I enjoyed a fantastic morning cooking up foods which help to support our immune system and fight inflammation. A menu packed with brightly coloured vegetables, rich in Omega 3 and literally packed with super food heroes known to help combat inflammation such as ginger, garlic, flaxseeds, chia, berries, and of course some fermented probiotics.
Inflammation is the body’s means of self-protection; it can be acute and sudden, caused by an injury, or it may be chronic and persistent, acting as a precursor to many grievous disease states. Inflammation is part of the body’s adaptive immune system; it is a fast-acting chain reaction of events. Whether we strain a muscle in the gym or stub our toe on the way out of the door, the swelling, pain, heat and redness, which flare up at the site of the injury, are all signs of the inflammation cascade leaping into action; blood vessels dilate, enabling white blood cells to rush to the area, engulfing and destroying bacteria and toxins that have entered the damaged cells. The result of this first line defence initiative is to eradicate infection, but it may also result in collateral damage of surrounding cells, leading to the production of damaging free radicals.
Acute inflammation, whilst aggravating and sometimes painful, is a ‘necessary evil’ to help us recover from injury or infection and all living organisms depend upon the ability to protect and heal themselves from trauma. Nevertheless, the effect of chronic and recurring inflammation resulting in over-reactivity of the adaptive immune response, is now shown to be a trigger for many chronic diseases.
The chronic inflammation response can be activated by food sensitivities, by toxins in our external environment, by stress and by over exercising; in short it may be aggravated by a modern Western lifestyle
Omega-3 rich Flaxseed and carrot crackers
(recipe @hemsleyhemsley )To help reduce the action of pro-inflammatory white blood cells in our bodies it is important to increase the quantity of anti-oxidant polyphenols in our diet, those found in richly coloured fruit and vegetables and especially abundant in anti-inflammatory super heroes, including turmeric, ginger, green tea, dark chocolate and berries. We should also look to increase our intake of Omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, flax seeds, chia, walnuts, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Omega-3 is used by our bodies to produce ALA, EPA and DHA, required by the body to reduce the action of the body’s’ inflammatory response system.
1 large carrot; peeled and chopped
100g ground almonds
1tsp raw honey
1/4tsp chilli flakes
Mix all the ingredients together in your food processor until they form a dough • roll out to cracker depth between 2 sheets of baking paper (so that the sticky dough doesn’t stick to your rolling pin) • remove the top piece of baking paper and bake for 10-12 in a moderately hot oven (190) and then leave to cool •if the middle crackers are still soft, cut them up and put them back in the oven for a further 5 mins) once cool I break off into pieces and store in an airtight tin • (or cut them out with a cookie cutter as i did today). Delicious with dips, for breakfast and just as a simple anti-inflammatory boost during the day
The modern Western lifestyle exposes us to myriad conditions including diets high in saturated animal fats, salt and sugar leading to an increase in the prevalence of obesity; exposure to external toxins including pesticides, chemical pollutants and solvents is associated with an increased prevalence of asthma and allergies (Yang et al. 2014) and high levels of stress. Studies show us that a high BMI and obesity are strongly correlated with inflammatory conditions including the metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (Manzel et al. 2015) and many cancers are known to arise from sites of infection, chronic irritation and inflammation (Coussens and Webb).
High-fat, high-salt, high-sugar diets are associated with an increase in Leptin, a key hormone, crucial in the regulation of energy expenditure and body weight, but also associated with stimulating white blood cells during an inflammation response. White blood cells are implicated in almost all autoimmune diseases and also in sensitivities including gluten intolerance. These flaxseed crackers are a great gluten free alternative to regular crackers and pack a mighty omega-3 and protein punch.
Kimchi is a Korean sauerkraut, quicker, easier and (if you ask me) tastier than a more traditional sauerkraut • it’s made with cabbage, ginger, garlic and chillies so your kimchi will pair beautifully with simple salmon or chicken dishes • the natural sugars and starches in the cabbage are converted into lactic acid, a natural preservative and probiotic superfood (lactobacillus) • during fermentation, the lactobacilli produce numerous beneficial digestive enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic compounds • start with a whole Chinese cabbage, and shred into small slices • next add a bunch of chopped spring onions, a thumb of peeled and grated ginger, 3 grated garlic cloves and a generous tsp of chilli flakes • add these to your bowl with 1 tbsp of sea salt (here I used Himalayan pink salt packed with minerals) • the next part is really important, get a rolling pin or a wooden pounder / pestle and really thump the cabbage and spices in your bowl, mashing them down until all the juices run from the cabbage (see pic) • now add to a mason jar with an airtight lid • ensure all the cabbage is submerged in its liquid juices and close up the lid • leave the kimchi out in the side for about 3 days before transferring to the fridge to store.
Boosting the beneficial bacteria in your gut is a valuable means of boosting your immune system. Today we also tried Kefir, a fermented milk drink, but you may also like Kombucha or regular pickles and sauerkrauts. Sourdough bread is also easily digested.
Foods high in saturated animal fat
red meats, cheese, processed meats of any kind including ham, bacon, sausages.
A high intake of salt and sugar
Diets generally low fibre
To improve the mechanisms by which the body converts food into energy and to reduce inflammation you need a diet containing:
Foods rich in Polyphenols
Resveratrol: pistachios, grapes, red & white wine, blueberries, cranberries and dark chocolate and cocoa
Quercetin: citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, sage, tea, olive oil and dark berries
Curcumin: Turmeric, you can now buy this fresh from supermarkets looks like ginger, so get adding this magic spice to your curries
Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids
Foods high in fibre
A commitment to regular physical exercise
These foods all activate the transcription factors involved in inflammation, these are the genes that switch a cells’ activity potential either on or off; these foods also induce an imbalance of your gut microflora causing DYSBIOSIS (an over-accumulation of bad bacteria) and prevent the breakdown of food molecules to release energy.
So start thinking of your meals as an opportunity to support your athleticism, to reduce inflammation and speed up recovery after exercise.
Thinking about what you eat in this way changes the perception of “treat” foods from something that harms to something that heals.
Tropical Fruit with a ginger and mint dressing
2 papaya, peeled, seeded and sliced
100g pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
100g coconut slices
Ginger and mint dressing
Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
10 – 20 leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp coconut palm sugar or maple syrup
First slice your fresh papaya and pineapple – you can also buy ready chopped pineapple and coconut slices. To serve, mix all the dressing ingredients well and drizzle over the fruit.
This delicious zingy fruit platter is rich in digestive enzymes and fibre to support bowel health and soothe the digestive tract. Ginger is anti-inflammatory and fresh mint soothing on the digestive system. Serve with full fat probiotic natural yogurt to further boost the healing properties of this lovely plate.
Chia Breakfast Pots
2 tbsp chia seeds
half a cup of almond milk
1 tsp of acas powder (optional)
Soak your chia seeds + acai in half a cup of almond milk the evening before and stir well. The chia seeds will swell and become gelatinous in the liquid.
In the morning you can add toppings. I take my chia out of the fridge as soon as I’m up and leave it to come to room temp before eating.
Toppings including; raw caca nibs, bee pollen, crushed almonds, berries, banana, kiwi, toasted pumpkin seeds, a grated apple, coconut flakes…
Excellent source of soluble fibre, omega-3 and antioxidants from the toppings. Seeds are a source of protein and this breakfast will keep you going all morning long! Due to the high fibre content of these mighty little seeds, go slow to start… 2 tbsp / day is ample.
Bone broth is really just a fancy word for chicken stock. Start with an organic chicken… Riverford sells great value organic chicken. I get an organic meat delivery once a fortnight. Once you have cooked your chicken and are left with the carcass (and the giblets, which can be stored in the fridge until you are ready to start making your stock), you are ready to get started. Find a large heave pan / crockpot or slow cooker if you have one and add the chicken carcass, the giblets and cover well with water. Add a tbsp.. of apple cider vinegar to help leach all the collagen and gelatine out of the chicken bones. Add a couple of bay leaves, a carrot and a peeled onion to the mix and some salt and pepper. Cook overnight or simmer for several hours on a low heat with the lid on.
Once you have your lovely gelatinous stock you can either leave it to cool and freeze (ice cube trays are good for this), bag it up to be used for soup or casseroles or make it into an Asian broth as I did today.
Take your broth and reduce it down on the hob. This is also a good idea even if you are freezing as it concentrates the flavour and reduces the volume…. You can always add more water back at a later stage of cooking!
To your reduced broth add a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, a tbsp. of Tamari Soy Sauce, an inch of peeled ginger. For more of a soup you could add a couple of chopped spring onions and chopped coriander to serve.
Other serving ideas include adding a sachet of miso paste. Miso is a fermented soy product, which is probiotic and good for gut health). Itsu sells a version in the supermarket. https://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/Itsu-Miso-Soup-Pouch-Original/100004011
Chicken Liver Pate
A rich source of Vitamin A and Zinc. I love this recipe because it doesn’t contain cream or butter, it leaves me feeling light and nourished.
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
4 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
250g organic chicken livers (Ocado)
2 tbsp port or red wine
1 tsp tamari soy sauce
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme and parsley
Salt + peps to season.
Heat the coconut oil in a heavy bottomed pan and fry the onions, musrooms ad garlic until soft and translucent. Add the chicken livers and brown, before adding the port, soy sauce, and fresh herbs. Keep cooking for a further 5 minutes until the livers are cooked through.
Blitz the mixture in your processor or blender until smooth and season to taste.
5 tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp coconut oil
1 small white onion
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Handful each of mint, parsley and coriander
Juice of 1 lemon
1 preserved lemon, rind only
60ml olive oil
½ cucumber, chopped and deseeded
6 baby plum tomatoes, chopped and deseeded
4 spring onions finely chopped.
This is one of my favourite recipes for summer lunches. Packed with nutrient dense cauliflower it is perfect for boosting detoxification pathways and makes a nutritious gluten free alternative to a traditional wheat based tabbouleh.
Start by lightly toasting your pine nuts in a dry pan and then setting aside.
Next heat the diced onion in 1 tbsp of coconut oil, add the ground cumin and coriander and gently fry to release the fragrant flavours of the spice and sweeten the onions. Set aside.
In a food processor, take your raw cauliflower, break up the florets and gently pulse until you have a fine rice like consistency of raw cauliflower to form the basis of your tabbouleh. Transfer the cauliflower rice to a large bowl, but keep the processor out to now add the fresh herbs, lemon juice, preserved lemon rind and olive oil and blitz to make a lemony herby dressing. Pour this over your cauliflower rice. Add the sweetened spiced onions from earlier and stir over your cauliflower rice. Add in the toasted pine nuts, the chopped cucumber, tomatoes and spring onions and mix really well. Season to serve.
Pad Thai Dressing for raw veg.
I ran out of time to make this today, but I really recommend you try it – so delicious… you’ll never think of pad thai in the same way again! I love spiralising raw veg and serving in a really fragrant nutritious dressing. This is one of the best.
2 tbsp almond butter
Juice from half a lemon
1 tsp of maple syrup
1 tbsp of tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp of coconut oil
½ tsp. ground cumin
pinch of chilli powder
Ground black pepper
Almond butter has greater health benefits than peanut butter (peanuts are actually classified as a legume, rather than a true nut) and almonds are an excellent source of Vitamin E and antioxidants as well as being a nourishing source of protein.
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small blender and mix well. I love to stir this through raw carrots and red peppers, and sprinkle with toasted cashew nuts, almond flakes and a scattering of fresh herbs such as coriander, mint and basil.