Anti-Inflammatory Foods

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I’m well aware that running is hard on my body – it seems to constantly leave me with some form of ache or pain. I decided that a good thing to try might be eating more toward the anti-inflammatory end of the spectrum. According to Harvard Health, some of these foods include:

  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • leafy green vegetables
  • nuts
  • fatty fishes
  • berries

The more inflammatory foods, according to the same site, include:

  • refined carbs (white flour)
  • fried foods like french fries
  • soda
  • red meat
  • margarine/shortening

I have no idea if trying to eat more in the first category will help with my training soreness, but I like a lot of those foods anyway, so I’m going to try it – do any of you have experience eating to avoid inflammation?

How I Changed my Food Formula

It was pretty easy to predict how my meals went when I was living in Spain or when I lived alone in the States. My volume formula, if I’m honest with myself, went like this:

  • 50 percent carbohydrates (pasta or bread, usually)
  • 20 percent meat or meat substitute like lentils, tofu, or chickpeas.
  • 20 percent sauce/flavorings (often creamy or cheesy!)
  • 10 percent veggies/other plant-based foods.

It’s not the world’s worst proportion, but whenever the sauce/cheese crept up, or the carbs held steady, my meals might look small on the plate but were actually calorie packed. The formula that I’m aiming for these days is more like this:

  • 40 percent veggies – salad as a base, or roasted tomatoes.
  • 30 percent meat substitutes like lentils, tofu, or chickpeas, with maybe 10 percent of that coming from meats used as flavorings, like a few pepperoni on top of a dish.
  • 20 percent carbs (often in combo with the protein, like farro or quinoa)
  • 10 percent sauce (still creamy or cheesy, but in the smallest quantity possible while still being delicious!)

This means I’m getting similar volume to my meals, but I’ve subbed in more nutrient rich foods. Sauces like the butternut squash and gouda pasta sauce¬†¬†allow me to actually replace sauce volume (which would have been butter or more gouda!) with a vitamin rich veggie. When this affects flavor negatively, I try to keep my sauce “pure” and just use very little of it.

I’ve been amazed, now that I think with this formula, at how a lot of the foods I crave most are actually equal proportions fat-laden sauce, meat, and carbohydrates: almost no veggie, and not even lean meats and whole grains! My transition, when I can, is to eat the flavors I love but not in the quantity I love – spreading those flavors out over a big baked potato or a tasty pan of farro has been helping me to realize that there are some healthy foods that are also craveable (see kale chips!).

It’s not a perfect system, but this is how I tend to behave when I’m not following a recipe at all; some combination of a small amount of sauce, a big pile of veggies, and small amounts of meat and carbs for texture and flavor, yields a regular-sized meal that doesn’t sacrifice flavor.

S’s Kale Chips

I grew up with a fusion of two cuisines: my mother’s family travelled around but was dominated by Southern cooking, with a little German tradition, but my father’s favorite foods were from South Korea, where he grew up. I did not anticipate ever finding a popular food that approximates the salty-crisp nothingness of dried seaweed, but the other day, I did. S was hosting me in her home, and she mentioned she had kale chips she’d made, fresh from the garden. I joked that I wasn’t hippie enough to appreciate them, but I tried one grudgingly. Granted, they are not chips, so don’t be disappointed that it is, in fact, no a Dorito, but they do have a delightful crunch to them, not unlike the dried green sheets that I ate as a child, unaware that usually people just use them to hold sushi together.

So, in my fervor to support our local community gardeners, I ordered not one, but two varieties of greens this week: butterhead lettuce and russian kale. The lettuce works great in salad, but the kale is, understandably, a little bitter. In an attempt to turn the kale into something other than salad, I read on the internet about how kale chips are formed. The general theme is: toss kale with a splash of olive oil, just enough to coat a little. Spread out on a tray, season with salt, and bake for 12 minutes in a 350 degree oven. This worked for me: some of the pieces were browned and some were still green, but none of them were blackened.

The tastiness was familiar, crisp and light but also with a bitter, green flavor. What did surprise me was that, sitting in their bowl right next to me, they became a bit of a “movie snack” – I grabbed leaf after leaf as we watched our favorite shows. I marveled to Husband that I was “addicted” to a food that was healthy! Usually, eating healthy is such a deliberate aspect of my life, never casual or done while also watching a show to relax. It’s great to realize that I actually appreciate this food that I thought was too “hippie” for me!