Chronic inflammation is a grim and technical-sounding term, so let’s break it down into reasonable pieces:

Chronic means that it is happening again and again over time, like a record spinning around.

Inflammation is a state in which some part of our body is swollen, warm, red, and maybe painful.  This could happen on the surface like a papercut or inside like a throat infection.

Regular inflammation is part of our body’s normal healing process, it happens because our immune cells are rushing to an infection or injury and creating lots of activity.  They are like firefighters rushing in to put out the flames- they’ll be noisy and make kind of a mess, but they’ll get the job done!

Chronic inflammation happens when there is some small injury to our bodies that occurs everyday, and wears down your immune system over time.  For instance excessive belly fat can release little messengers that bug your immune cells and keep them busy.  That means the immune cells won’t get the rest they need to fight other infections.

Many diseases can be set in motion or made worse by chronic inflammation.  This includes items like heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and cancer.

So what’s the good news?  Nutritious food can be a powerful fighter against chronic inflammation.  An anti-inflammatory diet is one that is rich in colorful fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, herbs, spices, and tea.  Here are some links to other pages on this site that have information on foods that fight inflammation:

Soothing inflammation with spices

What’s so great about Omega 3 Fatty Acids?

Is dark chocolate a health food?

Best food sources of antioxidants

Broccoli: defender against disease

The humble bean: cheap protein and antioxidant source

Stinky Salvation:  Sulfur-containing superfoods

Adding alkaline foods to your diet

Leafy greens: big nutritional punch, low in calories

What the heck is a chia seed?

Flaxseeds: benefits and best uses
This is my kind of wintertime snack- warm, spiced, and sweet!  This treat has no added sugar, we just used the natural sweetness of the pears.  In addition to that this snack contains a good dose of fiber, calcium and protein from the yogurt, and some satisfying fat from the almonds.  I originally had the intent to make applesauce this week, but when we received some beautiful pears in our produce box I changed my mind.  If you want to use apples instead I’m sure they would work here too.

Spiced Pear Parfait
  • 3 large pears
  • ½ teaspoon Orange blossom water (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon Apple cider vinegar
  • Cinnamon, ground
  • Clove, ground
  • Coriander, ground
  • 0% Plain Greek yogurt
  • Raw almonds

Wash pears well.  Core them and chop into 1” chunks.  Combine pear chunks, orange blossom water, and apple cider vinegar in a medium saucepan.  Add spices to your preference, I used a lot of cinnamon and a little bit of cloves and coriander.  Stir well and cover with ½ cup water.

Place saucepan over medium-high heat.  Once some liquid seeps out of the pears and starts bubbling rapidly give it a big stir and turn the heat down to medium.  Let the liquid cook down for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep anything from sticking to the bottom.  Once the mixture is syrupy and the pears can easily be smooshed with a spoon, remove from heat.  Mash the mixture with a potato masher until it’s a rough puree.

To serve, layer about half a cup of the pear sauce under a third of a cup yogurt, then top with a quarter cup chopped almonds.  Now you’ve got a satisfying wintertime snack or dessert!

The pear sauce will last one week in the fridge. 

If you’ve spent any time on this site you know how I feel about dark leafy greens.  They’re the best!  They’ve got just a few calories and loads of nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, calcium, and ironBulking up your diet with kale, chard, collards, and spinach can help you get the nutrition you need without excess calories you don’t.  Here are some ideas for adding these antioxidant-rich vegetables onto your plate and into your life!

Root mash with greens:  Slice your greens very finely (see a chiffonade technique demonstrated in this video) and stir them into mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, or parsnips.

Massaged greens salad:  Put your greens in a bowl and add a small amount of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Massage the leaves with a firm squeeze until they soften and relax a bit.  Use this salad to top a protein like fish, chicken, or eggs.

Green smoothie:  Combine a good handful of greens with frozen peaches, plain yogurt, and a peeled orange in the blender.  Blend until smooth, then enjoy right away!

Do you find yourself eating while talking, typing, driving, or sitting in front of the television?  It’s easy to consume excess calories when you’re not fully paying attention to what’s going into your mouth.  Taking the time to experience your food can help you eat less and feel more satisfied.  Avoiding mindless excess calories now can add up to significant weight loss later.

Keep food out of the car.  Multi-day road trips aside, wait until you get out of the car to consume meals and snacks.  Not only will you decrease your chance of mindlessly consuming calories, you’ll keep you and your passengers safer.  A 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that nearly 80% of all car accidents involve eating drivers!

Unplug yourself!  Turn off the computer, the television, the cellphone, or any other distractions and devote your full attention to your meal.

Have a seat.  It’s difficult to appreciate what you’re eating if you’re moving around.  Create a place setting for yourself, take a load off, and get a good look at what you have to eat.

Awaken your senses.  Use all five of your senses to experience your food.  Look at the colors on your plate.  Smell each component of your meal.  As you lift your food to your mouth feel its weight and heft.  Notice the taste of your food and how it develops as you chew.  Observe all the varying textures of each part of your meal.

Check in with your emotions.  Ask yourself how you were feeling before the meal started, throughout your meal, and after you were finished.  Notice how different foods make you feel emotionally and energetically.

Observe your hunger level.  If you could quantify your hunger from 1 to 10 (1 = stuffed, 10 = starving), what number would you give it before and after you eat?  Try to differentiate between physical hunger and the desire to eat for other reasons.

Experience your food without judgment.  Take pleasure in the characteristics of the food you enjoy without self-criticism.  Appreciate what’s in front of you and enjoy the experience of taking it in.

Acknowledge the intimacy of eating.  The food we eat makes its way into every single cell in our body in one form or another.  What is on your plate is soon to be a part of you!
Do you have a hard time catching the zzzzz’s you need?  6-8 hours of quality sleep every night is necessary for your immune system, digestion, energy, and mental health.  It’s vital to recharge your body so you can conquer the day ahead!  Here are some nutritional tips to help you settle down for the night:

Keep your caffeine to a minimum, and only in the morning.
  Every body breaks down caffeine differently, but its effects always last longer than the initial buzz you feel.  It can take anywhere from 5-11 hours for your body to metabolize caffeine completely.  Limit your caffeine to less than 150mg per day (about one 8 oz coffee), and stick to drinking it in the morning.  For the caffeine content of different beverages, check out this page from the Mayo Clinic.

No meals or snacks within 2 hours of bedtime.
  While your body does require some restful time for digesting, the whole process does require quite a bit of energy.  It can be hard to get to sleep when your digestive organs are still hard at work!  Additionally, meals close to bedtime can result in weight gain and heartburn.

Make sure you’ve got magnesium in your diet.  Magnesium is necessary for relaxation in a number of different ways.  Good sources of magnesium include seeds (like sunflower or flax) and dark leafy greens.

Calm down with some herbal tea.  Chamomile tea can help your body prepare for sleep.  Take a few minutes away from the computer, television, or other distractions to clear your mind and help you settle down.

I was inspired to write this post after I heard a man talking about how he had a hard time falling asleep.  I overheard this at 7 o’clock in the evening.  After he finished his sentence, he took a big swig of the energy drink he had been holding!
According to a national survey, 1 in 5 Americans skip breakfast on a regular basis.  That same survey found that those who skipped breakfast had a higher BMI than those who ate breakfast regularly.  Eating a balanced meal within a couple hours of waking can help with weight maintenance, and gives you the energy you need to carry you through your day.  You can read more about the importance of a good breakfast here.

Here are some breakfasts that are easy to prepare and have around 300 calories each:
  • ½ cup cooked steel cut oats with ¼ cup raisins and 10 crushed raw almonds
  • 1 small banana and 1 Tbsp peanut butter wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla
  • 2 eggs scrambled in 1 tsp olive oil with spinach, onions, and 1 oz feta cheese
  • ½ cup Food for Life Ezekiel cereal with 1 cup hemp milk- try hot or cold
  • 1 sliced medium apple with 2 Tbsp almond butter
  • Smoothie with ½ container lite silken tofu, 1 cup frozen berries and 1 Tbsp honey
  • ½ cup cooked pinto beans mixed with 1 Tbsp avocado and 1 oz jack cheese topped with 1 poached egg
  • 2 brown rice cakes with 2 Tbsp tofu cream cheese and 2 Tbsp fruit preserve
  •  1 whole wheat English muffin topped with 1 oz lean turkey sausage, steamed greens, and 1 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 6 oz container plain greek yogurt mixed with 1 cup fresh berries, 10 raw walnut halves, and 2 tsp pure maple syrup­­
It pays to pack your own.  A bagged lunch from home is not only more nutritious than restaurant food, it's also much cheaper!  If you're looking to lose weight, a packed lunch can still fill you up for much fewer calories.  Here are some lunch ideas that are around 300 calories:
  • 1 veggie patty in a whole wheat pita pocket with sprouts and 1 Tbsp tahini
  • ½ cup brown rice with ½ cup chickpeas, 1 cup spinach, and ¼ cup curry sauce
  • 2 cups mixed greens topped with 3 oz grilled chicken breast, 8 halved cherry tomatoes, 1 Tbsp each olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and whole grain mustard
  • Sandwich made with 2 slices whole grain bread, 2 Tbsp hummus, lettuce, sprouts, and sliced tomato
  • ½ cup cold buckwheat noodles tossed with 1 tsp toasted sesame oil, sliced carrots, green onions, and ¼ package baked tofu
  • Baked quesadilla made with 2 corn tortillas, ½ cup black beans, 2 Tbsp salsa, 1 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, and 1 Tbsp avocado
  • ½ cup quinoa, ½ cup lentils, 1 cup steamed kale, 1 minced garlic clove, tossed with 2 tsp olive oil

If you want to bulk up your portion size, pile on the fresh vegetables!  Veggies have tons of great nutrients and not a lot of calories.
The hormonal shifts experienced during menopause can have an effect on your nutritional needs.  Today we’re discussing some health issues that could develop throughout menopause, and how you can protect yourself through diet and exercise.

Cardiovascular Disease
Estrogen has a protective effect against heart disease.  Decreased estrogen production following natural or surgical menopause is associated with an increased risk for heart disease.

Nutritional Tips:
  • Avoid trans fats- found in hydrogenated oils
  • Decrease saturated fat intake- less than 15 grams per day
  • Maintain a healthy weight

High Cholesterol
During menopause “bad” lipids like total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides increase while the “good” lipid HDL cholesterol decreases.  The risk for high cholesterol increases with menopausal weight gain.

Nutritional Tips:

Bone formation is a process that is directed by hormones.  Bone density begins to diminish in both men and women around age 40, but bone loss speeds up greatly for women after menopause.

Nutritional Tips:
  • Important nutrients for bone health are calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium.
  • Make sure you get plenty of protein to maintain bone mass.
  • Resistance training can increase bone density at any age- it’s never too late to start!

Weight Gain
Androgen hormones such as testosterone are the building blocks for estrogen.  During menopause there is not only a decrease in estrogen, but also a gradual decrease in androgens overall.  Androgens are responsible for building lean muscle mass, which helps to burn calories even when at rest.  That means less androgens can result in a lower resting metabolism.  This combined with the natural slowing of metabolism that occurs as we age can result in weight gain.

Nutritional Tips:
  • Decrease portion sizes
  • Minimize added sugar and oil
  • Load up on fruits and veggies
  • Engage in physical activity most days of the week
Today I’m sharing snack recipes from some of my favorite food blogs.  I love cooking but I’m no pro, so I thought I’d direct you towards some more talented chefs!

Cashew Queso from The Post Punk Kitchen
This vegan faux cheese spread makes for a wholesome alternative to nacho cheese.

Cauliflower Green Pea Spread from Golubka
This recipe calls for a dehydrator, I’ve made it just by blending the raw ingredients and it tasted great to me!

Kickin’ Chickpeas from My New Roots
If you liked the Healthy Snack Sunday Spicy Popcorn, here’s another spicy crunchy treat!

Pizza Hummus from Chocolate Covered Katie
This hummus is flavored with tomato and basil for a pizza-reminiscent twist.

Pumpkin Protein Bars from Little B’s Healthy Habits
These baked bars are gluten free and high in protein.  Double the recipe and freeze some for later in the week!

You may have noticed that Daily Dose Wellness has not been entirely daily these days.  While I wish I had so much more time to devote to writing daily posts, my days of late are full with clinical rotations for my dietetic internship.  I’m working my way towards becoming a Registered Dietitian (a higher credential than a Certified Nutritionist), which means I’m spending my time working in all the various places an RD can work such as hospitals, clinics, public school admin offices, and more.  I look forward to coming back to daily posts soon, but for the moment we’ll be down to a manageable 2-3 posts per week- which is probably more realistic for reading anyways!

Here’s one more reason to fill up your plate with crunchy fresh veggies!  We know that vegetables provide a wide array of health benefits, but could they help prevent diabetes as well?  Type 2 diabetes is rare among people who consume vegetarian or vegan diets.  A number of studies have been performed to examine why herbivores have a lower risk for blood sugar woes.

A recent study divided participants into groups based on their preference for animal products, and then looked at the rate of type 2 diabetes among them.  The groups ranged from vegan (those who consume no meat, eggs, or dairy) to non-vegetarians (people who consume animal products on a regular basis).   There are many categories in between, such as lacto-ovo vegetarians who consume eggs and dairy but no meat.

Researchers found that the incidence of diabetes went up as consumption of animal products increased.  The participants who ate animal products regularly were more than twice as likely to have type 2 diabetes than the vegan participants!

The researchers concluded that a diet based mostly or entirely on plant foods “provides substantial protection against obesity and type 2 diabetes.”  Vegetarian diets tend to be rich in nutrients that are associated with a reduced risk for diabetes, such as fiber, complex carbohydrates, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E- just to name a few!  Vegetarian diets also tend to be low in nutrients associated with an increased risk for obesity and diabetes, such as saturated fat.

It's certainly not necessary to avoid meat altogether to reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, but this research suggests that an increase in plant foods can help keep your blood sugar in check.  Next time you’re fueling up be sure to pile those leafy greens, beans, and tubers high on your plate!

This article is a repost of one I wrote for Pinnacle Physical Therapy.