When it comes to fighting inflammation with diet, following a specific program is not a necessity. In fact, many of the so-called anti-inflammatory diets are more hype than real science. That said, a couple of diets round up all the anti-inflammatory elements into one eating plan and have more evidence of benefit than other diets. If you aren't sure where to start, these diets are good choices.
People who live in countries ringing the Mediterranean Sea, like Italy and Greece, have traditionally eaten a diet consisting mainly of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish, and olive oil — the same foods that experts recommend to bring down inflammation. Over the years, researchers began to discover that people who followed this style of eating had lower rates of disease and lived longer than people in the United States who ate a Western-style diet.
The Mediterranean diet is ranked high among doctors and dietitians, and for good reason. Studies show it protects against diseases linked to inflammation, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. And, because it includes a variety of foods, the Mediterranean diet is relatively easy to follow and stick with.
Although its name may suggest the "grab-and-go" section of the supermarket, DASH is anything but a fast-food regimen. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It was originally developed to lower blood pressure without medication, but is now widely considered to be one of the healthiest eating patterns around. It includes foods low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Protein is supplied by low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, and nuts. Red meat, sweets, and sugary drinks are limited. DASH is high in fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium and low in sodium.
Dr. Andrew Weil's anti-inflammatory diet
Another anti-inflammatory diet with science to back it up comes from Harvard-educated integrative medicine practitioner Dr. Andrew Weil. He started talking up anti-inflammatory measures decades ago, long before the idea began trending. His anti-inflammatory diet could be described as a Mediterranean diet with Asian influences. About 40% to 50% of calories come from carbohydrates, 30% from fat, and 20% to 30% from protein.
Where Dr. Weil's diet wins is in its emphasis on plant-based foods and healthy protein sources, as well as specific elements (fatty fish, fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, and seeds) that help to reduce inflammation. It also minimizes highly processed foods, which can contribute to inflammation.
For additional advice about ways to reduce inflammation, read Fighting Inflammation, Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
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