Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., developed the anti-inflammatory diet under the belief that chronic inflammation is the cause of many illnesses and diseases common throughout the United States. The purpose of the diet is to help people adapt to a healthier eating lifestyle – it is not a diet that aims to help people lose weight. However, by following the diet as instructed, weight loss is certainly a possibility.
Let’s look more closely at the anti-inflammatory diet, its purpose, how it can help you live a healthier life, and tips for eating well while following this diet.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Review
The anti-inflammatory diet is less of a traditional diet and more of a new way of eating. It has been designed specifically to help protect you from various diseases often associated with chronic (ongoing) inflammation that can damage the cells of your body and cause you harm.
There are a number of “rules” to follow if you want to stick to a diet that actually encourages many traditional healthy eating practices. It seems like a lot to swallow at first. However, we’ve laid out all the major things you’ll need to remember so you can come back to this as a reference if you decide the anti-inflammatory diet is right for you. We’ve included a sample meal plan and grocery shopping guide to help you along as well.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet Plan Basics and Rules
Here are several general rules you can expect to follow while on this diet.
Fresh is Always Best
Dr. Weil recommends that, on the anti-inflammatory diet, you eat as much fresh food as possible. This includes fresh produce (fruits and vegetables), but also includes foods such as cheeses, meat, and a number of other animal products.
Eat in Variety
Eating a variety of foods is essential to ensure success on this diet. This means that you should not eat food from only one or several food groups, but instead, from all of them over a number of meals and snacks throughout the day. You also should not eliminate any food groups.
Limit Junk Food
You should plan on eating the absolute minimum amount of fast and processed foods while on an anti-inflammation diet, as many of the ingredients found in these foods are common causes of chronic inflammation throughout the digestive tract. As the first point suggests, you should try to replace fast and processed foods with as many fresh food options as possible.
Next, before we dive into a sample menu and grocery shopping guide, we’ll go over the basic nutrition guidelines you can expect to follow while on the anti-inflammatory diet.
Mind Your Calories
Most adults need between 2,000 and 3,000 calories depending on activity level and gender. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of calories daily should come from carbohydrates, 30 percent of calories should come from fat, and 20 to 30 percent of daily calories should come from protein. Be sure to eat a combination and appropriate ratio of carbohydrates, fat, and protein at each meal you consume.
How do you know you’re eating enough?
According to Dr. Weil, if you’re eating the right amount of calories based on your activity level, you should not see too many fluctuations in your weight as your body adjusts to a new dietary lifestyle.
Feel Full With Fiber
Those following Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet should do their best to eat approximately 40 grams of fiber per day. Examples of high-fiber foods include fruits such as berries, vegetables, as well as whole grains.
Phytonutrients are antioxidants, usually present in certain foods, that help protect your body against the natural oxidation process. Consuming more antioxidant-rich foods will help protect you against many common yet devastating diseases that are age-related. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is recommended on this diet because they are rich in phytonutrients.
Following a standard average 2,000-calorie diet, women should aim to consume between 160 to 200 grams of carbohydrates per day. Men should consume about 240 to 300 grams of carbohydrates daily. You should do your best to eat more whole grains, but limit your pasta intake. Eat low-glycemic foods and do your best to eat fewer refined and processed foods. On this diet, you should always avoid products that are made with high fructose corn syrup (found in many processed foods).
Fat Is Good for You
You can expect to eat around 67 grams of fat daily following a 2,000-calorie diet. Eat this in a 1:2:1 ratio of saturated to monounsaturated (“healthy”) to polyunsaturated fats, so that you are eating mostly healthy fat. Limit your saturated fat intake and avoid common foods high in saturated fats, like high-fat cheese, cream, fatty meats, and butter. Eat plenty of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, nuts, and seeds. Cook with extra-virgin olive oil and avoid cooking with sunflower oil and mixed vegetable oils.
Packing In the Protein
Following a 2,000-calorie diet, you should aim to consume approximately 120 grams of protein per day. You should not get the majority of your protein from animal products – only cheese and yogurt that is not processed, as well as fish. Dr. Weil recommends that you get most of your protein from plant sources such as beans and soybeans. Choose “whole soy” food products such as tofu and tempeh. Stay away from processed foods that use soy – they’re still processed foods.
Don’t Forget Your Vitamins
These are Dr. Weil’s vitamin recommendations by type and amount:
- Vitamin C (200 milligrams daily)
- Vitamin E (400 International Units [IU])
- Selenium (200 micrograms organic)
- Mixed carotenoids (10,000-15,000 IU daily)
- A daily multivitamin supplement
- Calcium (500-700 milligrams daily) – WOMEN ONLY
You may also, if you do not get these nutrients in your weekly diet, take fish oil supplements, coenzyme Q10, and talk to your doctor about low-dose aspirin therapy
Hydration is an essential component of the anti-inflammatory diet. Dr. Weil recommends drinking pure water – bottled, filtered, or through the tap if it is safe for you to do so – throughout the day. You can also drink tea, sparkling water, water with lemon, and mostly diluted fruit juices – drinks that are mostly made up of water. There is no specific amount required, but you should aim to refill your glass or reusable bottle not just during meals, but every few hours or so.
Let’s shift the focus back to food. The next section includes a sample meal plan based on the above carbohydrate, fat, and protein recommendations mentioned above.
Menu and Meal Planning
It’s one thing to know all Dr. Weil’s rules for healthy, anti-inflammatory eating. It’s another entirely to be able to apply these rules to real life. To help you get started, here is a sample one-day meal plan that will fill your body with the nutrients necessary to keep chronic inflammation at bay.
- 2 eggs (prepared any style)
- 1 cup steel-cut oatmeal with walnuts
- 1 cup (8 ounces) soymilk, water, or diluted orange juice
- 1 medium banana
- Whole grain pasta (al dente) with pesto and herbs
- Small spinach salad with carrots, cheese, and blueberries
- Homemade soybean burger with lettuce and cheese
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 cup baked beans
- Homemade hummus (chickpea based)
- Canned tuna on whole grain crackers
- Celery sticks with almond butter
- Fresh apple slices
Grocery Shopping List
Plant protein sources such as:
Fruits such as:
- citrus fruits
Fish such as:
- salmon or water-packed sardines
Dairy such as:
- omega-3 fortified eggs
- low-fat cheese
Whole grains such as:
- brown rice
- oats and/or oatmeal
Starchy vegetables such as:
- winter squashes
- sweet potatoes
Nuts and seeds, nut butters
Does the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Work?
Reviews and Weight Loss Results
“I was once a 300-lb. junk-food-eating couch potato, and lived that way for almost 20 years before getting a wake-up call in 2009, when my weight hit an all-time high of 345 lbs. There I was on Jan. 5, sprawled on the couch with my usual bag of potato chips, watching the Oprah Winfrey show, and the topic, ironically enough, was weight loss. At one point, a fitness guru named Dallas Page was mentioned, as one of his success stories. After seeing some pretty impressive before and after photos, I was motivated to get off the couch and do a Google search. It turns out he was a former pro wrestler who steers clients towards an anti-inflammation way of eating while prescribing regular cardio-yoga workouts known as DDPYOGA. He created the workouts years prior in order to heal his own battered body following a wrestling career. As for food, he told me that it was time to give up gluten and cow dairy because of the inflammation he was sure they were causing in my body.
I was so tired of carrying around so much excess weight, I was willing to do anything. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but I began to cut processed foods out of my diet and sought out whole foods, and ones which were naturally gluten-free such as vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. I ate carbs occasionally as long as they were gluten-free such as potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, and gluten-free pasta. As for the dairy I was so hooked on, I swapped the milk and heavy cream for almond and coconut milk. And the cheese I so desperately loved became less frequent. In its place I occasionally ate goat and sheep’s milk cheese. I thought I would be miserable without cheese, but the truth is, I had so much energy I didn’t miss it. And after trying so many diets and food combinations during my lifetime, this formula proved to be the one that got the weight off without misery or struggle. There was effort to be sure: clean eating requires planning and focus. But this way of eating didn’t feel like a futile uphill battle. The results were profound and tangible. And not just with the weight. My stiff and achy joints felt young and supple, I slept better, and I had the energy for things I never thought possible – like walking 20 miles in a single day for a charity marathon!
The most difficult part was the beginning. Even though I was motivated to make better choices, there was a definite element of withdrawing from the processed cookies and chips I’d become so accustomed to. But the many rewards kept me going. Every week, there were different ‘gifts’ spurring me on: clothing fitting better, no longer needing a seatbelt extender when I took an airplane flight, going to a spa and being able to use the bathrobes they provided rather than bring my 4X version from home.
I’m just another average American hardcore overeater who made it out of the woods. I’m living proof that it’s possible. Especially since I was 44 when I began…the time in a woman’s life when metabolism is alleged to grind to a halt and life is said to be downhill from there. At age 52, I look and feel better than I did in my 20’s!
A major thing that really helped me, in addition to good nutrition and eating when I was hungry (and not to fill an emotional need) was coming to terms that food is meant to be enjoyed and not outlawed. I love food now more than I did in my days as an overeater because I eat with awareness, not in a trance.
I’ll never go back to eating those inflammation-inducing foods again. I feel too good – and I’m having too much fun living life!”
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