Typical American diet is called Standard American Diet (in other words – not surprisingly abbreviated as ‘SAD”) includes too many simple sugars, alcohol, too many empty calories and also too many saturated fats and trans fats which is not good for our health. In general, the principles for a good Anti-Inflammatory Diet (‘AID”) are as follows:
1. Try to eat as much fresh quality organic food as possible and avoid packaged and processed foods and artificial sweeteners.
2. Protein intake should be from lean good sources of protein such as organic chicken, turkey, grass-fed meat, organic eggs, organic dairy (preferably – yogurt or kefir), nuts, legumes. It’s very important for the chicken, eggs and dairy products to be organic in order to avoid the excessive hormones and antibiotics intake.
3. The next step is to exclude simple sugars like “regular” white or brown sugar or, even worse – high fructose corn syrup and the products that have it – such as cookies, candies, cakes, ice cream and such. If you have sugar cravings it is ok to eat fruits and berries – they will provide enough sugar but along with other vitamins, fiber and nutrients, not just empty calories.
4. Stay away from soda, most commercial drinks and fruit juices because they all have high sugar content. The simple sugars causes a blood sugar spike, makes your pancreas to work hard, increase the propensity to gain weight, have heart diseases, diabetes and cholesterol problems, it promotes candida growth and inflammation.
5. For complex carbs use whole grains. These are the carbs that are absorbed into the bloodstream at a slower pace and do not increase you blood sugar levels as much. The examples of the complex carbs are brown rice, whole quinoa, buckwheat, old-fashioned oats, cooled potatoes legumes.
6. With regards to fat intakes it is extremely important to avoid processed food and any form of trans-fats. The trans fat is frequently added to processed and packaged foods – it is a substance that does not exists in the nature. It was designed by humans as a way to extend the shelf life of the packaged foods. The reason behind this is that even bacteria and fungi avoid it because they cannot digest it. Take the same approach – just read the labels carefully and don’t buy any product that has trans fats. It is not good for your body either.
7. Consume as little saturated fats as possible. The saturated fat contains mainly in animal products, such as meat and dairy and some commonly used cooking oils like corn, safflower and sunflower oils. It should be noted that contrary to some popular beliefs, a healthy diet should include a significant intake of fat. But there is a huge difference for the body between healthy (unsaturated or Omega-3 and Omega 9) and unhealthy (saturated or Omega-6) fats. Unfortunately, most people in the US use much more “bad” fats and not enough “good” fats than what is needed for their bodies.
One of a relatively easy way to improve this ratio is to start using avocado oil for cooking. Avocado oil is appropriate for high temperature applications, like grilling and stir-frying, while coconut oil could be used for the majority of other everyday cooking jobs, including baking to replace creamery butter. You may also use Canola oil as a source of omega-3 fatty acids – it and coconut oil can withstand temperature up to 350F. Olive oil is a good source of healthy Omega-9 fats and it should not be heated because it becomes saturated at higher temperatures. It is best to use high quality extra virgin cold pressed olive oil for salads, marinades and other non-heating applications.
8. Coconuts, avocadoes and nuts should be your best friends because they are tasty, easy to use and provide a nearly ideal balanced load of healthy fats, vitamins and other nutrients. It is recommended to eat at least a handful of nuts every day. BUT: stay away from peanuts – they are not real nuts and usually are loaded with dangerous pesticides. All other nuts – walnuts, pistachios, pecans, almonds, macadamia, pine nuts, cashews – are good.
9. Anti-Inflammatory diet should include much more fruits and vegetables than most Americans usually consume. There should be at least 7 servings of vegetables and about 3 servings of fruits per day (one serving is a standard measuring cup). Fifteen servings a day even better. Try to eat more raw vegetables (think of salads) and reduce your meat intake to 2-3 portions per week.
Of particular importance is to eat enough cruciferous vegetables – such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, daycon, kale. Only these products could provide the body with the right molecules for detoxifications and ensure a better protection from cancer and inflammatory diseases.
It is also advisable to eat more beets and pomegranates – these foods help the body to generate nitric oxide which is a powerful antioxidant that also improves circulation and blood flow to various organs by opening up blood vessels.
10. Fish has been traditionally considered as a much better choice for a healthy diet than meat or chicken. It is an excellent source of both good fats and proteins. However, now it’s time for a word of caution – the fish you could safely consume should be WILD CAUGHT. In New York it is required by law to indicate the country of origin for the fish and whether it is wild or farmed. Unfortunately, most of the commercially available fish is currently comes from farmed sources and most of the farmed fish has the very high content of saturated and trans fats, antibiotics and potential cancer-causing chemicals. To make the matter worse, even some of the prized wild fish may be also unsafe. The major concern is about the high (and continuously rising) level of mercury found in the wild fish. To better understand this concern you should note that even small amounts of mercury are gradually accumulated in the bodies during the lifetime and this process continues through the food chain. That’s why smaller wild caught fish poses much less risks in this respect than a large, predatory fish like tuna and swordfish.
Healthy tip: it is not easy to find a source for good quality, wild-caught safe fish – but the efforts are worth trying. Wild alaskan salmon is a good choice. It is moderately priced when sold frozen, also it is delicious and ready to eat when it comes pre-sliced in smoked form. Another Omega-3 “champion” is herring. A pickled one has long been a favorite staple in Scandinavian, German, Polish, Russian and Jewish cuisine and could be found in many ethnic food stores – just ask for it. Both wild salmon and herring are one the best sources of Vitamin D – for which many people are deficient.
11. While some of the products are still relatively safe to buy in regular stores, there are several conventionally grown foods that have high content of toxins and pesticides which makes them really dangerous for your health. This list is compiled annually and is referred to as the Dirty Dozen. Here is the most current one, with the highest harmful content on the top: