Friday, June 25, 2010

Anti-Inflammatory Diet = Good Summer Eating

Recent health journals have been reporting that lowering cellular inflammation in the body reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as facilitating weight loss, reducing depression, acne, aging, arthritis, Crohn’s disease and multiple sclerosis. Drs. Barry Sears (Zone Diet), Nicholas Perricone (weight loss and cosmetic guru) and Andrew Weil (natural health and healthy aging proponent) have written books and listed anti-inflammatory diets on their websites over the last ten years. Several new books have also been released on this topic.

While the content of this diet differs somewhat by creator, included in all diets are colorful fruits and vegetables, especially berries. Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid lists 3-4 servings of fruit and 4-5 servings of vegetables as the base of this diet (a serving equals ½ cup cooked or chopped fruit or vegetable, 2 cups of leafy greens or 1 piece of fruit). Fruits and vegetables contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body against disease, especially cancer.

All diets emphasis choosing healthy fats, focusing on monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, nuts, avocados and fatty fish like salmon and sardines. Fish oil supplements are another method to boost omega-three fatty acid intake, also linked to reduced chronic disease risk. Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are walnuts and flax (now added to some cereals, bread and granola bars).

Healthy carbohydrates can include whole grain breads, legumes and fruits and vegetables. Many healthy carbs contain fiber and have a lower glycemic index(slowing the spike in blood sugar created when eatingf ood made from refined flour and sugar), both linked to lower inflammation.

The anit-inflammatory diet advises to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Some health educators recommend basing food choices on the number of ingredients listed on the package food label. Processed foods often contain multiple preservatives and ingredient derivatives. Be cautious, however, of food spoilage and mold if unprocessed food is purchased. Tea, both black and green, contains antioxidants linked to reduced chronic disease. Red wine and dark chocolate, eaten in moderation, are also foods found on the Mediterranean diet and Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid.

Finally, spices such as turmeric, ginger, green onions and garlic have found their place on these diets. Flavoring your food with these antioxidant spices and herbs instead of salt has long been a recommendation for lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. The anti-inflammation diet recommendations fit well with the abundance of colorful summer vegetables and fruits into our markets. Enjoy the dark greens, blue and blackberries,summer squash and tomatoes, seasoned with a little olive oil and vinegar and topped with toasted sunflower seeds. Add some fresh brewed ice tea - either black or green - and you'll be eating healthy this summer. Pyramid shown is the Anti-inflammatory Food Pyramid from Dr.Weil.

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