer lasting alternative to salmon fillets, making this a perfect dish to whip up as a last minute dinner or to meal prep tomorrow’s lunch. Next up, we have the benefit of carbohydrates from the bread crumbs and potatoes. Despite receiving a lot of negative attention, carbohydrates are a vital part of a healthy diet to assist with chronic disease prevention, weight control, and general wellbeing. As the preferred fuel source for our brains and muscles, carbohydrates should make up 45-65% of the total daily kilojoules we consume. Carbohydrates are not something to fear, containing the same amount of kilojoules per gram as protein. Carbohydrates not only provide us with energy, but assist with boosting exercise performance, maximizing post exercise recovery, and improving brain function, mood and concentration. Try swapping half of the white potato for sweet potato for the added benefit of vitamin A. Lastly, plating these fishcakes with a fresh salad or steamed vegetables will make a delicious light meal that boosts your daily vegetable servings. Try including vegetables of different colours, to incorporate a variety of different nutrients and antioxidants. Try a fresh salsa with diced tomatoes, cucumber, yellow capsicum, red onion, mint and pineapple. Did someone say delicious? This recipe definitely deserves a regular spot on your menu:

INGREDIENTS

4 brushed potatoes with skin

4 slices of whole grain bread

1 415g can of red salmon

1 free range egg, beaten

Natural yoghurt.

Coriander to garnish

 

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and line an oven tray with baking paper.

Boil potatoes for 20 minutes until cooked. Drain and mash with skins on.

Put bread in food processor or grate it. Add to the potatoes with the salmon.

Add in the egg and mix well.

Form the mixture into little cakes.

Roll in natural yoghurt and bake for 20 minutes.

Serve with coriander on top and with a green salad or steamed veges of your choice.

 

Megan: Jamie Oliver’s Veggie Enchiladas

Click here for the recipe by Jamie Oliver

Regina says: Carbohydrates, protein, fibre, plenty of nutrients from hidden veg, and a mouth watering taste combination = dietitian approved! This recipe is a perfect example of a balanced meal that provides plenty of nourishment at a low kilojoule cost. As we discussed, the carbohydrates provided by the wraps and blackbeans are the preferred fuel source for our brain and muscles, and will help us last through a busy week of work and training. Secondly, this meal is another high protein option given the protein content of beans. Although plant based proteins are not naturally complete on their own (meaning that they are lacking in one or more essential amino acids), the combination of legumes and grains in this recipe provides what’s called complimentary proteins. In short, pairing the black beans with a wholegrain wrap provides an adequate amount of each essential amino acid, resulting in a complete amino acid profile that is desirable to support health. Together, they pack a protein punch that is highly bioavailable, making them a great occasional alternative to lean meat to reduce our saturated fat intake. Beans are also high in fibre, which functions to keep our digestive system healthy and can help prevent diet-related chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Fibre has a low glycaemic index, meaning that it helps stabilise our blood sugar levels and keeps us fuller for longer to assist with weight control. Lastly, apart from providing us with melted, tasty goodness, reduced fat cheese is an important source of calcium. Calcium is important for the development and maintenance of bone, as well as proper cardiac and neuromuscular functioning. Adequate calcium and vitamin D paired with a pilates class involving weight bearing, resistance exercise is an excellent recipe for preventing osteoporosis and skeletal injury. If you’re interested in how this tasty Mexican favourite can be adapted into such a nourishing, healthy meal, here’s how you can give it a go (serves 4):

 

We hope this has given you some inspiration for some delicious new meals to introduce to your repertoire in 2019!