Anti-Inflammatory Diet: A Weil Food Pyramid?

I want to try your anti-inflammatory diet, but I’m not sure how many servings of each type of food are desirable. Can you provide specific instructions?

– September 11, 2008

Your question is very timely since I have recently designed a food pyramid for the anti-inflammatory diet to do just that. It is now available on this site.

As you know, the anti-inflammatory diet can help prevent the chronic inflammation that contributes to the development of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and other age-related disorders. It is also a cornerstone of treatment for such autoimmune diseases as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

In addition to reducing inflammation, the diet provides steady energy and ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and dietary fiber. If you need to lose weight, it can help with that, too, but the diet wasn’t designed as a short-term plan for weight loss. Rather, it is a way of selecting and preparing foods based on scientific research that can help you achieve and maintain optimum health over your lifetime.

When you look at the pyramid, you’ll see that the diet steers you toward a wide variety of foods ranging from lots of fresh vegetables and fruits (the foundation of all meals) to cooked Asian mushrooms, healthy herbs and spices and dark chocolate as a sweet treat. It minimizes consumption of the processed and fast foods that are some of the major contributors to chronic inflammation.

If you adopt this diet, each day you’ll also be eating three to five 1/2 cup servings of whole and cracked grains, one to two 1/2 cup servings of beans and legumes, five to seven servings of healthy fats (one serving is equal to one teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil or organic, expeller pressed canola oil; two walnuts; one tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed; or one ounce of avocado). For daily protein and omega-3 fatty acids: two to six four-ounce servings of wild Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines and Alaskan black cod. You’ll be going easy on other sources of protein, limiting servings to one to two per week of omega-3 enriched eggs, natural cheese (one ounce equals one serving), eight-ounce servings of dairy, and three ounces of poultry or skinless meat. The beverage category emphasizes tea – two to four cups of white, green or oolong teas per day – and if you drink alcohol, you can plan on a glass or two of organic red wine daily. In addition to dark chocolate, healthy treats include sorbet and unsweetened dried fruits. In the text accompanying the food pyramid, you’ll find specific serving sizes for all the foods included.

I think you’ll find the pyramid very easy to use. It may also introduce you to a variety of foods you haven’t eaten before. Be adventurous. Try Anasazi beans, sea vegetables and bean-thread noodles, for example.

Here’s the interactive version of my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid. Good eating and good health!

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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