Do you love wandering the aisles of the grocery store? I’m not sure if it’s a dietitian thing, but I could spend hours slowly walking up and down each aisle looking at new products and reading nutrition labels. Not only is it totally fun, for a food nerd like myself, it’s also important to know what clients are referring to when they bring up a specific product they use or love. So naturally, when I received an invitation from the Dietitians of Canada to attend a grocery store tour at my local Save-on-Foods I couldn’t say no! This specific tour was lead by my friend and fellow dietitian, Karol Sekulic, and focused on pulses and legumes, anti-inflammatory foods, and hidden sugars.
Those of you who know me, know that I have a very special relationship with chickpeas. Which is why I am beyond excited that the United Nations has declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses. Some of you are probably thinking – “what the heck is a pulse?!” A pulse is a lentil, dried bean, dried pea, or a chickpea and they are ridiculously awesome (but we will talk more about that later).
The tour started where any good trip to the grocery store starts – the produce section. Here is a snapshot of the discussion:
Inflammation is a totally normal and necessary response that your immune system has when your body is healing a wound or fighting infection. But sometimes, this response goes into overdrive. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s have all been linked to chronic (aka long term) inflammation. There are a number of factors that contribute to inflammation such as insufficient duration and quality of sleep, BPA’s (found in some plastic food and beverage container’s such as water bottles), smoking, stress, obesity and diets with large amounts of refined carbohydrates, fried foods, sugar, red meat and processed meat.
*The World Health Organization recommends that individuals reduce their intake of free sugars to 6-12 teaspoons per day. FYI – one can of coke contains just over 8 teaspoons of sugar!
*The Canadian Cancer Society recommends limiting processed meats such as hot dogs and bacon as much as possible (only special occasions!) and consuming no more than three 3oz servings of red meat per week.
The good news is – there are patterns of eating which have been found to help with the reduction of inflammation. This is what you need to know:
Eat more vegetables and fruit – There is a reason you hear this over and over and over. Dark green and orange vegetables contain antioxidants that reduce inflammatory markers. It’s a fact and you should probably do it.
Choose whole grains and high fibre foods – As I mentioned before, obesity is an inflammatory disease. When you have a large amount of adipose (fat) tissue, you release a larger amount of adipokines, which cause increased inflammation in your body. Research shows that people who have a diet high in fibre, generally have a lower body weight. So, essentially: higher fibre = lower body weight = less inflammation.
Incorporate more omega 3’s into your diet – Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to reduce interleukin 6 and c-reactive protein, which are inflammatory markers found in the body. There are three types of omega 3 fats – DHA, EPA and ALA. DHA and EPA are found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, anchovy, mackerel and sablefish (if you don’t like fish try taking a fish oil supplement). ALA is found in flax oil, walnuts, and canola oil.
Drink green tea – Catechins are antioxidant compounds found in green, black and oolong tea. It is recommended that you drink 3-5 cups per day, preferably on an empty stomach (helps with absorption). So, if you are able to drink 3-5 cups of green tea in the morning before your stomach starts eating itself – good on you! I will continue drinking my 1-2 cups before breakfast and have the rest on a full and satisfied stomach.
PS – my absolute FAVOURITE hot drink right now is lemon green tea with a ¼ of a fresh lemon and a little bit of stevia. Heavenly.
Cook with pulses as much as humanly possible – but seriously, pulses are amazing. In regards to inflammation, beans are known to reduce inflammation as they have high levels of bioactive molecules, as well as provide relief from inflammatory bowel disease. But beyond inflammation, pulses are rich in many nutrients such as protein, fibre, iron, folate, and potassium, and are low in fat and cholesterol-free. They are a delicious and budget friendly meat alternative and you can use them in sauces, soups, salads, chili, casseroles, and baked goods. And if that isn’t enough, Canada is the world leader in pulse production/sales (#local) and they have nitrogen-fixing properties, which can contribute to increasing soil fertility and have a positive impact on the environment. WOW.
I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing about it! Check out this link if you are interested in setting up a nutrition tour at Save-on: http://www.saveonfoods.com/nutrition-tours.