If you want to eat for long-term health, lowering inflammation is crucial.
Inflammation in the body causes or contributes to many debilitating, chronic illnesses — including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease,Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and even cancer.
That’s why, as a doctor and founder of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, I recommend my patients eat a diet focused on anti-inflammatory principles.
Recent research finds that eating this way not only helps protect against certain diseases, but it also slows the aging process by stabilizing blood sugar and increasing metabolism.
Plus, although the goal is to optimize health, many people find they also lose weight by following an anti-inflammatory eating pattern.
Here, I’m sharing the 11 principles I recommend everyone incorporate into their diet for optimal health:
1. Consume at least 25 grams of fiber every day.
A fiber-rich diet helps reduce inflammation by supplying naturally occurring anti-inflammatory phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods.
To get your fill of fiber, seek out whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The best sources include whole grains such as barley and oatmeal; vegetables like okra, eggplant, and onions; and a variety of fruits like bananas (3 grams of fiber per banana) and blueberries (3.5 grams of fiber per cup).
2. Eat a minimum of nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
One “serving” is half a cup of a cooked fruit or vegetable, or one cup of a raw leafy vegetable.
For an extra punch, add anti-inflammatory herbs and spices — such asturmeric and ginger — to your cooked fruits and vegetables to increase their antioxidant capacity.
3. Eat four servings of both alliums and crucifers every week.
Alliums include garlic, scallions, onions, and leek, while crucifers refer to vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts.
Because of their powerful antioxidant properties, consuming a weekly average of four servings of each can help lower your risk of cancer.
If you like the taste, I recommend eating a clove of garlic a day!
4. Limit saturated fat to 10 percent of your daily calories.
By keeping saturated fat low (that’s about 20 grams per 2,000 calories), you’ll help reduce the risk of heart disease.
You should also limit red meat to once per week and marinate it with herbs, spices, and tart, unsweetened fruit juices to reduce the toxic compoundsformed during cooking.
5. Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and may help lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis — conditions that often have a high inflammatory process at their root.
Aim to eat lots of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids like flax meal, walnuts, and beans such as navy, kidney and soy. I also recommend taking a good-quality omega-3 supplement.
And of course, consume cold-water fish such as salmon, oysters, herring, mackerel, trout, sardines, and anchovies. Speaking of which:
6. Eat fish at least three times a week.
Choose both low-fat fish such as sole and flounder, and cold-water fish that contain healthy fats, like the ones mentioned above.
7. Use oils that contain healthy fats.
The body requires fat, but choose the fats that provide you with benefits.
Virgin and extra-virgin olive oil and expeller-pressed canola are the best bets for anti-inflammatory benefits. Other options include high-oleic, expeller-pressed versions of sunflower and safflower oil.
8. Eat healthy snacks twice a day.
If you’re a snacker, aim for fruit, plain or unsweetened Greek-style yogurt (it contains more protein per serving), celery sticks, carrots, or nuts like pistachios, almonds, and walnuts.
9. Avoid processed foods and refined sugars.
This includes any food that contains high-fructose corn syrup or is high in sodium, which contribute to inflammation throughout the body.
Avoid refined sugars whenever possible and artificial sweeteners altogether. The dangers of excess fructose have been widely cited and include increased insulin resistance (which can lead to type-2 diabetes), raised uric acid levels,raised blood pressure, increased risk of fatty liver disease, and more.
10. Cut out trans fats.
In 2006, the FDA required food manufacturers to identify trans fats on nutrition labels, and for good reason — studies show that people who eat foods high in trans fats have higher levels of C-reactive protein, a biomarker for inflammation in the body.
A good rule of thumb is to always read labels and steer clear of products that contain the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated oils.” Vegetable shortenings, select margarines, crackers, and cookies are just a few examples of foods that might contain trans fats.
11. Sweeten meals with phytonutrient-rich fruits, and flavor foods with spices.
Most fruits and vegetables are loaded with important phytonutrients. In order to naturally sweeten your meals, try adding apples, apricots, berries, and even carrots.
And for flavoring savory meals, go for spices that are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, including cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, sage, and thyme.
Tips for Eating for Weight Loss!
1. Get the Blues
“I got the blues” may conjure up memories of those macaroni and cheese commercials from the ‘90s, but we’re talking about blue dishware. The color blue can act as an appetite suppressant because it has the least appealing contrast to most food. Research says toavoid plates that match the food served on them (like white plates and fettuccini Alfredo), because there is less of a contrast, which may prompt us to eat more. A small but potentially useful trick!
2. Eat Snacks!
Skipping out on snack time won’t necessarily lead to weight loss, since low calorie consumption can actually slow metabolism . Eating less than three times a day may benefit those who are obese, but research shows skipping meals throughout the day and eating one large meal at night can lead to some undesirable outcomes (like delayed insulin response) which may increase the risk of diabetes . Instead of forgoing breakfast or lunch, stick to a few meals a day with healthy snacks in between.
3. Peruse the Perimeter
Next time you need groceries, circle the perimeter of the store before going in. This isn’t a way to stalk out your prey, but actually a tactic to load up on the healthy stuff first. The edges of grocery stores generally house fresh produce, meat, and fish, while the inner aisles hold more pre-packaged, processed foods. Browsing the perimeter can help control how many unwanted additives are in the grocery basket.
4. Stock the Fridge
Make an effort to fill the fridge with healthy produce and proteins (from perusing the perimeter!). Keep lots of fresh fruit and veggies on hand. And for when the fruit basket goes barren, make sure the freezer is stocked with frozen veggie mixes or berries (grab the bags full of just veggies, not the ones with butter-laden sauces). You may be less apt to order out when you’ve got the makings of a healthy dinner right at home. And the good news is, healthy food doesn’t always have to be pricey.
5. Eat in the A.M.
Skipping breakfast in order to “save your appetite” for dinner probably isn’t a safety shield for late-night noshing . While there’s still debate on how important breakfast really is, not eating until the afternoon may lead to binging later on (ie. four servings of mashed potatoes) . Make sure to stick a reasonably sized breakfast with plenty of protein; we tend to eat the same sized lunch and dinner regardless of how many calories we eat in the morning .
6. Get Busy in the Kitchen
We promise cooking doesn’t take long! Restaurants often use larger plates than the ones we have at home, and studies show that increased portion sizes result in increased energy intake, even if there’s a doggy bag involved .
7. Prioritize the Pantry
Take a little time out to toss the junk. If you’ve got some favorite not-so-great items you’d like to save as a treat, tuck them in the back of the pantry with healthier items, like whole grain pasta, rice, beans, and nuts up front. We know that just because the cans of tuna and a bag of lentils are right in front doesn’t mean you’ll forget the brownie mix altogether, but it’ll help keep the brownie mix out of sight, out of mind. Just seeing or smelling food can stimulate cravings, and increase hunger (especially true for junk food) .
8. Serve “Restaurant” Style
Instead of lining up the breadbasket, entire casserole, and salad bowl, right on the table, leave food on the kitchen counter (away from reach). When you’ve cleaned your plate, take a breather then decide if you really want those seconds. Changing up the environment, like by leaving food by the stove, can help reduce food intake .
9. Use Smaller Plates
History shows plate sizes have increased over the past millennium . When it’s time to sit down for dinner, choose a size-appropriate plate or bowl. Using a smaller plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like plate (12 inches or more) can make us feel fuller with the same amount of food. How does this magic trick work? The brain may associate the white space with less food, plus smaller plates generally lead to smaller portions .
10. Chew Slowly
Eating slowly may not fit into a busy workday, but it pays to pace your chewing: the quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness . So slow down, and take a second to savor.