Anti-inflammatory Foods

You hear a lot these days about inflammation.  In the past, inflammation was viewed as an unfortunate byproduct of disease.  It made a lot of trouble for the patient, but the thing to do was to bring it down with things like steroids and non-steroidal anti inflammatories (NSAIDS–like Advil).

These days, inflammation is seen as a cause of illness, an integral part of the disease process. It’s something to be avoided as best you can, but how?

One of the best things you can do to protect your health in both the short and long term is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. You hear that all the time,  but what does it mean in practical terms?

The very best diet for minimizing inflammation in the body is primarily vegetarian + fish/seafood, with a little bit of lean meat on occasion.  Whole grains, lots of veggies, extra-virgin olive oil–these foods deeply nourish the body and help it make qi (or vital energy). My husband and I have been lacto-ovo vegetarians (meaning we eat eggs and milk) for over 15 years.  We also recently decided to add some seafood to our diets.  We feel great on this diet, and are the thinnest members of our families.

In Chinese medicine, we believe that food is a type of medicine.  You must be mindful of what you are eating at all times, and do your best to eat foods that give your body something to work with.  Refined, packaged and fast foods are convenient, and in a pinch, are fine to consume occasionally, but they should the the exception and not the norm.  Take the time to prepare healthy meals for yourself and the dividends will be tremendous.

Dr. Andrew Weil has redone the food pyramid to reflect our understanding of what to eat to minimize inflammation in the whole body.  Following this type of diet should pay off in more energy now, and some protection from bigger health problems in the long run.

Dr. Weils Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid

One thing about this pyramid that I disagree with is the notion that you need to eat chocolate “sparingly.”  I think that so long as you eat dark chocolate, you can (and should) eat a little every day.  I see dark chocolate as a special “vitamin” that we need regularly.  So indulge, but don’t over do it.