“The Anti-Inflammation Diet”
The anti-inflammation diet may have an imposing name, but it goes down easy. Mediterranean and traditional Japanese foods lead the pack in inflammation-lowering eating plans. They provide plenty of tasty options for the culinary minded, the casual cook and the restaurant eater, too.
Inflammation is a normal immune-system response to infections or injuries. When you cut your finger, for example, the immune system kicks in to help heal the wound (causing redness and swelling). But problems arise when your immune system becomes overactive – rushing around inflaming things when there is no threat, causing harm instead of healing.
Chronic inflammation has been associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative joint disease. Inflammation is also not good for general circulation, increasing the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes, and can affect affect sexual performance and erectile function.
An anti-inflammation diet has the potential to benefit anyone because the Western diet is out of balance, but the eating plan is thought to be especially beneficial for those with inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis and allergies.
Food should not be thought of as the only saving grace. Other lifestyle issues affect inflammation – for example, smoking and the lack of exercise.
But food choices play an important role because what you eat can trigger or temper inflammatory responses in your body.
Dr. Andrew Weil is among those who believe diet influences inflammation. As he states in his book “Healthy Aging,” an imbalance of fats, elevated blood sugar, refined foods and lack of micronutrients pave the road to inflammation.
In short, eat your fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods and add fish to your diet regularly, and you could stave off the many problems caused by inflammation. Two fats play pivotal roles in the immune system game: omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Omega-6s are pro inflammatory; it is their job to trigger inflammation. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory.
“Your body needs omega-3 and omega-6 fats. It’s not about demonizing one fat over another; it’s about a proper ratio. We have way too many omega-6s (in the American diet).”
That excess comes from our over-reliance on processed and fast foods that often have plant-based oils (corn, safflower), animal fats and trans fats – all pro inflammatory.
Instead, choose olive oil, butter in moderation or butter substitutes that are mechanically emulsified rather than chemically processed.
Another easy change is switching from corn oil (high in omega-6) to canola oil (high in omega-3). Other foods rich in omega-3 include grass-fed meats, flax seeds, omega-3 enriched eggs and cold-water fish.
No conversation about the anti-inflammatory diet would be complete without mentioning fish. Yes, much has been publicized about the problems with mercury and PCB levels in large fish such as tuna and shark. Smaller fish such as sardines and herring, however, are less vulnerable to those pollutants because the bigger the fish, the higher the potential pollutant level.
Cold-water fish are among the best sources for omega-3 fatty acids. In his book, Weil says he eats wild Alaskan salmon, Alaskan black cod and sardines.
I wish you all an inflammation free 2012!