Summer is our favorite time of the year for fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and lots of outdoor activities. It seems like summer should be the healthiest season of the year. The beautiful weather also means that family and friends will be gathering for outside BBQs, and this is where summer health can go very, very wrong. Here are ten tips to stay healthy and keep your inflammation low this summer.
1) Eat healthy 6 days a week. When trying to maintain a balanced lifestyle, it is important not to restrict the things you love too much. A good compromise is to eat the best you possibly can 6 days a week. This leaves 1 day of wiggle room for that special occasion, BBQ, birthday party, or other summer event. Enjoy the event. Try your best to load up on fruits and veggies at the party first, but don’t feel guilty when you enjoy some treats.
2) Steam cook your burgers and nitrate-free dogs. Summer is a great time to cook outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. However, grilling meats is one of the worst ways to cook meat. When meats becomes blackened, it induces the production of AGEs (advanced glycation end products). AGEs are incredibly detrimental to joints, as they bind to cartilage and induce cytokine release locally. This leads to joint inflammation and destruction. In addition, they are linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. The best way to enjoy your grass-fed organic burgers and nitrate-free dogs is to steam them. The importance of consuming high quality meats cannot be overestimated. Grass-fed beef has a much higher omega-3 fatty acid content than grain-fed beef, which allows this meat to act as an anti-inflammatory substance in the body. Nitrates found in conventional processed hot dogs are linked to cancer, so purchasing good quality nitrate-free dogs is also very important.
3) Fruit salads are your friend. In order to satisfy your summer sweet tooth, try incorporating fruit salads. Summer is the best time to browse at your local farmer’s market and find beautiful fresh fruit. The number 1 fruit for anti-inflammatory purposes in autoimmune disease is the berry family! Fresh blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries make an extremely healthy and satisfying dessert. The flavonoids in these berries are antioxidants and have the ability to reduce inflammatory cytokines and protect the joint cartilage. They also prevent heart disease, which is such a common complication of autoimmune disease. However, berries tend to be highly sprayed with pesticides. If you buy them at the grocery store, buy them organic. If you shop at the farmer’s market, ask the local vendors about pesticide use.
4) Pinterest Dessert Recipes. Sometimes fruits just won’t cut it. Sometimes you just need a good brownie. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you can’t have the foods you love – it just means you have to be creative. This is where Pinterest is an absolute lifesaver. Most desserts can be made at home using almond flour or coconut flour instead of regular flour, in order to maintain their gluten free status. Almond flour and coconut flour provide a nutrient dense dessert loaded with healthy fat, fiber, and protein. Using these flours will make you full faster and also offset any blood sugar spikes. Using dark cocoa powder is another great way to make desserts. Cocoa powder is unsweetened and is loaded with antioxidant polyphenols that have been shown to reduce inflammation in those with autoimmune disease. You can find so many recipes on Pinterest for Paleo versions of brownies, cookies, pies, and cakes when these cravings simply cannot be resisted. Our ArthroWell Naturopathic Pinterest page can be found at http://www.pinterest.com/drkimND/
5) Skip the buns. A carbohydrate limited diet, especially a gluten free diet, is one of the most important autoimmune treatments in order to reduce inflammation. At your summer BBQ, you can maintain your healthy habits by simply skipping the bun. When having your healthy burgers, dogs, or chicken, try not to put them on a bun. A great alternative can be a lettuce or cabbage wrap! If you simply cannot avoid the bun, try to get buns that are whole grain, gluten free, and do not contain high fructose corn syrup.
6) Summer salads. Summer is the best season for fresh veggies. Experiment this summer with all kinds of new summer salads. In addition the plain old lettuce salad, try arugula salads, cucumber/mozzarella/tomato salads, beet salads, Mediterranean salads, and more! Browse your local farmer’s market and try vegetables that you’ve never tried before.
7) Fish. Fish is a wonderful alternative to all of the meat being grilled this summer. Any kind of fish will do, but salmon and cod are the best choices for their omega 3 content. Steam it, grill it, sauté it. Any way will do. Fish is a superfood for those with autoimmune disease. On the days that you have fish, you don’t even need to take your fish oil supplements!
8) Exercise in the morning or evening. Moving daily is an important part of a healthy, anti-inflammatory regime. The summer is the best time to get outside for gentle exercise. You don’t have to jog or run a marathon, but even a 30 minute daily walk would be an amazing achievement. Take advantage of the extended daylight hours in the early morning before breakfast and late evening after dinner. You can avoid burning in the midday sun by enjoying the cool summer air in the morning or evening.
9) Hydrate. The heat of summer leads to sweating at even the slightest movements. Sometimes even walking from the house to the car makes us sweat! All of this sweating can lead to dehydration without us even realizing it! Getting 60 ounces of fluid is extremely important at this time of year. Try coconut water this time of year to replenish your electrolytes. Also, make fresh iced green tea to hydrate and also get good antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Green tea is a great treatment for autoimmune inflammation because of the EGCG polyphenols. You can also try mixing seltzer with frozen fruit (instead of ice cubes) to provide an ice cold beverage with a twist of flavor.
10) Relax. Go to the beach and relax by the waves. Go to the park and lay in the grass watching the sky. Sit in a hammock and read a book. Go for nighttime strolls with your family. Relaxing this summer is probably the most important thing you can do for your health. Enjoy your life. Enjoy your health. Do the best you can.