Master the anti-inflammatory diet in 8 quick steps
The anti-inflammatory diet stresses the consumption of plant-based proteins and reducing the intake of sugar and processed foods. Jada Ziemer/Special to The Forum...
The anti-inflammatory diet stresses the consumption of plant-based proteins and reducing the intake of sugar and processed foods. Jada Ziemer/Special to The Forum
The anti-inflammatory diet is less of a diet and more of a way of eating.
The diet's roots derive from the Mediterranean diet with only a few subtle differences. Elizabeth Meyer, a registered dietician at Sanford Health, says that vegetarians could also adopt many of an anti-inflammatory diet fundamentals because it stresses the consumption of plant-based proteins as the main source of protein.
"The anti-inflammatory diet doesn't encourage red meat," Meyer says. "Grass-fed beef is better than regular beef because it has more of the omega fats. There is also a push to eat more fish and beans for protein sources."
The diet was created by Dr. Andrew Weil as a way to fight back against bodily inflammation. "Inflammation is your body's reaction to an attack or injury from toxin," Meyer says. "It can be destructive."
Who is Dr. Weil?
Weil is a physician, author, spokesperson and alternative medicine guru.The Harvard graduate's popularity took off in the early 2000s when he originally published "True Food"-a book that highlighted the benefits of the inflammation diet.
Since then, he has not only published further works, he has continued to spread the word about the harmful effects of inflammation.
Here are Weil's recommendations for following the anti-inflammatory diet:
Stop eating flour, sugar and processed foods
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that processed sugars release inflammatory messengers called cytokines. Watch out for words ending in "ose" as they are typically a sugar. For example, high-fructose corn syrup is a main source of added sugar.
Follow a 40, 30, 30 Macronutrient breakdown
The 40-30-30 rule refers to the percentage of carbohydrates, protein and fat that you would consume as a part of your daily diet. This style of eating is very balanced and helps stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Reduce high-glycemic foods
Most foods high on the glycemic index are processed. The glycemic index was created to help people with diabetes and control blood sugar. When blood sugar levels are high, they result in a proinflammatory response.
Think about saturated fat in terms of a "budget"
According to the National Cancer Institute, pizza and cheese are the biggest sources of saturated fats in the average American diet. Saturated fat triggers inflammation and worsens arthritis over time. Saturated fat should be limited and once you've reached the end of your "budget" don't go over it.
Focus on healthy fats
The essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6 are polyunsaturated and reduce symptoms from inflammation. Focus on integrating fish, olive oil, rapeseed oil and flaxseed oil into your diet to benefit from these disease-fighting fats.
Eat beans instead of animal products for protein
The Journal of Food Composition and Analysis of 2012 analyzed 10 common bean varieties and found an array of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components. Beans are also an inexpensive source of protein, with approximately 15 grams per cup.
Eat across the color spectrum
Phytochemicals are compounds that occur naturally in plants and are packed with various nutrients for the body. Eating an array of fruits and vegetables ensures you get the most amount of nutrients possible.
Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption
Coffee has been linked to higher levels of inflammation, but more studies need to be done to pinpoint the exact cause. Alcohol, however, is high in sugar and a burden to the liver, so it's best to eliminate it altogether or consume in moderation.
Although these guidelines may appear strict, consider the benefits of this way of eating.
"From cancer to stroke, this diet helps protect against autoimmune diseases," Meyer says. "If you're hesitant to try it, just start paying more attention to what you are eating, and it is probably way easier to follow than you think."
Meyer adds that it's a very "normal" way of eating with no empty promises for big weight loss.
"Naturally you would lose weight just because it is so focused on fruits and veggies. And you're cutting out processed and fried foods. You may even go out to eat less," Meyer says. "It encourages so many of the foods we should already be eating."