As we get older, joints pain become an increasingly common complaint. The pain may be short-term and fades away after a few weeks but some are long-term. The chronic painful joints affect us psychically as well as mentally. There are various causes for joint pain and your doctor may prescribe medication, psychical therapy or alternative treatment. Whatever it is, the goal is to reduce inflammation. What is the best way to do this?
While it is important to follow the doctor’s advice and prescriptions if any, a healthy diet and lifestyle may help reduce chronic inflammation and pain more manageable.
You ought to know that there are 2 types of inflammation and not both are bad which I will explain further below. Read on to find out how common cooking herbs and spices help with inflammation.
What is Inflammation
Inflammation is an essential part of your immune system’s response to injury and infection. It is your body’s way of signalling the immune system to heal and repair damaged tissue. Also, defend itself against viruses and bacteria.
Without inflammation, your wounds would not heal and infection may set in. In this case, it is called acute inflammation and is good to have.
Problems occur when inflammation prolongs. Chronic inflammation has been associated to certain diseases such as heart disease or stroke, rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disorders.
Acute inflammation occurs after you have a cut on your hand or knee or a sprained ankle. You see redness at the wounded area and swollen. You feel pain and heat. Also, you may probably experience loss of function. These happen because the blood vessels dilate, blood flow increases and white blood cells surge the injured area to stimulate healing. As the wound heals, the acute inflammation gradually subsides.
Chronic inflammation also called low-grade or low-level inflammation can be triggered by a perceived internal threat, even when there isn’t an injury to heal. When your immune system response, white blood cells surge but with no actual wound to heal, they may start attacking healthy tissues and cells. Internal organs may be at risk of being attacked too.
You need to know that low-level inflammation often does not have symptoms. However, doctors can test for C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation in the blood. High levels of CRP may indicate an infection or chronic inflammatory disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, as well as the risk of heart disease.
Besides looking for clues in the blood, a person’s diet, lifestyle habits and environmental exposures can contribute to chronic inflammation.
Now that you know exactly what inflammation is, the good and the bad, reducing inflammation to ideal levels is important to achieving optimal functioning physically and psychologically.
Walking up and down the stairs without knee pain is what I am trying to achieve. What’s yours?
Now, let’s find the best herbs and spices for inflammation.
What Herbs Help with Inflammation
Rosemary is one of the most popular and common cooking herbs. Aromatic and medicinal, it is packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
As an anti-inflammatory herb, rosemary can help improves blood circulation, alleviates muscle pain and improves your memory.
Antioxidants play an important role in neutralizing harmful particles called free radicals. These are unstable atoms that can damage cells, causing illness and ageing.
It is relatively easy including rosemary to your daily diet as it pairs perfectly well with beef.
Add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary when slow cooking beef and you will not be disappointed. Beef broth, stews and casseroles will taste delicious too. Also, you can rub into roasts, steaks and cuts of beef for barbecuing.
In addition, add rosemary to your brine. On top of the juicy and tender chicken breast the brining process brings, the flavour is amazing.
These above ideas give you a variety of ways to use this anti-inflammatory herb to maintain your health.
Sage contains some of the same anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds as rosemary.
Carnosic acid and carnosol not only give sage its unique flavour but are responsible for many of its health benefits.
Sage increases the activity of superoxide dismutase which is responsible for metabolizing and eliminating superoxide from the body. Superoxide is a free radical that is known to be associated with chronic inflammation.
Use sage to enhance dishes such as pork, lamb, poultry and sausages. Also, it is a healthy addition to tomato-based sauces, soups and stews. Or simply add onto omelettes, bruschetta and pizza.
Another easy way is to make yourself a cup of sage tea.
Simply add 1 tablespoon of dried or 2 tablespoons of fresh sage to a mug of hot water. Steep for 5 – 7 minutes. Strain and add some honey if desired. Alternatively, add a tea bag for more flavour, such as Darjeeling or English Breakfast. Chai Rooibos Tea is another good option.
The same can be made with rosemary. Use 1 tablespoon dried or a sprig of fresh rosemary.
Consider juicing with herbs or making anti-inflammatory smoothies. Find out how to make a smoothie without following a recipe.
Spices that Help Inflammation
Turmeric’s benefits are largely attributed to curcumin, a compound that helps in managing inflammatory and oxidative conditions. It also helps with metabolic syndrome, arthritis and anxiety.
Additionally, curcumin may also help in the management of exercise-induced inflammation and muscle soreness, enhancing recovery and performance of active people.
A relatively low dose of curcumin can provide health benefits for people even though they do not have diagnosed health conditions.
However, you need to understand that ingesting curcumin by itself does not lead to expected benefits due to poor absorption, rapid metabolism, and rapid elimination. In this case, piperine, a major component found in black pepper can help increase absorption.
Did you know it is curcumin that gives turmeric its vibrant yellow colour? Include turmeric in your diet by using it to marinade meat or fish, and add to your salad dressings. Remember to add black pepper as well.
Although I love turmeric in meat dishes and herb rice, I am not a fan of turmeric tea. But do not let me stop you from trying.
A simple recipe
Add 1-2 teaspoons of ground turmeric into 4 cups of boiling water. Stir the mixture and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and let cool. You may add honey, lemon or ginger to taste.
Does Turmeric Latte sound good to you? Yes? Try this
You will need
- • ¼ teaspoon of ground turmeric
- • ½ inch fresh ginger, grated
- • Pinch of cinnamon powder
- • Pinch of black pepper
- • 2 cups almond milk (or whole milk or coconut milk)
- • Honey to taste
- 1. Combine all ingredients (except honey) in a small saucepan, whisk and bring to a boil.
- 2. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- 3. Add honey or sweetener of your choice if desired and strain.
To create a frothy latte, pour the mixture into a blender and blend till frothy. A better texture, lovely creamy foam, can be achieved using a milk frother.
4. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne Pepper contains capsaicin, a compound responsible for its spiciness and the medicinal properties. A study found on NCBI, US National Library of Medicine, concluded that capsaicin has both anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.
Also, cayenne contains a range of flavonoids and carotenoids. Both are antioxidants that scavenge free radicals to protect against the cellular damage that leads to inflammation.
Get spicy by adding cayenne pepper to your meat marinades, vegetable soup, omelettes and breadcrumb mixture for frying. Your dish will be awesome!
5. Black Pepper
Black pepper is also known as "The King of Spices". Being one of the most popular and used spice, black pepper offers anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing effects.
A research article found on Arthritis Research & Therapy has shown that piperine compound in black pepper helps prevents inflammation.
I believe you are used to seasoning your meat with salt and black pepper. Besides this, consider grinding black peppercorns into olive oil and balsamic vinegar to make a dipping sauce for your bread.
Research has shown that ginger has broad anti-inflammatory actions. Furthermore, ginger has a better therapeutic effect than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Make yourself a cup of hot ginger tea. It is soothing and healing. Good for digestion too.
Thinly slice 2 inches of fresh ginger. Boil the ginger in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Add lemon or lime and honey to taste. Enjoy!
Ginger can easily be used in cooking, especially Asian food. Simply add slices of ginger (about 1 inch) to stir-fry vegetables or meat dishes.
Very often, I find mould on fresh ginger that was kept in the refrigerator. You don’t want this, do you?
I have learned. When storing your fresh ginger that has been cut or peeled, blot it dry with a paper towel before storing in a resealable plastic bag. Ensure the air is pushed out before sealing. Place it in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Do the same with the whole ginger root that has not been used. In the first place, buy a ginger root that has smooth skin with a firm texture. Avoid pieces that feel soft and wrinkled.
Cinnamon has a host of compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A study has shown that cinnamaldehyde disrupts the signalling that is responsible for the formation of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Flavonoid compound alone in cinnamon is very effective at fighting dangerous inflammation levels throughout the body.
Read more about cinnamon here. There are 2 types of cinnamon that you should know of.
Simply sprinkle cinnamon into your morning bowl of oatmeal or add to your pancake recipe. The easiest and my favourite is sprinkling into my must-have morning cup of coffee. You have to try this!
Of course, cinnamon goes perfectly well with apple pie and the aroma of the cinnamon bun is wonderful. Consider baking your own. There are many easy recipes you could find online.
Food that Causes Inflammation
While adding anti-inflammatory herbs and spices to your diet helps reduce inflammation, you will need to control or eliminate certain food that triggers it.
Processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory messengers called cytokines. When reading the ingredients label, take note on any word that ends with “ose”. Sugar goes by many names, for instance, fructose or sucrose.
Saturated fats trigger adipose (fat tissue) inflammation which worsens arthritis inflammation. Red meat, full-fat dairy products, pasta dishes, pizza and cheese are some of the food that you should reduce intake on if not eliminated.
Trans fat is known to trigger systemic inflammation. Avoid fast foods, fried products, processed snack foods, frozen breakfast products, doughnuts and most stick margarine. On ingredients label, it is mentioned as partially hydrogenated oils.
Omega 6 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid that your body needs for normal growth and development. However, excessive consumption of omega-6s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals. These fatty acids are mostly found in oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, soy, peanut and vegetable. Mayonnaise and many salad dressings contain omega 6.
Refined carbohydrates have a higher glycemic index than unprocessed ones. White rice, white flour products such as bread, roll, crackers and white potatoes in the form of mashed potatoes or French fries are refined carbohydrates. These high-glycemic index foods trigger the production of advanced glycation end products (a diverse group of compounds) that stimulate inflammation.
Mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), is a flavour-enhancing additive commonly added to fast foods, prepared soups or soup mixes, salad dressings and deli meat. Also, mostly found in prepared Asian food and soy sauce. This chemical is not naturally digested by the human body. Thus, it can signal certain people’s body into attack mode which triggers chronic inflammation.
Are you finding it difficult to eliminate processed food and sugar from your diet? I get it. In the name of convenience, you and I tend to purchase proccessed food and ready-made sauces and mix among others. Regardless being a working or stay-at-home mom, we are always on the run or on our feet. I have been both.
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Foods that you should include more into your diet
- • Vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, spinach bok choy, mustard greens
- • Legumes – beans, lentils
- • Fish – wild salmon, mackerel, tuna
- • Berries – fresh blueberries, strawberries, cherries
- • Nuts – walnuts, almond, pistachios
- • Oils – virgin olive oil (cold-pressed, unrefined)
All in All
Inflammation affects everyone differently depending on the person’s body response and we all have some level of it. While inflammation may not necessarily cause disease, it is absolutely important to keep your health in check.
Listen to your body and making adjustments to your lifestyle can reduce chronic inflammation and many age-related conditions. Eat healthily, reduce stress, exercise more, and sleep well.
Utilizing your herbs and spices that you probably already have in your kitchen can be the best way to reduce inflammation. Waste not, your amazing herbs and spices!
The wonderful thing about learning to cook with herbs and spices is that you get to experiment with different flavours. It is an enjoyable and satisfying experience creating healthy and flavourful dishes for your family.
Have you heard of Rouxbe Culinary School?
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You can do this at your own pace in your own kitchen!
Rouxbe membership courses cover a wide range of topics. Cooking efficiently is all about using the correct tools and techniques and this is what you learn at Rouxbe. Also, you will be learning how to select, prepare and cook the ingredients. This will ensure you and your family get to eat delicious and healthy meals at all times.
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Discover, learn and master your cooking! Delicious and healthy meals every day!
As your confidence in cooking grows, you will find it much easier incorporating or experimenting with herbs and spices. Using these as a way to reduce inflammation naturally leads to a healthy diet and lifestyle. This is your goal. Is it?
Read Related Articles
Besides enhancing the flavour of your home-cooked food, most herbs & spices are beneficial to health.
Here are more articles you may find useful.
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From the Corner of My Home – Spice Up Your Life with Herbs and Spices
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