Ashley Tudor is the author of Sweet Potato Power: Smart Carbs, Your Body Your Rules, a guide to health, nutrition, and a tool kit to make your diet rules based of your unique biology. Follow Ashley on the web via Twitter, Facebook or her website http://sweetpotatopower.com.
Caring about what you can’t see: an introduction to inflammation
Inflammation is an important part of the healing process. When you sprain an ankle, it gets swollen. This reaction is the work of your body’s healing agents mobilizing and rushing to fix the problem. Most people only think of this visible, “acute” reaction when they think of inflammation—the redness, the swelling, the tenderness. In contrast the inflammation that we can’t see, present in the blood, has the most influence on our health and waistline.
Acute inflammation is a good thing that helps heal our bodies. But, if the body is always in healing mode, it experiences chronic or constant inflammation, which is damaging. When our systems experience nonstop inflammation, our bodies are constantly fighting invaders. The relentless siege taxes fortifications. While the body is fighting on one front, resources are not available to fight new threats like disease and infection. We get sick more often. Even though we can’t see chronic inflammation, we need to care about this marker.
The dangers of chronic inflammation:
- Wears out the transport system of your body (aka your veins and arteries).
- Makes you age faster.
- Damages your DNA making it prone to replication errors and more susceptible to cancer.
- Decreases the efficiency of transporting glucose to your hungry brain. You eat more and are compelled to eat bad food that are processed by the body quickly.
- Promotes weight gain.
Diet influences inflammation in our body
Some causes of acute inflammation are out of our control, such as our bodies fighting bacteria or viruses, or healing from injury. However, chronic inflammation can be controlled. One of the most common sources of chronic inflammation is our food. With the wrong foods, chronic inflammation can start in our digestive system and move into the blood stream and through the entire body. We should avoid foods that cause inflammation and load up on foods that help fight it.
Prevent and avoid chronic inflammation with the sweet potato
Sweet potatoes are a food that both prevents and fight inflammation in the body. Sweet potatoes contain a protein that helps the plant repair itself after damage or bruising. When eaten this protein acts as an anti-inflammatory in our body. But that’s not all. Sweet potatoes are also a great food source to replace inflammatory food culprits like wheat. One recipe illustrates how easy it is to replace high inflamation foods (pasta) with anti-inflammatory foods (sweet potatoes) with all the flavor and none of the health sacrifice.
1 medium yam, long in shape
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
6 sage leaves (or more to taste)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1.Wash yam under running water and peel. Slice yam, lengthwise, as thinly as possible using a mandoline or sharp knife (a potato peeler does not slice thin enough).
2.Cut the long, thin slices into even strips about 1⁄4 inch wide as linguine. Set aside.
3.In a large sauté pan, melt butter on medium-low heat and add the sage. Watch the butter closely as sage begins to brown (you don’t want it to burn). When the sage is crisp, remove and set aside. Add the sweet potato linguine strips to the butter and heat thoroughly. Stir and toss about 2 to 3 minutes. When tender and warmed through, plate and garnish with the fried sage.
Even with a perfect diet, testing is key
Chronic inflammation happens within the body so it’s easy for this health culprit to go unnoticed. Blood work is a great tool to see hidden inflammation. Many transitioning from a standard American diet to a more whole foods diet can see big improvements in their inflammation markers. While diet is a great starting point to get inflammation under control, it is not the only cause. Many paleo or primal eaters find that even with perfect or “dialed” diets their inflammation is still high. Working with health care practitioners can help you sleuth out causes before they become symptoms.