What is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet?

Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables

The anti-inflammatory diet is not a fad diet but a lifestyle diet based on general principals of healthy eating.  It is a way of eating to reduce the risk and manage symptoms of illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s , heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and asthma.

Correlations have been found between inflammation and chronic disease.  Therefore the basis of this diet is to increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods whilst reducing your intake of foods that can cause inflammation.

Several key doctors and experts in nutrition such as Dr Andrew Weil, Dr Ski Chilton (The Gene Smart Diet), Barry Sears (MD of The Zone) and Marcelle Pick (author of The Core Balance Diet) advocate this way of eating.

There are several versions of the anti-inflammatory diet, which has been likened to a Mediterranean style diet, but the general gist is the same:

Increase the Intake of Anti-Inflammatory Foods:

  • Fruits and Vegetables are full of antioxidants and should be eaten in abundance.
  • Pulses and beans
  • Omega 3 fatty acids found in food such as mackerel, salmon (preferably wild), sardines, walnuts, flaxseeds and omega-3 fortified eggs.
  • Whole grains such as brown rice, bread and pasta contain high fibre and low Glycemic Index.
  • Anti-inflammatory spices such as curry, ginger, turmeric, garlic, chillis.
  • Extra virgin olive oil should be main cooking oil.
  • Organic, grass fed, free range meat -meat from free-range livestock that graze in pastures build up higher levels of omega-3s. Meat from grain-fed animals has virtually no omega-3s and plenty of saturated fat.
  • Green tea  and water  The flavonoids in green tea are potent natural anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

Limit or Avoid the following:

  • Sugar-processed foods, deserts and snacks with excess sugar.
  • Trans fats – found in fast food, fried food and items made with partially hydrogenated oil, vegetable oil and margarine. Trans fats promote inflammation, lead to obesity and insulin resistance and increase bad cholesterol.
  • Saturated fat such as high fat cheese, cream, cakes, biscuits and fatty meats.
  • Certain cooking oils such as the commonly used sunflower and corn oils promote inflammation.
  • Dairy is difficult to process by the body.  Milk is a common allergen that can trigger inflammation, stomach problems, skin rashes and even breathing difficulties.
  • Feedlot-raised meat -animals fed with grains like soy and corn contain high inflammation. These animals also gain excess fat and are injected with hormones and antibiotics. Always opt for organic, free-range meats from animals fed on natural diets.
  • Red and processed meat contain Neu5GC, a molecule that humans don’t naturally produce.  Once ingested your body develops antibodies which may trigger constant inflammatory responses. Reduce red meat consumption and replace with poultry, fish and learn cuts of red meat, once a week at most.
  • Alcohol, regularly consumed causes irritation and inflammation to numerous organs.
  • Refined grains such as white flour/bread, rice, pasta have low fibre but a high glycemic index. They are everywhere: white rice, white flour, white bread, pasta, pastries
  • Artificial food additives – Aspartame and MSG are two common food additives that can trigger inflammation responses and are best avoided!.

Dr Weil devised a food pyramid as a guide to what anti inflammatory foods to include in your diet.  This can be used as a valuable reference.  More information can be found at http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/PAG00361/anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid.html

Dr Weil's anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid
Dr Weil’s anti-inflammatory-food-pyramid

Exercise is also recommended to reduce overall inflammation.

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