The Anti-Inflammatory Garden

No, I’m not talking about placing special seats between your raised beds to ease the strain on your achy joints.  Though that would be a nice invention, wouldn’t it?  And while they’re at it, perhaps one of our smart scientist-types could devise some miracle gadget to relieve the stress from my neck and shoulders–especially when I’m staking those gorgeous tomato plants of mine.  Jimney Cricket, my massage therapist is tired of seeing me!

Actually, I’m talking vegetables.  And illness.  More specifically, the relationship between the two.  Over the years, our friendly researchers have been hard at work studying the connection between food and body (not my silly gadgets) and have discovered some interesting correlations.  Seems a diet loaded with inflammatory foods (refined sugar, dairy, meat, refined grains, alcohol, caffeine) coincides with a diet higher in acid-forming foods (refined sugar, dairy, meat, refined grains, alcohol, caffeine).  Notice any similarities? 

Technically, it’s not acid foods that are the problem, but how certain foods affect the pH in your body, ie. do they become acid-forming once ingested.  For example, lemon is an obvious acid, yet once consumed, its effect becomes more alkaline due to your body’s digestive breakdown process. Grapefruits, limes, nectarines, pineapple…they too have an “alkalizing” effect. 

Where should your pH be?  The average is 7.4 making the human body more alkaline by nature.  Imagine if your diet consisted of mainly acid-forming foods.  It’s doesn’t take a calculus whiz (lucky for me) to realize you’re decreasing your body’s natural pH and thus, introducing unhealthy conditions.  How?  Basically, by eating acid-forming foods you’re forcing your body to “work” to neutralize the acidity level and reestablish a healthier more natural pH level; its preferred and optimum performance level.

While no major studies have proven this cause and effect relationship, some test-tube lab results have demonstrated that certain cancer cells grow faster in a more acidic solution.  It’s no coincidence that many a cancer patient has been advised to make sweeping changes to their diet–eliminating processed foods, meats and dairy in favor of fresh leafy vegetables, fruits and nuts.  Is it because their physician believes in the alkaline diet?

Or is it simply common sense food choices they’re after.  Remember, there are ninety-year-olds running around out there who partake in all the no-no foods and have no issues.  Probably because they’re running. (Or gardening!)  But it doesn’t negate the alkaline  premise.   Just because it hasn’t been proven, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

But while the debate continues, it’s up to us to decide.  We decide what goes in (food) and what goes out (activity). If you ask me, moderation is always a good starting point.  And consider the source.  Do you think the pretty pink bon-bon shaped like a heart is best, or the lovely pink beet shaped almost the same is better?   (Hmmm…wish the questions on my final exams in college were this easy.)  Seems to me, the closer my food resembles its natural state the better!

Which is why my family is taking the challenge.  And challenge is no understatement.  While my kids’ friends think I’m some kind of health nut who only eats sticks and leaves, I’m not.  I love sweets–how do you think I knew about pink bon-bons?–adore cheese, crave a juicy cheeseburger now and again and enjoy both wine and coffee.  How should you divide your time between the two? 

For our raw diet challenge, I plan to make a concerted effort to stay on the alkaline/anti-inflammatory side, though most medical authorities recommend a diet of 75-80% alkaline-forming foods.  Whew.  Maybe my organic yogurt is okay…

“Whew” is right. Eating an all raw diet will definitely be a challenge for me.  Sure I’m leaving the door open for my daily dose of dairy in the form of yogurt, but think of what I’m giving up! Focus on what I’m adding

I DO prefer to look for the positive.  Keeps my “happy-attitude-cap” in place.  For those interested in joining the fun and delving into the alkaline-weighted menu–

CAUTION:  depending on which resource you consult, opinion will vary on which foods are the powerhouse alkalizers and which are the worst acid-offenders.  The following list is only meant as a guide and NOT an absolute authority on the subject.  In fact, my personal search found several discrepancies.  Take blueberries–good or bad?  Acid or alkaline?

Do your own research, but know the reviews are mixed at best. 

Alkaline-forming

Vegetables:  spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, cabbage, garlic, avocado, shiitake mushrooms

Fruits:  raisins, lemon, watermelon, nectarine, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, blackberries

Nuts/seeds:  hazelnuts, pumpkin, flax, sunflower

Spices:  turmeric, ginger, chili pepper, cinnamon

Acid-forming

Vegetables:  corn, olives

Fruits:  cranberries, blueberries :(

Nuts:  peanuts, walnuts, cashews

On second thought, perhaps I’ll go 50-50 and split the difference.  One blueberry for me, a cranberry for you.  Trade you a peanut for a dozen sunflower seeds?