Processed foods. Years ago, I wasn’t worried about them. Like most people, I knew eating out at fast food places too often was unhealthy. But thinking about what the term processed foods meant was not on my radar. I went to the store and bought my staples each week and went about my day. Back then I didn’t know that my beloved animal crackers were a processed food. I also didn’t know they were a source of inflammation for my body.
I had a true love affair with animal crackers. I can’t even begin to think of how many bags I consumed over the years. Before kids, after having kids – didn’t matter, they were a staple in my pantry.
20 years ago, I was in the ‘eat low fat’ camp to stay healthy. This snack said ‘Low Fat’ on the front. It was like a match made in heaven.
Animal crackers seemed like the perfect on-the-go snack. They didn’t need refrigeration and seemed to fill me up between meals. I was completely unaware that those processed food ingredients were negatively impacting me.
When There’s More to This Than Meets the Eye
You know that feeling when something’s too good to be true. It wasn’t long before I began to notice my stomach would bloat each time I ate animal crackers. I’m not talking a little bloat, but a reposition the belt bloat.
Eventually, a light bulb went off and I accepted that it was time to move on from this love affair.
Little did I know that this was the beginning of me connecting the dots. Processed foods were triggering a gut reaction.
So what gives?
Understanding Ultra-Processed Foods
The more I learned about processed foods, the more I began to understand my how they affect my body.
Historically, processed foods included any food altered from it’s original state. Nowadays, the term ultra-processed has entered the scene. It was created to further define the next-level of processing.
Basic processing can include techniques such as heating, canning, drying or pasteurizing. What’s important to note here is that a large number of our foods are ‘processed’ in some fashion. This confirms the statement that “not all processed foods are unhealthy”.
That said, some foods that go far beyond the basic processing to earn the badge of ultra-processed. This term was established by a team of Brazilian nutritionists conducting a study in 2016 that linked foods with cancer. In their study, they defined ultra-processed foods as: “industrial formulations with five or more ingredients.”
Ultra-processing is next-level. This stage involves adding flavors, additives, chemical preservatives, sugars, oils, fats, and salt. In short, these are the foods you’ll find packaged and placed in the middle aisles of the grocery store.
Marketers are Good at What They Do
I bought animal crackers because they were low in fat, had zero trans fats, and zero cholesterol. It seemed like the perfect snack, wouldn’t you agree?
Well, my friend, I’m here to share with you what I wish I had known way back then.
Marketers use terms like low fat, zero trans fat, zero cholesterol to sell products. And boy did they work on me! Here’s the hard truth: manufacturers are in the business of making money. They are not concerned whether the food is healthy or not.
Manufacturers hire amazing marketing teams who do their job well. They create beautiful designs, use buzz words to attract, and meet labeling requirements.
So most people, like me, look at the label for animal crackers and think “OK! This is a healthy choice!” and drop it in their cart.
But to know the FULL STORY of what you’re eating, you have to read the label AND the ingredients list.
When it Comes to Your Inflammatory Response, Ingredients Matter
Let’s take a look at the ingredients found in these beloved animal crackers. FIVE out of the NINE shown are inflammatory. That’s over 50%! And on top of that, they lack fiber. Bottom line, animal crackers are void of nutrients and will add MORE FUEL to your inflamed body.
Understanding their impact is critical for those battling chronic inflammation. Let’s break them down.
Enriched flour – ultra-processed wheat flour. Though enhanced with synthetic vitamins and minerals, this refined flour is inflammatory.
Soybean Oil – this refined vegetable oil is high in omega 6 fatty acids. While our body requires these fatty acids, our western diet provides more than we need. Vegetable oils are widely used in processed foods. Though it might seem harmless in this one food, there’s a cumulative effect that takes place. Vegetable oils are often used in processed foods, restaurant cooking, etc… It quickly adds up to HIGH levels of this INFLAMMATORY oil being in our diet, wreaking havoc on our guts.
High Fructose Corn Syrup – an artificial sugar made from corn syrup. Studies show this artificial sugar increases inflammatory markers. High intake over time can lead to a wide range of diseases and illnesses.
Salt – while a little in life is ok, be mindful of how much and how often you take it in. Most canned and processed food contains it.
Natural Flavor – a flavor additive created or altered from a natural plant. This lab-produced ingredient enhances flavor and drive sales. Many manufactures can use this as an anything goes option to drive the bottom line of their business. Meaning, it operates as a smokescreen to hide other addictive, harmful ingredients.
It’s safe to say this so-called ‘healthy snack’ of mine has long since hit the curb.
What I Eat Instead for Snacks
You can find ultra-processed foods at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time. When you decide to make changes, it can feel very overwhelming. Do not let the overwhelm cause you to become stuck. Start small and commit to making ONE change to one snack. Doing so increases the likelihood of success. You will build momentum changing other meals throughout the days and weeks to come. Here are some swap ideas for healthy, fiber-filled, anti-inflammatory snacks:
mixed raw nuts
an apple with almond butter
dairy-free yogurt with homemade granola
sliced veggies with hummus
1/2 avocado with cucumber slices
As you begin to swap ultra-processed foods for fiber-filled foods, your gut comes back to life. Why? Fiber-filled foods feed your good bacteria. In turn they send out inflammation-reducing compounds and everyone gets happy!
Bottom line: Decide if you want to add fuel to your flames or start taming them so you can get your life back. Check labels and read the ingredient lists on the backs of all ultra processed foods. When we know better, we do better.
Sometimes, things are too good to be true, especially when it comes to food.
Listen to your gut and body – it’s giving you signs as it’s trying to get your attention.
Ultra processed foods are where manufacturers add flavors, additives, chemical preservatives, sugars, oils, fats and salt.
Marketers are in the business of selling products, not providing healthy foods
Become your own advocate and health investigator, read labels and ingredient lists.
Pick one meal or snack to start with as you make changes to your processed foods
Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Any purchases made through these links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you), but all opinions are my own.
….and I’m ALL IN for the spirit of Christmas! I LOVE searching for the perfect gift, wrapping it in beautiful paper, adding the gorgeous ribbon or bows and tying it off with a beautiful name tag. Then comes the fun of watching loved one’s reactions as they open their gift or hear the joy in their voice when we talk that day – it just LIGHTS ME UP!!
As a Health Coach, wife, mom, daughter, sister, Aunt and friend, I often get asked about product recommendations – which I’m honored and love to share! If I can share an ounce of what I’ve learned over the years and help someone make a positive change, then count me in!
Maybe you’re reading this going through your own health journey and need recommendations on things to add to your wish list. Maybe you have someone you know and love who’s trying to make change in their life and you want to give them the perfect gift that shows you care about their journey. Whether you’re a wellness warrior or love someone who is, this list is for you!
Many people with chronic illness find as they embark on their health journey that the products they’ve been using years may potentially be contributing to their health issues. There are hundreds of chemicals used to create products and packaging that have known or questionable impacts on health and yet they’re still widely used. Its up to each of us to find healthier options. Luckily in recent years, more and more companies are hearing the call for cleaner products, leaving us with a vast selection of products to choose from today! See individual links for the favorites I use and trust down in the list below.
While I can’t personally wrap each gift for you (though if you were local I’d do it in a heartbeat!!), I hope this gift list is a helpful resource for you as you this holiday season.
Now, let the jingle bells ring and the twinkling lights sparkle!
For the Beauty Lover
Counter + Overnight Resurfacing Peel – $63 – Give the gift of aging backwards with this safer peel. Catch the Black Friday Sale, 15% off most items (excludes regimens, collections, Flawless in Five and Get the Look sets) going on now through the 29th.
Counter + All Bright C Serum – $79 – one of the most-loved Beautycounter products and for good reason: glowing and even skin tone with a reduction of age-spots! Catch the Black Friday Sale, 15% off most items (excludes regimens, collections, Flawless in Five and Get the Look sets) going on now through the 29th.
Velvet Eyeshadow Palette – Classic – $50 – 9 beautiful nude and neutral eyeshadows – the perfect gift for any skin tone! Catch the Black Friday Sale, 15% off most items (excludes regimens, collections, Flawless in Five and Get the Look sets) going on now through the 29th.
Rosewood Lip Sheer Genius Conditioning Lipstick – $32 – like a lip balm but better! Rosewood is one of my favorite time go-to’s! A warm neutral shade that’s perfect for most skin tones. Catch the Black Friday Sale, 15% off most items (excludes regimens, collections, Flawless in Five and Get the Look sets) going on now through the 29th.
Dazzle Dry – this at-home manicure and pedicure system is the real deal! A safer nail system where each application dries completely within 5 minutes plus it lasts up to 2 weeks!
Dry Shampoo – This dry shampoo is a rock star when it comes to extending your hair wash days! With Light and Dark Lock options, you’ll be set no matter what hair color you have! Use code DLWELLNESS for 10% off your first purchase!
Charcoal Deodorant – Giving deodorant for a Christmas gift? YES, ma’am! Making the swap to safer deodorant can be a game changer for hormones, making anyone on a health journey so much happier!! This is a superstar in odor management without all the harsh chemicals that can disrupt your hormones. Use code DLWELLNESS for 10% off your first purchase!
For the Healthy Foodie
Instant Pot – $79 – A kitchen miracle! From sauteing veggies, cooking meats, soups, stews and beans, to making yogurt, this kitchen workhorse does it all!
Vitamix – $350- From blending smoothies, making soups and pesto to shredding veggies, you’ll wonder how you ever got through a week without having one of these dream machines!
NutriBullet Pro – $86 – An equally impressive workhorse in the kitchen. Perfect for smoothies whether at home or traveling (I have been know to travel with mine because when you’re working to lower inflammation, you’ll do what lever it takes!)
Juicer – $149 – Juicing is an important part of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle, with this juicer you can skip the juice shop and make you’re own daily green juice at home!
Glass storage containers – $28 – swapping all your plastic for glass storage containers can help reduce the inflammatory agents in your environment. This set is perfect for various leftover needs!
Lifefactory Glass Bottles – $23 – Know someone who prefers glass over any other drinking vessel? You’ll love how durable this 22 oz bottle is (I’ve tested the drop-ability factor a couple of times and still own the bottles!)
For the Exercise Enthusiast
Jade Yoga Mat – $79 – This grippy, quick-drying mat helps any yogi stay put throughout their flow.
Ultimate Stash Pocket 7/8 Tight – $89 – Movement is KEY in an anti-inflammatory lifestyle and these tights provide amazing support through your toughest workouts + provide a place for storing your phone!
Swell Stainless Steel Water Bottles – $35 – Ditch the need to grab a plastic bottle of water! These 17oz stainless steel bottles are GORGEOUS and perfect for those on the go, no matter if you’re traveling or running errands. They’ll keep the water cold and you’ll keep unwanted chemicals out of your water (many plastic products release estrogenic chemicals adding unwanted inflammation to your body!)
For the Self-Care and Zen Seeker
Essential Oils – $165 – From aromatherapy that aids in stress relief to topical applications that help reduce joint pain, muscle aches, headaches and so much more, essential oils can be a beneficial part of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. This starter kit is the perfect way to help someone embark in the world of essential oils. It comes with a gorgeous diffuser and 12 of the most-loved essential oils (Peppermint, Lemon, Lavender, Valour, Panaway, Peace & Calming, Frankincense, Digize, Raven, Citrus Fresh, Thieves and Stress Away). Valued at over $300, as a Wholesale Member, you save nearly 50% for a cost of $165. Contact me here to place your order.
Dry Brushing – $16 – With benefits such as exfoliation, improved circulation and lymphatic drainage, not to mention improving the appearance of skin, a dry brush gift is the perfect gift for someone looking to up their self-care game! Use code DLWELLNESS for 10% off your first purchase!
Lemongrass Body Oil – $42 – the perfect accompaniment to the dry brush. With anti-inflammatory properties, this oil nourishes and hydrates the skin + smells amazing! Use code DLWELLNESS for 10% off your first purchase!
Peppermint Shave Bar – $4.95 – The perfect stocking stuff! Time to kick aerosol cans to the curb and give the gift of this luxurious shave minus the harsh chemicals found in mainstream shaving creams.
Jellies – Shimmers – $39 – for a 5-pack ($7.80 per jelly!) – Buy one and break it up for multiple stockings!! Catch the Black Friday Sale, 15% off most items (excludes regimens, collections, Flawless in Five and Get the Look sets) going on now through the 29th.
Luminous Lid Cream Shadows – $ 39 – for a 4-pack ($9.75 for each shadow!) – Another gift perfect for splitting up and gifting many! Catch the Black Friday Sale, 15% off most items (excludes regimens, collections, Flawless in Five and Get the Look sets) going on now through the 29th.
Good Scents Hand Cream Trio – $34 – for a 3-pack. Winter hands be gone no matter if you’re on-the-go or at home! These luscious creams are perfect to slip in your purse or keep on your nightstand. At $11.33 each you can split and gift to a few of your BFFs! Catch the Black Friday Sale, 15% off most items (excludes regimens, collections, Flawless in Five and Get the Look sets) going on now through the 29th.
Lip Balm – $4 – A balm that soothes your lips and smells amazing (all while being free of harsh chemicals found in most mainstream lines!) is the perfect addition to any stocking! So many yummy scents to choose from (Peppermint is my favorite!!) Use code DLWELLNESS for 10% off your first purchase!
The health of your gut may be contributing to the symptoms you’re experiencing on a regular basis. More and more, gut health is making headlines. And for good reason.
Our gut microbiota is a workhorse for our body. Not only is it involved with our digestive function, research is showing how intertwined it is with the immune system, cognition, hormonal balance and gene expression. Some liken it to being a command center for human health.
What is the Gut Microbiota?
The gut microbiota is defined as an abundant, diverse community of microorganisms living within your gut walls. We have 39 trillion microorganisms in our colon. Within this colony, there are bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and archaea. Most of the species are bacteria. These single-celled microorganisms work together to create a vibrant community of diverse microbes who all are able to ‘get along”.
What You Eat Matters
The food you eat matters. Your microbes eat what you eat. Not only do they help break down your food so you can absorb vital nutrients, they also create compounds that impact your health. Their metabolism of the food you eat will either produce health promoting compounds that reduce inflammation, bringing balance to your body OR compounds that inflame your body.
The question is, which bacteria are you feeding? The health of your gut is in your hands. Will you feed the good guys or the bad guys? Feed the good guys the right things and you maintain a happy camper colony life where a diverse microbial community lives in harmony. Feed the bad guys and the diversity starts to change and problems begin to brew.
When Problems Creep In
Too often these problems creep in and stick around long enough that we begin to normalize them. We accept joint aches and pains, fatigue, digestive issues (bloating, constipation, diarrhea), acne, eczema, psoriasis, poor sleep, brain fog, memory issues, etc. as part of our life. Friend, these symptoms are not normal. You should not settle.
I say that with complete empathy. No judgement here…I totally get it!! (been there, done that!).
If you’re experiencing these types of symptoms, your gut may be out of balance, leaving your body INFLAMED. These are signs it’s sending, trying to get your attention. Settling, pushing them aside or accepting them as part of life will not bode well long-term.
Left unchecked, you may find yourself on the path to chronic illness. However, by doing the work now, you have a chance to turn things around.
If you’re one of the approximately 133 million people who’ve been diagnosed with chronic illness, DO NOT lose hope. You can still work to bring balance to your gut, inflammation levels and body. It will take some investigative work, determination and time, but it’s possible. Some find they’re able to reverse their condition. Others find a balance where they have better control of their condition.
Bottom line: it’s imperative to listen to your body. Become curious about what’s causing the symptoms. Take action.
Our gut microbiota is intertwined in major players in our body: digestive function, hormonal balance, immune system, gene expression and cognition
There’s 39 trillion microorganisms that we’re supporting in our gut alone
Our microbes eat what we eat
Feed the good guys and begin to enjoy peace and harmony in your gut and body
Feed the bad guys: diversity changes and problems brew
Listen to your body. Become curious and take action
Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
I’m super excited to share this new series and collaboration with my friend and fellow health coach, Gabriela. We’re thrilled to have kicked off our first series all about BREAKFAST! For the next 4 weeks, we’ll be coming to you on Instagram LIVE on Saturdays at 12 PM (CT) to share tips, resources and recipes to help you get back into the kitchen! You can find us on Instagram @dawnlaflinhealth and @gabriela_wellnessbloom. Give us a follow so you don’t miss an episode! We’ll be sharing ingredients to our next series a few days beforehand so you can cook along with us. To truly lead a healthy, anti-inflammatory lifestyle, carving out time in the kitchen is a must. BUT that doesn’t mean it has to be boring or a chore!
Cooking can be so much fun! Take time to experiment. Don’t be put off or confined to the exact ingredients listed in a recipe. Missing some of the required ingredients? Are there alternatives that would work just as well? Would it greatly be missed if you omit the ingredient altogether? If it’s someone else’s recipe, check the comments. Many times people will share where they substituted an item. If it’s a recipe from my site directly, feel free to contact me. Sometimes the only way to know for sure is to experiment. Think outside the box; get creative.
The more you cook and give different recipes a try, the more confident you’ll become in the kitchen. Not only that, but you’ll start to truly discover what foods, flavors, textures and tastes you really enjoy.
Protein Packed, Sugar-Free Granola
You guys! Gabriela introduced this granola to us on the episode today and let me tell you…the aroma filled my kitchen even before I put it into the oven. It smells heavenly! But aside from that, it’s LOADED with protein, healthy fats, spices (that are packed with antioxidants…hello anti-inflammatory fightin’ goodness!!) and flavor.
PREP TIME: 15 Minutes
COOKING TIME: 25 Minutes
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut flakes
1 1/2 cup raw pecans, chopped
1 1/2 cup slivered almonds or raw almonds, chopped
1 cup raw walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds (or a mix of both)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the vanilla and coconut oil. Once combined, add the vanilla and coconut oil; stir well to combine.
Spread mixture evenly onto a baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.
Stir, then bake another 8-12 minutes until nice and golden, adding in any dried fruit right at the end of baking time.
Store in an airtight container for up to a couple of weeks.
24 servings (1/4 cup/serving)
AUTHOR: Adapted from Minimalist Baker. Original recipe from Veganchickpea.com
Now let’s talk non-dairy milk. With so many people not able to tolerate dairy or choosing to move away from it for other reasons, knowing how to make a super simple batch of nut milks is a must. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll also be saving your body from the preservatives, chemicals and added sugar that many of the nut milks include. Today I share a super simple way to make almond and cashew milk.
What I love about making my own at home is there’s no more almond milk going to waste in the refrigerator (because we couldn’t use it fast enough). AND I’m able to customize it to my liking as far as flavors and sugar content.
Friends, making almond milk can be as simple as adding pure almond butter to water. Add your choice of flavor enhancers and natural sweetener and call. it. done! Yep, it’s that easy! Don’t have almond butter on hand, no worries, I got you! I’m also including how to make it with fresh almonds. This recipes makes 12 oz. of almond milk, adapt as necessary for your family.
1 tablespoon almond butter (or 14 raw almonds)
1 1/2 cups water
1/4-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Dates, pitted (or other natural sugar such as raw honey or pure maple syrup)
Add all ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend. Use immediately or pour into glass storage jars. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Enjoy with overnight oats, chia pudding or any of your favorite non-dairy ways!
Cinnamon Date Cashew Milk
The name alone makes me want a glass! This milk is another home-run as far as ease in making. It does take a little prep ahead of time, but comes together in minutes. Get creative and make this your own. Add flavors and natural sugar as you see fit for your family.
1/2 cup of cashews (pre-soaked and rinsed)
2 cups of water, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Dates, pitted (or other favorite natural sugar such as raw honey or pure maple syrup)
Soak cashews for 4 hours. Rinse and drain. Add cashews and 1 cup of water to a high-speed blender and blend until cashews are fully broken down. Add remaining water, vanilla and dates (or natural sugar of your choice). Blend again and enjoy! Store any remaining milk in glass storage jars. Seal tightly and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
When it comes to ingredients and the pursuit of an anti-inflammatory diet, eating whole, real food will serve your body every time. By making these items from scratch, you’re avoiding the added chemicals, preservatives and excess sugar that comes with most store bought granolas and nut milks. Give it a whirl! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to whip up a batch of nut milk to use for the next couple of days. And that granola we made today…it’ll easily last you a couple of weeks! We’ll work the 15 minutes it takes to throw it together!
Be sure to catch us LIVE next week as we continue to share ways to think outside the box when it comes to breakfast! We’ll see you LIVE on Instagram @dawnlaflinhealth at 12 PM (CT)
Living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle means getting back to the kitchen. Take control of the ingredients in your food so that you can feel your best
Skip the preservatives, chemicals and added-sugar of most store-bought granola and nut-milks
Enjoy a batch of high protein, sugar-free granola that helps add healthy fats, protein, texture and flavor to your dishes and snacks.
Making almond and cashew milk can’t be any easier than this
Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
Make an appointment for a free discovery call with me (your anti-inflammatory lifestyle coach) to chat about your safer beauty swaps. Click HERE to schedule
About Gabriela and Dawn:
We’re PASSIONATE about helping people feel more confident in the kitchen! We know first-hand how challenging it can be to start this journey with food. Through our series, we’re hoping to empower others to try new foods, learn what ingredients to avoid (and why) all-the-while becoming more confident cooks when it comes to leading an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
The key to a boosting your immune system is living a lifestyle of good-for-you behaviors. When you take care of yourself, your immune system will take care of you.
As a first line of defense for your body to fight off infection and illnesses, your immune system requires some TLC. It’s a complex system of cells, tissues and organs including your digestive system, skin, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and the thin membrane tissues inside the nose, throat and genitals. Basically it plays a prominent role in your entire body.
Taking action today, will help ensure your tomorrows are healthy and happy. Wondering where to start? Here are 6 ways you can boost your immune system.
Eat More Whole Plant-Based Foods
When it comes to supporting your immune system, plant based foods will always serve you well. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber…all the things that keep your body healthy, happy and operating at an optimal level.
The antioxidants found in plant-based foods will go to work gathering up the excess free radicals floating throughout your body. Free radicals are a very normal part of our body’s make-up. And although we naturally have antioxidants in our body to balance out free radicals, their availability decreases as we age. If left unchecked, these free radicals can wreck havoc on our systems, building up to the point of chronic inflammation which leads to numerous health conditions ranging from autoimmune diseases, heart disease, alzheimer’s to certain cancers. That makes it even more imperative that we increase the amount of antioxidants we take in through our food.
In addition, plant-based foods will add a great deal of fiber to your diet. This makes the members of your gut flora (your microbiome) do the happy dance. Fiber feeds the healthy bacteria found in your gut, meaning they thrive, keeping the unhealthy bacteria to a low roar. When your gut is out of balance, your unhealthy gut bacteria are thriving…leaving you with the feeling of bloating, gassiness, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Not so fun!
Focusing on eating more plant based foods supports your gut which supports your immune system, lowering inflammation and improving your overall health.
Cut Back on Sugar and Processed Foods
Sugar. Ahhh…we all love the short-lived sweet sensation of a treat, but the long term effects of having too much sugar in our diet significantly increases not only your weight, but also the chance to develop Type 2 diabetes or heart disease. All three of these conditions weaken the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to colds, flu and infections.
Did you know there are over 56 different names for the types of “sugar” you’ll find in processed foods? Looking at the ingredient list for just SUGAR may leave you with a false sense of security. Stick to whole, real, natural sugars, (i.e. maple syrup, honey, date paste, etc.) if you find you find yourself in need of a sugar source. Have an urge for something sweet? Reach for some fresh fruit and add a couple of nuts in as well. And above all, try to limit your intake to 5% of your daily calories (i.e. 2 tablespoons or 25 grams in a 2,000 calorie diet),
Water has a starring role in many of your body’s functions, especially the immune system. Keeping your cells hydrated with water allows them to operate at an optimal level.
Water helps carry oxygen to your body’s cells, remove toxins from the body, aids in digestion and helps the body produce lymph fluid which is a critical component in the lymphatic system working properly. It also helps keep your eyes, mouth and skin properly hydrated, which is critical because these are points of entry for fighting off invaders.
Be sure you’re drinking adequate water each day.
Make Movement Part of Your Everyday
Being on stay-at-home orders does not mean we shouldn’t be moving our bodies on a daily basis. Engaging in regular exercise is an important part of supporting a healthy immune system. As little as 20 minutes of daily moderate exercise has been shown to boost the effectiveness of your immune system.
Not only will it improve immune function, it will also decrease inflammation, reduce stress, brighten your mood, keep your muscles strong and your joints fluid. It’s safe to say, regular exercise can have a profound affect on your health!
When you exercise, your sympathetic nervous system gets activated. This triggers a rise in your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, all of which boosts your body’s circulation. This enhanced circulation enables immune cells to travel more easily through your body, doing what they do best, enhancing the immune function.
Catch Plenty of Zzzz’s
Sleep is all too often over-rated. Once upon-a-time, I was guilty of believing that myself. However, I’ve come to learn nothing can be farther than the truth. When you sleep, your body kicks into over-drive. That is, it goes into maintenance and repair mode.
Research shows that sleep improves and strengthens immune cells, in particular, the T cells. These T cells are critical for fighting against intracellular pathogens. When your body lacks sleep, the effectiveness of your immune cells decreases and other hormones (such as stress hormones) remain high, potentially further inhibiting the function of T cells.
At a minimum, adults need at least 7 hours of sleep for optimal health. That is a baseline number. Some people find they need much more, especially if they are battling chronic inflammation. It’s important to learn what your body needs and take steps to get there if it struggles to stay asleep through the night.
Did you know that 60%-80% of doctor’s office visits are due to chronic, unmanaged stress? Symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, heartburn, stomaches, anxiety, depression, etc. are just some of what sends people to the doctor’s office.
While stress is a natural part of our everyday lives (and our body was created to handle it in a fight or flight situation), stress that is ongoing can wreck havoc on our health. When your body is stressed long-term, it depresses the immune system’s ability to function properly, leaving you more vulnerable to colds, flu and infection.
High levels of stress can also lead to chronic inflammation. Inflammation left unchecked not only causes you to age faster, it also increases your risks of autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, to name a few.
Some ways to combat stress include: meditation, exercise, yoga, talking with a trusted confidant, deep breathing and journaling. Keep in mind what works for one, might not work for another. It’s important to find what works best for your stress levels and do that.
Supporting your immune system looks like living a lifestyle full of good-for-you behaviors. Make each of the above a priority and you’ll start to notice how good you can feel in life. Additionally, you can feel good knowing you’ve increased your odds for fighting off or at least decreasing the severity of any colds, flus and infections that might come your way.
Focus on plant-based foods for optimal intake of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber
Reduce your sugar intake
Stay properly hydrated
Move on a regular basis for at least 20 minutes per session
Get adequate sleep each night
Manage your stress levels
Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
Ahh…there was nothing quite like the taste of a PB&J after a long day of swimming or chomping into the yumminess during my school lunch breaks…I have fond memories enjoying peanut butter growing up. Back in those days, there were fewer brands to choose from. However, today there so many!
On a recent trip to the grocery store, I paused as I came to the peanut butter section. It both amazed and overwhelmed me looking at all the options. How do you know which brand is providing the best quality? Some brands claim to be made with ‘Real Roasted Peanut taste’ or ‘Natural’ or made with ‘No additives, Sweeteners or Hydrogenated Oils’. What does all that really mean? Is it as simple as trusting the claims shown on the front packaging? Uh…unfortunately, no.
My goal as a health coach is to guide you in your anti-inflammatory lifestyle, providing clarity amidst the confusion. On the surface, this post appears to be about peanut butter. In reality, its largely about the conversation of reading labels and recognizing pro-inflammatory ingredients that aren’t serving your body well. That said, we start somewhere and today we’re starting with peanut butter! I put together a little comparison of two well-known brands (one of which claims to be ‘Natural’) and a ‘cleaner’ store brand. In keeping the playing field even, I made sure to stay within the same price-point, showing that you don’t have to spend a lot to make healthy changes to your diet. Prices range from $2.22 – $2.98.
Curious to know which peanut butter would I ultimately grab if looking for the least inflammatory option, for under $3.00? Read on to learn my thoughts on the ingredients and marketing strategies! And don’t forget to grab the FREE Inflammatory Ingredients Guide down at the bottom of the post! It’s the perfect quick reference shopping guide as you begin to kick inflammatory ingredients to the curb.
Before we dive into the comparison, let’s consider what causes us to typically reach for one brand over another. Bottom line, it’s a strong marketing strategy. Marketing teams work hard to make their brand stand out, to be the most visually appealing, make the biggest claims for health, etc. Food manufacturers, on the other hand, are in the business of selling products. Their concern isn’t necessarily about using the healthiest ingredients, it’s more about getting the biggest bang for their buck. They’ll hire marketers and graphic designers to highlight whatever increases their product sales the most. So more often than not, you’re drawn to whichever brand did their homework the best. It might look good and say the right things on the front of it’s packaging, but is it really made with quality ingredients? I know how overwhelming it can be to stand in front of shelves lined with the same type of product,
but, the one and only way you’re truly going to get the best quality product is by reading the ingredients list!
Now on to my peanut butter spread comparison!
Jif Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
Right off the bat, FOUR ingredients jump out to me: corn syrup solids, sugar, hydrogenated vegetable oils and mono and diglycerides (a.k.a. fillers). So let’s break these down.
Corn syrup solids, a.k.a. dried corn syrup, a.k.a. SUGAR: there’s no two ways about it, sugar is sugar. It doesn’t matter what fancy name you give it, they all lead to the same damaging effect in your body. Studies show too much sugar over time can lead to increased inflammatory markers. When it’s listed as the second ingredient for a food product, unfortunately, you’re getting a lot of it per serving.
Sugar: wait, we just talked about sugar above and here it is again listed as the third ingredient. Eating an excess of sugars in beverages and foods can have a negative impact on your overall health. It can drive up inflammation, lead to weight gain, blood sugar fluctuations, increase the risk of heart disease among many other things.
When you have chronic inflammation, it will only add fuel to the fire that’s already burning.
Fully hydrogenated vegetable oils: Any time you see this ingredient on the list, you should pause and reconsider the purchase. Although it’s considered to be a “better alternative” to partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHOs…which are basically trans fat and as of June of 2018 are no longer allowed in our food), they may prove to be just as unhealthy. There is another oil modification process that’s being used called interesterification. It’s a process that provides the same functional properties manufacturers are looking for regarding texture, spreadability, extended shelf-life, etc. But the problem is, long-term health ramifications are not well known. Early studies are showing that they may be as unhealthy as trans fats.
Bottom line, if you can find a peanut butter free from any type of hydrogenated vegetable oil, I’d go for that.
Mono and Diglycerides: These ingredients are additives that act as emulsifiers. They help blend the water and oil together, improving the texture and stability of the product, along with extending shelf-life. Here’s the deal, mono and diglycerides contain small amounts of trans fat. Wait, what?!?!? Didn’t I just say trans-fats are banned from our products? While that’s true, there’s this one little loop-hole that manufacturers can skate through. As long as the trans-fats are less than .5 grams per serving, manufacturers are in the clear and don’t have to note it on the label. The only way you’ll know which products are in alignment with your health goals is to read the ingredients.
Central Market Peanut Butter
Ahhh…looking at this ingredient list just makes me smile. 🙂 Peanut Butter with one simple ingredient….dry roasted peanuts. How good is that?? A brand with simple ingredients and a label that delivers on the claims it makes! No added sugar, no added preservatives, no added fillers…just wholesome peanut butter. Open the jar, give it a stir and enjoy without worrying if it will drive up your inflammation markers – unless you’re allergic to peanuts, then just focus on the label reading strategies here! ;).
Skippy Natural Peanut Butter
First, what I like about this list: it’s small AND I can pronounce all the ingredients!! The fewer ingredients in a product the better chance you’re getting closer to a real food item. That said, there are three ingredients that cause me to choose another option. Let’s dig into why.
Sugar: for the same reasons listed in the Jif peanut butter comparison, sugar is a pass for me here. It’s an added element you just don’t need and being the second ingredient, your per serving dose is quite high. Do we really need sugar with our peanuts??? Sugar is present in almost every processed food we eat. Make cuts where you can and you’ll start to see a huge improvement in how your body is feeling and living day-to-day!
Palm Oil: this oil is showing up more and more as a ‘better alternative oil’ in manufacturing. However, its controversial and the verdict is still out on whether it’s truly healthy or not. Its added to peanut butters as a way to keep the oil from separating and settling at the top. Hmmm…so if I just plan to stir my peanut butter before loading up the knife I could have it without the added oil?? Something to consider.
Salt: Here I’m being a little picky. While it isn’t a huge amount of salt, there are other brands that offer less. Salt is another ingredient added in abundance to a lot of processed foods. Without even knowing it you can be over-consuming it. Excessive salt in your diet can lead to issues with your heart health. You have more control when you’re salting your own food. What if you were to buy a low sodium option and add a sprinkle if you’re truly missing it? Something else to consider.
Which Peanut Butter Would I Choose as Part of My Anti-Inflammatory Diet?
So there you have it – a comparison of two brands you’ll find in most stores along with a generic store brand. Can you guess which one I’d go for? If you answered, HEB Central Market store brand, you’re correct! It’s a simple, clean and only one ingredient product and under $3.00. It makes this health coach smile!
Learning to look for pro-inflammatory ingredients gets easier the more you do it. If you found this article to be helpful and you’re to up your label-reading game, download my Inflammatory Ingredients Guide. It’ll help you navigate the grocery store as you work towards decreasing the inflammatory ingredients in your pantry.
Savoring the last days of summer this weekend? Looking for that perfect dish to bring along with you to BBQ so your body stays happy and you stay on track with your health goals? I’ve got you covered with these super yummy, nutrient dense recipes!
These veggie skewers scream of summer with their mix of summer squash, zucchini, red peppers, mushroom and red onions. They’re the perfect way to say adios to summer, while also helping you manage your inflammation.
Working to manage chronic inflammation and then staying on track with an anti-inflammatory diet can be challenging when it comes to a gathering like a BBQ or picnic. By planning ahead and bringing food you know you can eat worry-free, you’re not only guaranteeing a pain-free night (after the fun), but who knows, you might even inspire someone else to try these gorgeous dishes. So many people only think they don’t like veggies, but for many, when they give them a try and taste how rich and flavorful they can be, a whole new world opens up!
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you know I’m allll about REAL, WHOLE FOOD for managing a healthy lifestyle, no matter what your health circumstances are. And the more colorful you can make your dish, the better! Take this cool and refreshing cantaloupe and cucumber salad. The lively colors will call your name from any table or counter. Though it looks simple, it has layers of flavor, is nutrient dense, filling and DELICIOUS! This is a crowd pleaser…be sure to double the batch if you’re taking it to a gathering!
This bright, vibrant-colored chimichurri sauce gets me every time. It’s true love. Not only is it my favorite color, its made with ingredients that add another layer of inflammation fighting properties to any meal and it’s LOADED with flavor. I mean, the taste will literally blow you away. It adds such a depth of flavor to cooked veggies or salads and is sure to become a staple in your weekly meal rotation.
Bringing colorful produce together not only makes a dish look ah-mazing, it also vastly improves the nutrient content, raising the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc., all the things that help drive down and move excess inflammation out. You give your body the gift of being fueled by food that satiates, nourishes and tastes incredible. In return, your body takes care of YOU! You won’t find yourself at the end of the day, or the day after that, regretting your choices at the BBQ! You just keep rolling on with your weekend, savoring the end of summer. Seems like a no-brainer to me!!
This meal is the real deal. It checks all the boxes for fiber, good carbs, healthy fats, and protein. With all the colors, you know you’re getting loads of phytonutrients that equate to inflammation fighting goodness for your body!! A definite win for those on an anti-inflammatory diet!
While all this is good and well, you might be wondering, but what about DESSERT???” Don’t worry, I haven’t left that out!
I’ve always loved chocolate, but to be honest, it was Easter 2016 when I had a huge ah-ha moment in my health journey. I had already started making some minor changes, but hadn’t really considered the impact of the occasional processed sugary treat. After eating my beloved Reese’s Peanut Butter mini cup (the Easter Bunny was kind and left me quite a few…so there may have been more than one consumed that day!), I quickly noticed my body tailspin into a pain cycle. It was then that lightbulbs went off and I realized the true impact of processed sugar. It was that incident that set me on the path of healing and health that I now enjoy. BUT, that doesn’t mean a girl doesn’t want to enjoy the occasional chocolatey sweet treat!! It just means that she gets creative and comes up with ways that it can be done with whole, real food!
That’s where this Chocolate Almond Date Bite comes in. It’s so delicious, quick and super easy to make you’ll have a hard time keeping them on hand until you get to your picnic or BBQ!
So there you have it, a quick and easy meal plan for your Labor Day gathering! To make this super easy, like a grab and go file, I’ve combined all the recipes on one download. SUBSCRIBE BELOW, and your recipes will be sent to you. Check your pantry and fridge for ingredients you have vs. what you need, then head to the store (I’ve even included a grocery list for you!).
This Labor Day, enjoy time with friends and family and stay on track with your health. A holiday gathering shouldn’t set you back, it should fill your heart and nourish your belly. When you have a game plan, it’s possible to achieve both!! Have a wonderful, safe long holiday weekend!