This week in our outpatient nutrition clinic, a patient talked to me excitedly about juicing "because all those antioxidants can really help with inflammation!" I've never been a fan of fruit juice -- too many calories and carbs that quickly raise blood sugar. Plus, your brain doesn't process liquid calories and carbs the same way as it does whole foods that are chewed and digested, so you end up hungry regardless of how much energy you've consumed. But could juicing possibly help with inflammation?
Research has consistently demonstrated a link between inflammation and most chronic diseases, including diabetes, obesity, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, as well as autoimmine conditions like lupus, celiac disease, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The omega-3 fats found in certain fish (salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel) are universally accepted as having anti-inflammatory properties. But aside from fish, how should we be eating to reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms, and prevent disease progression? There are different schools of thought on this. Some physicians and nutrition professionals recommend a plant-based or vegan diet for cardiovascular disease; the American Diabetes Association favors a relatively high-carb eating plan for diabetes management. But I'm convinced that a low-carb, Paleolithic/Primal diet is optimal for decreasing inflammation.
Why is a low-carb, Paleo way of eating the way to go? Because it:
1. Lowers insulin levels: Excessive amounts of insulin produced in response to high carbohydrate intake results in systemic inflammation. With carbohydrate restriction, blood sugar rises only minimally after a meal and insulin levels decrease considerably.
2. Eliminates gluten: Gluten is regarded by many progressive health practitioners as an inflammatory substance, and there is a growing body of evidence to support this. It's especially problematic for anyone suffering from Hashimoto's disease or other autoimmune conditions. In addition, their phytates can bind to minerals (this is particularly true for whole grains), preventing their absorption.
3. Promotes high intake of grass-fed meat and naturally raised poultry and eggs: Cows that eat grass instead of grains produce meat that is much higher in omega-3 fats. Organic chickens have higher omega-3 content than those raised on factory farms. In addition, eating naturally raised animals that are not given hormones and antibiotics may also contribute to a reduction in inflammatory markers. Important side benefits are the humane treatment of livestock and a more favorable impact on the environment.
4. Focuses on whole foods and eliminates processed foods, including unhealthy oils/fats: Processed foods have been altered from their original state and can cause an inflammatory response in many people. Smart Balance, Promise, and other "healthy" margarines contain genetically modified canola and soybean oil, which are not natural (and therefore not healthy) foods. In addition, they are high in omega-6 polyunsaturated fats, which can increase inflammation if consumed in excess, which the majority of Americans do. I won't even go into partially hydrogenated oils except to say that there is absolutely nothing positive to say about them.
As far as juicing goes, I can't argue that there are antioxidants in juice. However, fruit juice's negatives (high in sugar, low in fiber, and almost certain to raise insulin levels due to being way too easy to consume in excess) outweigh its positive (contains antioxidants). If we're talking vegetable juice, there will obviously be less sugar consumed and therefore a lower insulin response, but it's still a more concentrated source of carbs than whole vegetables. And there are more antioxidants in whole fruits and vegetables than there are in the juice anyway.
So would I recommend juicing as an aid to reducing inflammation? No way! Low-carb, Paleo/Primal with plenty of whole vegetables beats it by a mile!
Dr. Art Ayers has a great blog called Cooling Inflammation, and he also believes in a low-carb approach. He was recently a guest on Jimmy Moore's Livin' La Vida Low Carb podcast, so be sure to listen to it when you get a chance. And check out the list of 11 anti-inflammatory foods from the D Life website. Looks pretty Paleo to me!
1. Forsythe CE, Phinney SD, et al. Comparison of low fat and low carbohydrate diets on circulating fatty acid composition and markers of inflammation. Lipids, Jan 2008
2. Seaman DR. The diet-induced pro-inflammatory state: A cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases?J Manip Physiol 2002
3.Interesterification, Mary G. Enig, PhD. Weston A Price Foundation website: http://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/556-interesterification
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE