Extinguish Inflammation!

Wow! A whole month has gone by and only two weeks remain on the REfreshME! Challenge. How has everyone been doing? Keep me posted with your updates either through email or Instagram (@poppiesandpapayas). Use #refreshme2015 to share your recipes, challenges, and successes with other challengers. Now that you are nourishing your microbiome, lets add in a little bit more! Eating to beat inflammation is another very important aspect of a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

The Role of Inflammation in Chronic Disease

Inflammation is at the core of almost every disease state. Acute inflammation, or short term, happens after injury or infection and lasts minutes to days, and quickly is resolved. Whereas long term, or otherwise known as chronic inflammation lasts up to years and can stoke the fire for many chronic illnesses whether it is arthritis, type 2 diabetes, gut disorders, cancer, heart disease, allergies, etc. Poor diet, environmental toxins, stress, or even a viral or bacterial infection can trigger chronic inflammation. If the source of inflammation is not removed or treated, it can lead to further health issues. So lets talk about some of the dietary triggers to chronic inflammation.

1. COOKING OILS: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The cooking oils you use, and the ways in which you use them, can increase inflammation within your body. HEAT, LIGHT, and AIR are the three factors that can change the quality of oil. Sadly, there is a lot of marketing used to sell consumers cooking oils that are not healthy. Therefore, choosing quality oils is the first step towards preventing inflammation.

Have you ever noticed at the grocery store that there are a wide variety of oils that all looks the same? They are sold in clear plastic bottles, are all pale yellow in color, do not have a taste, nor smell. Often, the labeling almost looks identical, and the price tag doesn't vary much. Some even have labels stating that they are heart healthy. BE AWARE! Do not buy these oils because they are heavily processed and refined and do not support health.

In order to extract the oils of nuts and seeds, they may undergo a process in which they are exposed to varying amounts of HEAT, LIGHT, and AIR.

REFINED OILS: Refining oils is a process in which oils are thoroughly filtered, reducing nutrient and antioxidant content. This process helps increase the shelf life of the oil, as well as its ability to handle heat, yet simultaneously this also reduces its flavor and aroma. Depending on the company, and their procedures, the oil can be highly affected during the refining process. Some may use chemical solvents such as hexane, high heat temperatures, and bleach to remove unpleasant flavors or odors. Although this practice may make the oils more shelf and heat stable, they are void of any antioxidant content. Therefore, you will find these oils in clear plastic bottles, all of which are pale yellow in color, with no flavor or smell.

Reliable Brands: Nutiva and Chosen Foods

EXPELLER PRESSED: These oils have been exposed to high pressures and heat to extract the oils. Depending on the company, they may choose to use additional solvents and bleach after this procedure. Spectrum is a brand that offers expeller pressed oils without the use of chemicals.

Reliable Brands: Spectrum

UNREFINED OILS: These oils are the best option. They have only been slightly filtered—like using a fine mesh sieve to strain a broth. This process does not require any additional heat and allows heat sensitive antioxidants and nutrients to remain intact. These nutrients and antioxidants give the oil its color and flavor, as well as its health benefits. For example, unrefined extra virgin olive oil has been touted for its heart healthy benefits because of its polyphenol antioxidants. Take those away, and the oil is just pure calories with no added benefit. Since unrefined oils are much more sensitive to HEAT, LIGHT, and AIR you will find these oils in dark glass bottles. Other oils like flax or hemp are even more sensitive to heat and light and therefore should be found in dark bottles in the refrigerated section.

Reliable Brands: Spectrum, California Olive Ranch, Nutiva, Barlean’s, Dr. Bronners Free Trade

Key Point: Purchase quality unrefined oils for the majority of your cooking.
Tip: Do your research on a company to decide if a refined oil is of good quality.


As I mentioned earlier, HEAT, LIGHT, and AIR are the three factors that can reduce the quality of oils and cause them to be more pro-inflammatory. Therefore cooking, and the temperatures at which you cook at, can have a great impact on your overall health. So here is the science.

Depending on the fat you use, different temperatures cause the fat molecules to break down. When they start to break down, they will produce smoke. This smoke is the sign that your oil has reached its smoke point, a point at which the oil begins to degrade and produce a toxic by-product called acrylamide. This is the point at which you want to start over! The oil is no longer healthy to cook with, as it will promote inflammation.  If you see smoke rising from your sauté pan, dump it, wipe it out, and start over.

This happens to everyone, especially if you are trying to multitask in the kitchen. I have been there. All of a sudden your pan with oil, is too hot, and smoking….and you should and MUST start over. A good trick to avoid this situation, and to eliminate waste, is to heat your pan over medium heat until hot, add the oil, and then immediately add your ingredients. Reduce the temperature as needed. This way the oil is not exposed to high heat temperatures for long. Below you will find a chart regarding smoke points of oils I recommend to be used in your kitchen:

Plant and seed oils that are very delicate with smoke points less than 300 should only be used for salad dressings, mixed in smoothies, or drizzled on meals after cooking. Plant and seed oils that are able to handle medium heat, 300-375 degrees fahrenheit are okay to be used for low to medium heat sautéing, and baking. If you want to fry on high heat, roast, or broil above 375 degrees, use ghee (my first recommendation) or a quality refined oil. Nutiva, and Chosen Foods carry quality refined coconut and avocado oils. 

Key Point: If your oil is smoking, dump, wipe, and start over!
Tip: If you want to high-heat sauté, use ghee or refined avocado, rice bran, or coconut oil from reputable companies.

2. The Omega-6 to Omega-3 Ratio:

Omega-6 and Omega-3 are essential fatty acids that must be consumed via the diet because we cannot make them ourselves. However, here in the Western world, most people consume a diet rich in omega 6 fatty acids, and poor in omega 3 fatty acids, with a typical ratio of 16/1. This means that for every 1 omega-3 fatty acid, we are consuming about 16 omega-6 fatty acids on average.

Why is this of concern?? A high ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 has been found to promote many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, osteroporosis, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Mostly this is due to their pro-inflammatory response in the body. See the body likes balance. An optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 1:1, meaning for every one omega-6 there is one omega-3 because each has a very unique role within the body. Omega-6 fatty acids produce arachadonic acid, AA, which has pro-inflammatory effects within the body. For example, AA promotes blood clotting, raises blood pressure, and leads to the production of inflammatory by-products. This is good to stop bleeding and to stimulate the immune system when needed. However, TOO MUCH omega-6 can chronically stimulate blood clotting, increase blood pressure, and constantly stimulate the immune system, and therefore contributing to chronic disease.

Omega-3, on the other hand, has opposite effects. Omega-3 fatty acids produce eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which have anti-inflammatory effects. EPA thins the blood, decreases blood pressure, and has anti-inflammatory effects, blocking the production of inflammatory by-products. DHA, has very unique properties as it produces neuroprotectins, which benefit the brain and the nervous system. Therefore DHA is important for healthy brain function and overall neuroprotection. Another good way to see it, is omega-3 fatty acids work just like your typical NSAID drug, like Ibuprofen, which blocks the formation of the inflammatory by-products. Therefore with an increased consumption in omega-3, and a decrease in omega-6, eventually they will balance out, and pain will begin to decrease, inflammation will subside, and brain function will heighten. 


The reason why the Western diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids is because soy, corn, safflower, and sunflower are in most of our foods. The issue with these grains and their oils is that they are very high in omega-6. Most processed foods, usually contains one or more of the above oils. Also, non-pasture-raised animals are often fed corn as their main diet staple. Therefore, meats become a rich source of omega-6 in our diets. Another source of omega-6 fatty acids in our diets is going out to eat. Even if you yourself do not cook with the above oils, many restaurants do because they are cheap and relatively shelf stable. Therefore, eating out can also be a big source of omega-6 fatty acids. But that is not the only issue. These oils are often highly refined and processed, just like I mentioned earlier. So now you have two things working against you.

Tips to reduce omega-6:
  • Choose organic grass-fed meats and dairy products.
  •  Stop cooking with corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed, or sunflower oils.
  • Use peanut and sesame oil sparingly.
  • Eliminate packaged foods containing corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed, or sunflower seed oils.


The only way to return to a more favorable ratio is to eat less omega-6 fatty acids, and more omega-3 fatty acids. As your diet shifts towards more omega-3 rich food sources, your cells will naturally start incorporating more omega-3 fatty acids in their membranes. This will help swing your body into a less inflammatory state. Foods rich in omega-3 are in the chart below. 

Tips to add omega-3 rich foods into your diet:

  • Sprinkle ground flaxseed on your salads, mix them in with your yogurt, or add into your smoothies.
  • Use flaxseed oil to make salad dressing or use 1/2 extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 flaxseed oil.
  • Make an open-faced sandwich with avocado and smoked sardines.
  • Pan-sear one side of sockeye salmon in an ovenproof skillet with a little ghee. Then flip and finish in 400 degree oven until flaky, yet still red in the middle. Season with herbed sea salt, fresh pepper, and lemon juice.
  • Add roasted walnuts to your salads, breakfast porridge, or ice cream. 

Key Point: Eat less omega-6 rich oils and processed foods and incorporate more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
Tip: Instead of snacking on chips, snack on a handful of walnuts.

3. Eliminate Food Allergens

If you are allergic or intolerant to a certain food item, eliminating it from your diet will reduce inflammation. As you continue to eat a trigger food, your body’s immune system will be chronically triggered to “fight” off the food item. This can lead to digestive upset, pain in your joints, mental fog, and may even make you more susceptible to seasonal allergies, the flu, or the common cold. The most common food allergens include the following: soy, milk, peanuts, wheat/gluten, eggs, fish, and shellfish. For more information on food allergies visit: www.foodallergy.org.

If you suspect a food intolerance following an Elimination Diet will help identify whether or not certain foods cause an inflammatory response in your body. For guidance on an Elimination Diet speak to your dietitian :)

Alright so here is your 4th Challenge!!!
Now that you have learned how to reduce diet-related inflammatory triggers, here is your next challenge! Take it by the horns and make it yours! Remember to print, download, and track on the REfreshME! Challenge Tracker to keep yourself accountable and motivated. Share your recipe inspirations, challenges, success with me @poppiesandpapayas and #refreshme2015.


Weekly Recipe Inspiration:

Basil Pineapple Immunity Smoothie

Adding basil, pineapple, and ground flaxseed makes this smoothie a wonderful drink to help reduce inflammation in your body. Pineapple contains powerful plant enzymes that aid in digestion and promote healing. Flaxseed on the other hand is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acid ALA, fiber, and lignans, which help balance hormones.

Serves 2

2 medjool dates, pitted, and soaked
1 cup plain full fat yogurt or kefir
4 romain heart leaves (handful spinach works fine too)
2 handfuls fresh basil
1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, cubed
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (for highest quality grind whole flaxseeds in a coffee grinder)
1 tablespoon fresh lime or lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
3 ice cubes


Cut the medjool dates in half and remove the pit. Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set Aside. Place all the other ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. Finally, remove the dates from the water, coarsely chop, and add to the blender. Blend the ingredients until smooth. Share and enjoy!

Recipe Links:

Feeling Motivated??? Here is how to prepare for next week!
  • Get out your walking shoes.
  • Make your bedroom a clean and restful place. 
  • Purchase epsom salt. 

1. McWilliams M. Foods Experimetal Perspectives, 7th Edition. Saddle River, NJ. Pearson. 2012. 
2. Gropper SS, Smith JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 6th Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth. 2013.
3. Linus Pauling Insitute. Essential Fatty Acids. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/othernuts/omega3fa/. Accessed January 31, 2015.
4. Todays Dietitian. Nutrition, Inflammation, and Disease. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/020314p44.shtml. Accessed January 31, 2015.
5. Simopoulos AP. Evolutionary aspects of diet, the omega-6/omega-3 ratio and genetic variation: nutritional implications for chronic diseases. BioMed & Pharmacotherapy. 2006;60:502-507.

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