Are you starting your day with a bowlful of inflammation?
What is inflammation?
Your immune system recognizes foreign invaders (pathogens, bacteria) and fights them off in a process called inflammation. Immune cells produce cytokines and oxidants, which wipe out invading organisms and damaged tissue. This process is good and necessary for our recovery and health. However, problems arise when your body is constantly fighting off offending situations (chronic stress, poor diet, unregulated blood sugar, gut issues) - leading to widespread inflammation.
This is a bad thing: the presence of inflammation makes people more susceptible to disease.
For real - here is an incomplete list of inflammatory diseases:
autoimmune disorders, cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer's, allergies, eczema and psoriasis.
....Basically, all diseases are inflammatory diseases.
So what should you do to keep inflammation in check?
Take an Advil. JUST kidding.
Take a peek at your diet. Let's start with breakfast.
Typical breakfast fare tends to be high in pro-inflammatory foods:
Cereal, granola, bread/toast, english muffins, breakfast sandwiches, pastries, bagels, coffee creamers and mixed coffee drinks
Pro-inflammatory foods to avoid:
Bad and Damaged Fats (trans fats and processed seed oils like canola and soybean oil)
Processed Food in general
*Keep in mind all carbohydrates eventually break down into sugar. The refined ones do so more quickly and without delivering nutrients in what we call a lose-lose situation.
What to eat: Antioxidants!
The oxidants that the immune cells produce are also called free radicals. While they help to kill off foreign invaders, they can also damage healthy tissue, leading to cell and DNA damage. Antioxidants attack free radicals so free radicals don't attack us, ya dig? That's why they're so important for our overall health.
This smoothie bowl is chock full of antioxidants and other anti-inflammatory foods.
Blueberries (and other berries) are an antioxidant-rich fruit.
Unlike refined carbohydrates, sweet potato is a carb that provides lots of nutrition - beta-carotene and vitamin C, amongst other antioxidants.
Ginger contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. Consuming ginger regularly can help to alleviate pain, lower inflammation and increase mobility (especially in the joints).
A compound in turmeric called curcumin has anti-oxidant activity and potent anti-inflammatory effects. We don't see turmeric too often in American cuisine, so adding this spice to soups, stir-fries (and smoothies!) is a smart move to reduce chronic systemic inflammation.
Cinnamon is another (more common) spice with anti-inflammatory properties. I like the flavor of cinnamon and turmeric combined.
I've also included gelatin powder for 3 reasons:
1. Along with the avocado, it helps to thicken up the smoothie bowl.
2. It adds a great source of whole-food nutrition.
3. Gelatin is awesome for the health of your gut. Gelatin absorbs water, helping food move through the digestive tract and maintaining a healthy stool transit time. Certain amino acids in gelatin help to repair the lining of the stomach and intestine, which is imperative for proper digestion and good health.
Inflammation-Busting, Gut-Loving Smoothie Bowl
1/2 cup frozen bluebuerries
1/2 roasted sweet potato* (cold)
1/2-inch chunk fresh ginger root, peeled
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup coconut milk or water (more as needed to thin)
2 scoops beef gelatin - this is my preferred brand
Optional: for a sweeter bowl, add 1/2 banana, 2 tsp honey or 1-2 pitted medjool dates
*I always have roasted sweet potatoes on the ready. I throw a few in the oven at 400 degrees, let cook for about 30-40 minutes, then keep in fridge for a quick bite for myself or the babe. When you roast them in their skin they become incredibly sweet!
Remove the skin from sweet potato. Add to blender with all the other ingredients. (Throw a large handful of greens to further boost the nutrition and antioxidant power!) Blend until smooth.
Pictured above topped with blueberries, shredded coconut and walnuts.