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Nutrition for Today: The anti-inflammatory diet is not a weight-loss gimmick - Florida Today

Susie Bond  |  Special to FLORIDA TODAY

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Everybody seems to be talking about the anti-inflammatory diet these days. 

Another weight-loss gimmick? Nope, this one has nothing to do with weight loss. 

It’s all about creating a safe internal haven where you’re at less risk for many common chronic diseases and conditions. It’s a diet for health and longevity.

Years ago doctors were perplexed when patients with low cholesterol levels were having heart attacks.

Turns out there was another risk factor that no one knew about at the time. Now we know that risk factor is inflammation.

Chronic inflammation increases the risk of heart attack and stroke through its role in creating buildup of plaque in the arteries.

Many other diseases such as cancer, diabetes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis have been linked with chronic inflammation.

Before we go any further, let’s define exactly what we’re talking about.

There’s acute inflammation, and then there’s chronic inflammation.

Acute, or short-term inflammation is actually a good thing. It’s the body’s protective response to injury, infection or a foreign substance.

Acute inflammation helps fight off infections and increases blood flow to parts of the body that need healing.

Chronic infection, on the other hand, is not a good thing. It lingers in the body at low levels, and eventually begins to destroy healthy cells in the organs, joints and arteries.

So how do you fight off chronic inflammation?

The best way is not with something you buy at the pharmacy, but rather what you buy at the grocery store.

Let’s take a look at the foods that can cause inflammation in the body.

• Refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and white pasta.

• Sweets, cakes, cookies and soda.

• All sugars, even natural sugars such as honey and agave nectar.

• French fries and other fried foods (and by the way, even if you fry these foods at home in vegetable oil, they still cause inflammation).

• Processed meats such as hot dogs and luncheon meat.

• Anything with a lot of saturated fat such as butter, whole milk and cheese.

If you’re consistently eating these foods, you’re accelerating the inflammatory disease process.

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On the flip side, there are things you can eat that will prevent and treat chronic inflammation. These include:

• All vegetables, especially, tomatoes and green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, lettuce and spinach.

• Extra virgin olive oil.

• Cold water fish like salmon, albacore tuna, sardines and mackerel. Eat these at least twice a week. If you can’t eat fish, studies show that 1,000 mg of fish oil supplements daily provides enough omega-3 to meet the body’s needs.

• Nuts, preferably raw and unsalted.

• Fruits, especially strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries and oranges.

• Whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and quinoa.

• Legumes, including lentils, split peas, garbanzo, kidney, black and pinto beans.

• Dark chocolate (only that with 70% or more cocoa, and no more than 3 ounces per week).

• Coffee (contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds).

If these recommendations sound familiar, they should.

It’s basically a Mediterranean Diet, which is one of the best-known examples of an anti-inflammatory way of eating.

People who eat a Mediterranean-like diet have consistently lower levels of inflammation than those following less healthy dietary patterns.

And finally… staying active, getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night, managing stress and maintaining a healthy weight, are all part of the anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

A blood test that measures the level of C-reactive protein is a common indicator of inflammation.  If you’re concerned, ask your doctor about ordering the test.

Susie Bond is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian/Nutritionist in private practice. Contact her at [email protected]