Chronic inflammation may be viewed as a silent epidemic that over time leads to ill health. In other words, you may feel fine but could still have high levels of inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a key factor in almost all chronic degenerative and lifestyle-caused diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, certain cancers and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Changes in diet can help combat chronic inflammation, reduce the risk of age-related diseases, and improve overall health. The anti-inflammatory eating plan may be a recipe for long-term health and a lifetime of optimal nutrition.
The concept for the anti-inflammatory diet is that eating more anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding inflammatory ones can prevent or reduce symptoms of disease, slow down the aging process and lead to weight loss. Of course, other factors such as stress, sedentary lifestyle, genetic predisposition, and smoking can all contribute to chronic, long-term inflammation, but diet also plays a role. This long-term, eat for life diet emphasizes foods that are high in antioxidants, monounsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Basics of this eating plan include:
- An abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. Aim for 3 – 4 servings of fruit each day in a wide range of colors. Choose fresh in season or frozen fruits. Include a minimum of 4 – 5 servings of vegetables in a variety of colors. Eat both raw and lightly steamed veggies and choose organics when possible. Fruits and vegetables are rich in carotenoids and flavonoids which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Include 3 – 5 servings of whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, barley, steel-cut oats, and bulgur. Whole grains digest slowly so they have a low glycemic index which is anti-inflammatory.
- Eat more beans including black beans, chickpeas, adzuki beans and lentils. Beans contain folic acid, magnesium, potassium and soluble fiber and have a low glycemic load.
- Opt for healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, sunflower, or canola oil. Sources of healthy fats also include avocados, walnuts, and seeds. Healthy fats are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols. Eat less butter, high fat cheese and fatty meats.
- Have fish and seafood 3 – 5 times per week. For omega-3’s include wild salmon, sardines, or herring. For those that don’t care for seafood, include a daily fish oil supplement that provides both EPA and DHA.
- Decrease consumption of animal protein except for fish, natural cheeses and yogurt. Eat more vegetable and soy protein, skinless chicken and grass-fed lean meats.
- Unlimited amounts of cooked Asian mushrooms. Eat mushrooms such as shitake, maitake or oyster for enhanced immune function. Make sure all mushrooms are cooked before consuming. Reduce consumption of common button mushrooms.
- Spice it up. Flavor your foods with turmeric, curry powder, ginger, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, cilantro and garlic. Many spices have powerful, natural, anti-inflammatory agents.
- Drink 2 – 4 cups per day of green tea, white tea or oolong tea. Tea contains catechins which help reduce inflammation.
- Avoid alcohol except for an optional 1 – 2 glasses of red wine daily. The dark skin and seeds of grapes contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that includes resveratrol, which offers cell membrane protection and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Supplement with a multivitamin-mineral complex that includes vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, folic acid, Vitamin D and for women only, calcium. You can also supplement with CoQ1O and with ginger and turmeric if they are not already in your diet.
- A little bit of sweets including unsweetened dried fruit, dark chocolate or fruit sorbet is okay a few times per week.
- Drink lots of water throughout the day.
- Avoid processed and fast foods, foods that contain high fructose corn syrup, foods made with wheat flour and sugar, margarine, vegetable shortening, and hydrogenated oils.
Although this is not a weight loss diet, many people who follow this plan do lose weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is another key to reducing inflammation. Be patient, an anti-inflammatory diet takes longer to work than anti-inflammatory medicine. Remember this way of eating is for long-term health, not quick weight loss.Nutrivitamin Enzyme Complex w/o Iron by Integrative Therapeutics – This exclusive multivitamin and mineral supplement contains highly concentrated, synergistic plant enzymes for optimal nutritional maintenance. With vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and fruit sourced antioxidants in a readily absorbed formula. Super Omega-3 Gems Fish Oil by Carlson Labs – Contains a naturally occurring source of polyunsaturated omega-3’s EPA and DHA. Turmeric Flavanoid Complex by Ethical Nutrients – A scientifically formulated blend of select ginger and turmeric with vitamin C and a lemon bioflavonoid complex.