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Andrew Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet

The Promise

What if you could curb inflammation in your body, and lose weight as a bonus? That's the idea behind Eating Well for Optimum Health by Andrew Weil, MD.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet emphasizes choosing and preparing foods that help keep you healthy. It's not a weight-loss plan, although some people do lose weight on it. On this diet, Weil says, you'll get steady energy and meet your nutritional needs in a way that you can live with for years to come.

As for whether it will keep you healthy, what you eat definitely matters. But so do other things, including your genes, being active, and not smoking.

What You Can Eat and What You Can't

Carbs make up 40% to 50% of your daily calories on this plan. They should come from whole grains (such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat bread), beans, and vegetables (such as winter squash and sweet potatoes).

Good-for-you fats take up another 30% of your daily calories. Stock your fridge and pantry with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like avocados; nuts and nut butters; fortified eggs; flaxseeds; hemp seeds; and fish such as salmon, sardines, black cod, and herring. Oils made from safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, and mixed vegetables are off-limits. Extra-virgin olive oil is the preferred oil.

Protein accounts for 20% to 30% of your daily calories. Animal protein is limited, except for fish, some cheeses, and yogurt.  Load up on protein-rich vegetables such as beans, soybeans, and soy products instead.

Processed foods like chips and cookies, products made with high-fructose corn syrup, and any food made with partially hydrogenated oil are off the list.

Tea is preferred over coffee. Wine lovers, fear not: A glass or two a day of red wine is OK. You can also have plain dark chocolate in moderation, as long as its cocoa content is at least 70% (it should say so on the label).

Level of Effort: Easy to Medium

As long as you’re not a big fan of red meat, this eating plan offers a fair amount of flexibility and variety.

Limitations: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet restricts animal protein. Lean meat, including skinless chicken, and dairy products are limited to twice a week. But you can have fish and seafood almost every day.

Cooking and shopping: You may need to make more trips to the grocery store to buy fresh produce and seafood. Cleaning and preparing fresh produce can take time. So can planning and preparing meals, until you get used to cooking this way.

Packaged foods or meals: None. Weil does recommend taking daily supplements including:

  • vitamins C and E
  • selenium
  • mixed carotenoids
  • a multivitamin containing vitamin D and folic acid
  • calcium (for women only)
  • fish oil (only if you aren’t eating oily fish twice a week)
  • coenzyme Q10
  • ginger supplement
  • turmeric supplement

In-person meetings: None.

Exercise:  Weil doesn’t recommend a specific workout, but he does encourage being active.

Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?

Vegetarians and vegans: This diet absolutely works for you. It's already almost meat-free, and you can completely eliminate animal products. 

Gluten-free: The diet recommends cutting back on wheat products, but it doesn't ban gluten. Still, you can easily include gluten-free products into this eating plan.

What Else You Should Know

Costs: None except for your groceries and any supplements you buy.

Support: You can get a free customized health plan to follow for 8 weeks after you take an online assessment. Weil’s web site includes videos, recipes, and a section where you can ask Weil a question.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 11, 2013

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