Inflammation – is it friend or foe? Inflammation is essential for our survival. It’s the body’s immune response to fight infection and repair damaged tissues. It shows up in many different ways, from swelling of a sprained ankle, to the red knuckles of arthritis to red skin from sunburn. Temporary inflammation is a good thing. Prolonged inflammation is not. People with inflammatory diseases have elevated blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) and other markers of inflammation that can be detected in blood tests.
Specific types of foods have natural antidotes for inflammation. They contain antioxidants. Astaxanthin, an antioxidant called a carotenoid seems to be popping up in the news as one of the most powerful of the anti-inflammatory antioxidants. So what is astaxanthin, why has it become so popular, and what do Flamingos have to do with it?
Astaxanthin is found in red algae and is responsible for giving those familiar pink and red hews to the sea animals that dine on this algae regularly; lobster, shrimp, crab and salmon, among others. Astaxanthin is a lipid-soluble pigment that is found in yeast, salmon, trout, drill, shrimp, crustaceans and the feathers of some birds (like Flamingos). Too bad I don’t know of any recipes calling for pink feathers! Most sources suggest an intake of 4mg of astaxanthin each day. To put that in perspective, a 4-ounce portion of wild salmon contains 1.5 to 50 mg of astaxanthin, depending on what they have been feeding on. Sockeye Salmon are the highest.
The astaxanthin/inflammation connection is just one more reason to add a little swim to your diet by having salmon, lobster or shrimp at least once a week, along with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, Astaxanthin can also be taken in supplemental form, but we always recommend whole foods first, Antioxidants are absorbed more readily in our bodies in natural form (such as in food) than they are in supplemental form --- what a great excuse to enjoy a sushi roll with friends, and please avoid the boiled flamingo --- it’s in the FEATHERS!