Pain: The Most Effective Universal Head Slap.
My post-Thanksgiving eating binges affected me in ways I should have foreseen, but didn’t. Sure, the leftover pie, cocoa and cranberry sauce put a few of the pounds I thought I’d left behind forever back on, but that was the least of my problems.
The knees which had been so cooperative in recent months; coincidentally since I cut out processed foods and sugar, started swelling painfully. When they also began to show signs of weakness, I knew it was time to get serious about my eating habits and cut out the inflammatory foods. The first to go was the sugar.
Since my memory isn’t what it used to be, I felt I needed some reminders about what other foods are inflammatory so I could limit or eliminate them as well. Sadly, the black forest ham I’ve been nibbling on or pairing with Swiss or pepper jack cheese had to go or be severely limited as well. As did the cheese.
Though my knees are still crying bitter tears by the time I climb into bed at night, they’re far happier than they were a few days ago.
How Do I Know What to Eat and What to Avoid?
Since I know I’m not alone in suffering the consequences of my less-than-perfect food choices, here’s a short list of foods to avoid if you suffer any symptoms of inflammation. These can be obvious like sore knees or tender sinuses, or a rash, or less obvious like some sort of unexplained internal discomfort or sluggishness.
These are some of the most common foods which are rated over -100 on the IF scale I’ve included below:
- Processed sugar, as I mentioned before
- Dairy including cheese, milk and yogurt
- White Flour (so that means bread, pasta, cereals, and all of the other starchy delights made with white flour). Whole wheat flour is a little better, though still -89 for 1/3 of a cup.
- Dried fruit
- Meat (though to my surprise both ground beef and turkey rated fairly low on the inflammatory scale, -2 and -7 respectively)
Researchers have even developed an inflammation factor rating chart for the foods we eat with a positive number representing anti-inflammatory foods and a negative one representing inflammatory foods. The higher the number in either direction, the stronger the food is for the applicable factor. The following chart from http://www.inflammationfactor.com shows how the numbers shake out.
|200 or higher||Strongly anti-inflammatory|
|101 to 200||Moderately anti-inflammatory|
|0 to 100||Mildly anti-inflammatory|
|-1 to -100||Mildly inflammatory|
|-101 to 200||Moderately inflammatory|
|-201 or lower||Strongly inflammatory|
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Sides of Food Choices
Checking foods on their rating chart will give you the inflammation factor, but be aware that the ratings, just like calories or anything else, are based on a particular portion size.
For example, 1/2 cup of cooked broccoli has an IF rating of +60 which is mildly anti-inflammatory while 1/4 cup of dried apricots has a rating of -56, or mildly inflammatory. But there are a few surprises.
A double cheeseburger from Burger King has an IF rating of -171, just a little higher than a cup of cooked, long-grain white rice (-153).
On the other end of the spectrum, many types of fish are strongly anti-inflammatory with Sable fish leading the pack with a whopping 703 for 3 ounces! Salmon and tuna are a bit lower but still in high enough to be highly beneficial. It’s no surprise to me to also find ginger and turmeric in the top 10.
Though there are surprisingly few foods which actually tip the scale at more than -100, I caution you to pay attention to the serving sizes. The food that may be only -50 or -60 for a small portion, say 1/2 cup of baked potato, will climb rapidly, the more you eat. And the more inflammatory foods you consume, the greater risk of harming your body.
What the Chart Won’t Show You But Labels Will
With all of the pre-made foods available these days, it can be more difficult to regulate the quality of what you’re eating. I thought I was doing well by limiting my packaged foods to those available at places like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, but even there, you have to read the labels. For me, I’ve found it’s just better to avoid them altogether. But I also enjoy cooking up huge batches of soup, stir-fry, chili and more and freezing them in single serving containers. Not everyone has the time or inclination to do the same.
When all else fails, I recommend reading the labels. One of the biggest surprises I got recently was comparing organic tomato sauce to good old Hunts. The ingredients on the organic sauce were sugar, tomatoes, and water. On the Hunt’s, tomatoes and water. You can guess which one I bought. A little label scanning also forced me to give up buying cases of Kirkland’s version for the same reason I passed on the organic variety in the market.
What doesn’t show up on the IF table is all of the preservatives and additives found in prepared and packaged foods today. I’ve learned that our bodies know exactly what to do with organic compounds like fruits, vegetables, and even meat, but give it something with a whole lot of letters and it says the same thing we do when we try to pronounce them. “Huh? What is this stuff and what am I supposed to do with it anyway?”
All I Have to Do to Be Healthy is Manage My Food Choices, Right?
So now that you have a handle on the foods you eat, the foods you limit, and the foods (if some of them can even be called that) to avoid at all costs, you should be feeling great, right?
Do you remember the arthritis ad which says “a body in motion stays in motion”? Well, take it from me. No matter how perfect your diet might be, if you sit on your butt all day, those joints and organs you’re working so hard to feed well are still going to suffer. We need to change positions frequently. Our muscles thrive on being subjected to varying degrees of stress from pushing, pulling, standing, sitting, lifting, stretching and anything else you can think to do with this miraculous thing we call a body.
Raising Your Own Bar
You know your own limits. Why not push them just a little? You’d be surprised how quickly those limits expand.
I remember when I first started regaining my dancing routine. I wore out quickly and had to rest pretty frequently. Now, I can dance an entire two-step set (depending on the partner. Some of them kick my sorry butt, but not as easily as they used to!) and follow it up with a killer line dance set. Unless the DJ tosses in Skiffle Time, I’m usually good to go for the next set of two-steps as well. If I get to the gym regularly, I find my stamina and strength climb more rapidly and I even sweat less (which is especially helpful with those back to back two-steps!)
In conclusion, I have learned, though I tend to need reminders, that I need to feed and move my body consciously. When I wing it, eat whatever sounds good, or worse, is easiest, and spend an inordinate amount of time in front of my computer or watching Christmas movies on Hallmark Channel or Lifetime, I pay the price in both lack of mobility and pain. As I don’t enjoy either one, it typically takes only a few twinges of pain to remind me to get my lazy self back in gear. For me, it’s dancing, walking or hiking. What works for you?
Above All, Tell
Yourself How Grateful You Are for the Positive Changes
My gratitudes today are:
- I am grateful for my body’s little reminders to take better care of myself.
- I am grateful for the resources available to help me make better choices.
- I am grateful for the love of cooking which makes it easier to keep healthy, easy options in the house.
- I am grateful for my dancing and my new hiking buddy which both help keep my body healthy, agile and aging much more slowly than people who spend a lot of time sitting.
- I am grateful for abundance; health, happiness, joy, love, friendship, good food, opportunities, challenges, lessons, success, rejection, writing, peace, hope, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.
I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, www.shericonaway.com and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!
Photo courtesy of FoodFacts PM via Flickr