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Anti-inflammatory Diet: Road to Good Health?

Experts discuss the potential disease-fighting benefits of diets that try to reduce inflammation.
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Anti-Inflammatory Diets: What Do You Eat?

An exact description of the anti-inflammatory diet varies, depending on whom you ask. The anti-inflammatory diet is "probably very close to the Mediterranean diet," says Christopher Cannon, MD, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston. He co-authored The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Anti-Inflammation Diet, which includes recipes for anti-inflammatory eating and information on vitamins.

An anti-inflammatory diet is the Zone diet with fish oil, says Sears, who wrote The Anti-Inflammation Zone and whose popular Zone diet recommends low-fat protein, carbs, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

Specifics vary from diet to diet, but in general anti-inflammatory diets suggest:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Minimize saturated and trans fats.
  • Eat a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts.
  • Watch your intake of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice.
  • Eat plenty of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat.
  • Eat lean protein sources such as chicken; cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
  • Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
  • Spice it up. Ginger, curry, and other spices can have an anti-inflammatory effect.

As one example of a day's worth of anti-inflammatory eating, Cannon suggests a breakfast of toasted steel-cut oatmeal with berries, yogurt, or other topping and coffee or green tea. Lunch could be tuna salad on 7-grain bread and a smoothie with seasonal fruits. For a snack, try an ounce of dark chocolate and about four walnuts. Dinner could be spaghetti with turkey meat sauce, spinach salad with oranges and walnuts, and apple cranberry pie made without butter.

The diets don't promise weight loss, but weight reduction does often occur. And that makes sense, given the makeup of the diet, says Greenfield.

"When you are talking about cutting back on red meat, dairy, fats and trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, highly processed carbs -- and eating healthier protein like fish, eating more fruits and vegetables -- odds are that people are going to lose at least a little bit of weight."

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