By Virginia Eaton —
Let me introduce you to a food villain that’s been around for a while but may have escaped your attention. Its proper name is Advanced Glycation End-Product but we’ll use AGE for short. This substance creates inflammation in the body and can exacerbate autoimmune diseases such as lupus and arthritis as well as conditions such diabetes and cardiovascular disease. AGEs are found when you cook foods, especially meat, at high temperatures.
Grilling, panfrying, and deep-frying create high levels of AGEs where as braising, stewing or sautéing meats keep AGEs at a much lower, safer level. When high levels of AGEs are present, your body responds with an inflammatory response that increase the pain and stiffness of arthritis, increase the damage to blood vessels in diabetes and cardiovascular disease and partially explains the astronomical increase in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and conditions.
The difference between foods cooked at a dry, high temperature versus moist or lower heat is dramatic. For instance bacon fried in a pan contains 10 times more damaging AGEs than bacon cooked in the microwave and grilled chicken has 8 times the AGEs of braised chicken. When foods are breaded and fried or cooked in certain oils, you’ve increased this inflammatory reaction by as much as 20 times. While olive oil has many health benefits, it is not a good choice to use at high heat—sunflower or safflower oil would be a better choice if you are attempting to reduce inflammation in your body.
Foods that support health in general and reduce inflammatory responses are those found in a traditional Mediterranean diet, which include whole grains and limited animal protein.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds provide antioxidants and healthy fats support your immune system and there is some evidence to suggest that onions, cooked or raw, would be another good addition to your low-inflammation diet. Processed food should be eliminated for myriad reasons and alcohol, even red wine, should be enjoyed with restraint.
Exercise and movement, especially classes like yoga or gentle dance keep the body limber, support the immune system with favorable hormone responses and will generally lift your mood.
Many drugs offer some relief to the pain of inflammatory diseases but every single one has side effects that should give you pause. Next week, I will tell you about an interesting new approach to managing the pain of inflammatory diseases that has allowed some arthritis suffers to reduce or eliminate their medication all together. Until then, use the microwave to cook your bacon!
The Arthritis Foundation website has some excellent resources to guide you through changing your diet to one that decreases inflammation and hopefully the pain, stiffness and damage to your blood vessels caused by AGEs.