How to follow an anti-inflammatory diet

The following principles and practices are modified from Dr. Andrew Weil’s book Healthy Aging to include widespread wisdom and local market information.

The foundation for anti-inflammatory eating includes eating a variety of natural and wholesome foods, choosing fresh seasonal organic vegetables and fruits, (especially strawberries, spinach, lettuce, pears, peaches, green beans, cucumbers, acorn squash and apples), and opting for foods without preservatives, additives, antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals. Find wholesome food by visiting local farmer’s markets and health food stores, such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s on Route 202, or Newark Co-Op in Newark, Delaware, or Harvest Market in Hockessin, Delaware.

Other principles to live by include:

  • Hydration. Drink at least five or six glasses of water a day.
    • Consider tea (green, white or oolong) instead of Coffee.
    • Consider bottled water or obtain a home purifier system if you are concerned about local ground water contamination.
  • Sharing. Try sharing your meals with other people—planning, preparing, and eating.
    • Follow a primarily plant-based diet. The risk for many diseases, including cancer, is reduced by eating eight to ten servings a day of fruits and vegetables. Try many colors and kinds, fresh or frozen. Examples of nutrients in fruits and vegetables are:
      • Vitamin A and carotenoids: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, collards, mango, cantaloupe, apricots, tomatoes
      • Vitamin C: citrus fruits and juices, kiwi fruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cabbages, romaine lettuce, spinach
      • Folic acid: beans, peas, peanuts, oranges, OJ, spinach, romaine lettuce, and fortified grains and cereals
      • Potassium: potatoes, milk, tomatoes, bananas, oranges, apricots, prunes, beans.
  • Moderate salt intake. 2,400 mg of sodium recommended per day (= 1 tsp of salt a day). Choose and prepare foods with less salt.
    • Use herbs, spices and fruits to flavor foods.
    • When eating out, choose foods that are grilled or roasted.
    • Read the Nutrition Facts labels; foods that are low in sodium contain less than 5% of the Daily Value for sodium.
  • Eat intelligently. This includes establishing a pattern of eating regularly and being mindful of portion sizes. Also learn to distinguish between hunger and cravings.
    • Eat at least every three to four hours to avoid the build-up of hunger and avoid cravings.
    • Establish a pattern of breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon snack and dinner.
    • Eating regularly helps keep blood glucose and energy levels more stable.

Caloric intake and anti-inflammatory diet

The average adult needs 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day for adequate energy and function. However, women and those who are smaller or less active may need fewer, and men and those are who are bigger may need more. As long as you’re eating the appropriate number of calories for your level of activity, your weight shouldn’t fluctuate greatly.

The distribution of calories you take in should be as follows:

  • 40 to 50 percent from carbohydrates
  • 30 percent from fat
  • 20 to 30 percent from protein

Be sure to include carbohydrates, fat, and protein at every meal, watch your portion sizes, and stop eating when you BEGIN to feel full.

Carbohydrates and anti-inflammatory diet

On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, adult women should eat 160 to 200 grams of carbohydrates a day. Adult men should eat 240 to 300 grams of carbohydrates a day. The majority of this should be in the form of less-refined, less-processed foods with low glycemic loads.

You’ll also want to reduce your consumption of foods made with wheat flour and sugar, especially bread and most packaged snack foods (including chips and pretzels). Opt for whole grains (not whole-wheat-flour products), beans, winter squashes, and sweet potatoes (see fiber section below). Additional carb eating tips include:

  • Cook pasta al dente and eat it in moderation.
  • Avoid products made with high fructose corn syrup.
  • Stay away from foods high in sugar. Sugar “imposters” (sugar disguised as something else) include the following:
    • Corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, table sugar.

Keep in mind that one teaspoon = four grams of sugar. The recommended intake is six teaspoons / day (24 grams) for a 1600 calorie diet and 12 teaspoons / day (48 grams) for a 2,200 calorie diet. Diets high in sugar may decrease HDL (“good cholesterol”) and increase triglycerides.

Fat and anti-inflammatory diet

On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, 600 calories can come from fat—that is, about 67 grams. This should be in a ratio of 1:2:1 of saturated to monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fat.

  • Reduce your intake of saturated fat by eating less butter, cream, cheese, and other full-fat dairy products; unskinned chicken, fatty meats, and products made with coconut oil.
  • Use extra-virgin olive oil as your main cooking oil. If you want a neutral tasting oil, use expeller-pressed organic canola oil. High-oleic versions of sunflower and safflower oil are acceptable also, preferably non-GMO (genetically modified organism).
  • Avoid regular safflower and sunflower oils, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and mixed vegetable oils.
  • Strictly avoid margarine, vegetable shortening, and all products listing them as ingredients. Strictly avoid all products made with partially hydrogenated oils of any kind. This is to avoid trans fats.
  • Include in your diet avocados and nuts, especially walnuts, cashews, and almonds, as well as nut butters made from them.
  • For omega-3 fatty acids, eat salmon (preferably wild sockeye, fresh, frozen, or canned), sardines packed in water or olive oil, herring, black cod (sablefish, butterfish), omega-3 fortified eggs, hemp seeds, flaxseeds (preferably freshly ground, one tablespoon a day; or flaxseed oil, one tablespoon a day), and walnuts; or take a fish oil supplement (ask your doctor). Avoid farm-raised salmon or limit to twice a month due to contaminants in the water and food they eat.

Protein and anti-inflammatory diet

On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, your daily intake of protein should be between 80 and 120 grams. Eat less protein if you have liver or kidney problems, allergies, or autoimmune disease (like lupus ).

  • Decrease your consumption of animal protein except for fish and reduced-fat dairy products.
  • Eat more vegetable protein, especially from beans in general and soybeans in particular. Become familiar with the range of soy foods available to find ones that you like (tempeh, tofu, edamame, soy milk, soy beans, etc.)

Fiber and anti-inflammatory diet

Strive to eat 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day. This means increasing your consumption of fruit, berries, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Ready-made cereals can be a good fiber source, but read labels to make sure they give you at least four or five grams of bran per one-ounce serving. Also choose a variety of whole grains daily, to ensure you’re getting a range of vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients as well as fiber needed to maintain health and decrease the risk for disease. Whole grains also help keep you “regular” and stabilize blood sugar.

Seek out whole grain or stone-ground breads as well as beans, oatmeal, and brown rice. High-fiber foods include:

  • Breakfast cereals:
    • Uncle Sam: one cup = 10 grams of fiber
    • Kashi brand (several varieties): up to eight or nine grams of fiber per cup
    • Muesli (like Bob’s Red Mill brand: eight grams per ½ cup
  • Legumes (½ cup = seven to nine grams of fiber per serving)
  • Breads (goal is three grams per one slice)
  • Fruits/vegetables, one-half cup is a serving for most:
    • Apples or pears with skins: Three to four grams of fiber per serving
    • Raw blackberries: more than four grams of fiber per ½ cup
    • Broccoli: three grams of fiber per ½ cup

Phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory diet

To get maximum natural protection against age-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurodegenerative disease, as well as against environmental toxicity, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and mushrooms. Choose fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum, especially berries, tomatoes, orange and yellow fruits, dark leafy greens and, and cruciferous (cabbage-family) vegetables, and choose organic produce whenever possible. Learn which conventionally grown crops are most likely to carry pesticide residues (see and avoid them. To get your phytonutrients in, you’ll also want to:

  • Include soy foods in your diet.
  • Drink tea instead of coffee, especially good-quality white, green or oolong tea.
  • If you drink alcohol, use red wine preferentially. (Women: No more than one 4-ounce glass a day. Men: No more than 12 four-ounce glasses a week).
  • Enjoy plain dark chocolate (with a minimum cocoa content of 70 percent). Look into chocolate-covered ginger. We’re not talking about milk chocolate here.
  • Eat power foods: berries, spinach, sweet potatoes, yogurt, legumes, cooked tomatoes, pink grapefruit (ask your doctor), green or white tea, cruciferous vegetables.

Vitamins and minerals and anti-inflammatory diet

Eating a diet high in fresh foods with an abundance of fruits and vegetables is the best way to get all of your daily vitamins, minerals and micronutrients. You may also wish to supplement your diet with the following antioxidant cocktail:

  • Take a daily multivitamin-multimineral supplement that provides at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, and at least 1,000 units of vitamin D3. They should contain no Iron, and no preformed vitamin A (no retinol or retinyl palmitate). Vitamin A should be mostly from natural Beta-carotene on the label, up to 15,000 units a day.
  • Take supplemental calcium, preferably as calcium citrate. Women need 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams a day, depending on their dietary intake of calcium. Men should get no more than 800 milligrams a day from all sources. Milk is about 333 milligrams of calcium per eight-ounce glass.

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To schedule an appointment with Dr. Denitzio, call 484.227.7858.