You may have heard of the “the anti-inflammatory diet” but it’s really a life style. Do you know what it is, why it’s needed, and what it can do for you?
If you ever had a cut that became infected, you’ve experienced inflammation. The affected area swells, grows red, and produces heat in an effort to heal itself. This is a good thing, a cornerstone to the body’s healing system. But when low levels of inflammation are persistent inside our bodies, we are constantly fighting instead of thriving. We feel sick and lethargic without knowing why because we can’t see the persistent battle going on inside. Chronic inflammation is linked to cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and possibly cancer.
Some foods fuel the inflammation instead providing nutrients to heal us. Instead of feeling better, the food we eat makes us feel worse. The anti-inflammatory diet is a way of making ourselves healthier from the inside out. When combined with exercise, it becomes a lifestyle that makes you feel better every day.
Designed to include foods that help and avoid those that don’t, the AI diet strives to reduce or eliminate processed foods by replacing them with fresh, whole food. The diet is similar to the traditional Mediterranean or Asian diets that serve a variety of fruits and vegetables. In fact, all cultures, including Americans, used to intuitively know what to eat. In recent decades, we lost our culinary wisdom, but we can regain it by simply selecting, preparing, and enjoying real food once again.
It’s hard to completely overhaul the way you’re used to eating. Here are some guidelines for making small, constant improvements in your diet:
- Eat a wide variety of fresh food. Minimize processed and fast food.
- Include a carbohydrate, a fat, and a protein at each meal.
- Eat the right amount of calories for your gender, age, and activity level. Although the usual recommendation is 2,000 – 3,000 calories a day, you may need fewer if you are a woman, have a small frame, or work an inactive job. You know you’re eating the right number of calories when your weight dose not fluctuate.
Each time you eat, you make a choice. Use these guidelines to help you make good choices at every meal:
- Foods made with wheat flour and sugar, especially bread, chips, and pretzels
- Carbohydrates that are less-refined and less-processed with low glycemic load
- Butter, cream, cheese, full-fat dairy products, unskinned chicken and fatty meats, and products made with coconut and palm kernel oils
- Margarine, vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, and all products made with those ingredients
- Animal protein
- Processed, low-fiber, high-sodium foods
- High fructose corn syrup
- Pasta (cook it al dente)
- Whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat which are better than whole wheat flour (it has nearly the same glycemic index as white flour)
- Omega-3 fatty acids such as wild salmon, sardines, black cod, omega-3 fortified eggs, hemp seeds and freshly ground flaxseeds, or take a fish oil supplement
- Safflower, sunflower, canola, corn, cottonseed, and mixed vegetable oils
- Extra-virgin olive oil. (Use expeller-pressed organic canola oil for a neutral tasting cooking oil.)
- Avocados, nut butters, and nuts (especially walnuts, cashews, and almonds)
- Vegetable protein, such as beans and soybeans (organic, non-GMO)
- Fruit (especially berries), beans, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, and whole grains
- Cereals that provide at least 4 – 5 grams of bran per one-ounce serving
Here are some other tips to help you make steady improvements in your diet and that help reduce inflammation:
- Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and mushrooms for natural protection against age-related cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease.
- Choose fruits and vegetables of all colors, especially berries, tomatoes, orange and yellow fruits, and dark leafy greens.
- Choose organic produce whenever possible to avoid crops that might carry pesticide residue.
- Eat cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, regularly.
- Add whole soy (tofu, tempeh, miso) to your diet. Check out all soy foods to find ones you like.
- Drink tea, such as good quality white, green or oolong, instead of coffee.
- Drink red wine (if you imbibe).
- Enjoy plain dark chocolate (70% cocoa minimum) in moderation.
- Filter drinking water if your tap water tastes of chlorine or if you suspect the water is contaminated.
By the numbers (based on 2000 calories/day):
- 40 to 50 percent from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat, and 20 to 30 percent from protein
- 160 and 200 grams of carbohydrate daily for adult women
- 240 and 300 grams of carbohydrate daily for adult men
- 600 calories (about 67 grams) can come from fat
- 80 to 120 grams of protein. Eat less protein if you have liver of kidney problems, allergies or autoimmune disease
- 40 grams of fiber a day
- 6 – 8 glasses of pure water, tea, or sparkling water a day
- HealthyAging by Andrew Weil MD
- Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid (http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/PAG00361/anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid.html)
- Oldways (http://www.oldwayspt.org/mediterranean-diet-pyramid)