The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: The New "It" Diet?

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: The New "It" Diet?

Food & Drink

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: The New "It" Diet?

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By Cari Martens

As scientists continue to study the connection between foods and the prevention of chronic diseases, many people are taking a keen interest in foods that prevent cellular inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory diets have long been prescribed for heart disease, weight loss, depression, acne, anti-aging, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis by doctors such as Barry Sears, creator of the Zone Diet, and Andrew Weil, the popular health-and-nutrition guru.

But there seems to be a growing buzz about anti-inflammatory foods today, reports Elisa Ludwig, writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Ludwig suggests the interest is likely fueled, at least in part, by new books on the subject including these two:

In his best-seller Anticancer, A New Way of Life, New Edition, cancer survivor and physician David Servan-Schrieber explores foods that he believes prevent or curb cancer growth through their anti-inflammatory properties.

“When cancer patients ask me about it, I tell them is that this diet is not just related to cancer but a number of chronic diseases, so you’re really looking at a broad picture of disease prevention,” says Katrina Claghorn, quoted in Ludwig’s article. Claghorn is an advanced practice clinical dietitian specialist at Abrahmson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

The key foods of the anti-inflammatory diet are berries, leafy greens, and brightly colored vegetables that are packed with flavonoids and carotenoids with both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, anchovies, walnuts, flax, and soybeans.

Other good fats with anti-inflammatory properties include olives and olive oil, pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil, sunflower seeds, almonds, and sesame seeds.

To add flavor, seasonings such as garlic, onion, ginger, rosemary, cumin, black pepper, and turmeric can be applied liberally. Green tea is also rich in anti-inflammatory compounds and has been recommended for disease prevention. Red wine and dark chocolate have also been shown to have additional health benefits.

Mediterranean and Asian cultures eat this way and have lower rates of obesity, certain cancers, diabetes and heart disease than we have in the U.S. It’s also a diet rich in antioxidants and fiber and low in saturated fat and refined carbohydrates.

“If you look at these recommended foods, they don’t just contain one property – they usually have a host of beneficial properties,” says Debra DeMille, a Philiadelphia nutrition counselor interviewed by Ludwig. “The important thing is to eat whole foods so you get all of the good compounds.”

On the other hand, certain foods are known to cause inflammation, and experts say we should eat them sparingly. These include the usual suspects: high-fat meats, non-organic dairy, sugar, fast foods, white flour, trans fats, and corn syrup.

There are limits, of course, to the impact of anti-inflammatory foods, Ludwig writes. Experts stress that there’s no single food that can improve health. A steady intake of berries won’t help much if the person in question smokes and drinks heavily. A true disease-prevention lifestyle incorporates exercise, adequate sleep, mind-body practices such as meditation or yoga, and avoiding exposure to toxic chemicals. And no diet can replace conventional treatments if a person is already sick.

To read the full article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, click here.

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