Dr. Andrew Weil, a physician, best-selling author, speaker and thought-leader in integrative medicine, has developed the "Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid" to help guide those interested in trying an anti-inflammatory diet. This type of diet can help counteract the chronic inflammation that is a root cause of diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, some cancers, and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The diet can also help with healthy aging.
To summarize the food pyramid, below is a brief explanation of each section of the pyramid. At the top of the triangle, we have "healthy sweets', which should be eaten sparingly. These include dark chocolate that are 70% pure cocoa, unsweetened dried fruits, and fruit sorbets. Consuming a few ounces of this type of chocolate a week is reasonable as dark chocolate provides polyphenols with antioxidant activity.
Next, the pyramid offers an optional 1-2 glasses per day of organic red wine (also known for its antioxidant activity). Note if you do not drink alcohol, you should not start.
Supplements are also a part of this food pyramid. Maintaining recommended levels of important vitamins and minerals in the body is important for everyone, and this is especially true for people with arthritis. For many people with severe arthritis, active disease makes it challenging, or near-impossible, to prepare and eat the wide variety of healthy foods necessary to maintain adequate vitamin and mineral levels in the body. One issue experts tend to agree on is that Calcium and Vitamin D are critically important nutrients for people with arthritis. The average adult should consume 1000 - 1500 mg of calcium, and 400 - 800 IU of Vitamin D, each day.
Want to grab a coffee? Consider getting tea next time. A serving of 2-4 cups per day of white, green, or Oolong teas rich in catechins can help reduce inflammation. Read the brewing instructions on your tea packaging for optimal taste and health benefits.
Dr. Weils spiced up this food pyramid by including healthy herbs and spices in it. These include turmeric, curry powder, dried or fresh ginger and garlic, chilli peppers, basil, cinnamon, rosemary, and thyme. Turmeric and ginger contain natural anti-inflammatory agents.
Like Health Canada's food guide, protein is a crucial part of the anti-inflammatory diet. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues, make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is also an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Dr. Weil recommends 1-2 servings a week. Sources of protein include natural cheese, yogurt, omega-3 enriched eggs, skinless poultry, and grass-fed lean meats.
Cooked Asian mushrooms like shiitake, enoki, maitake, and oyster mushrooms act as great garnishes for your meal. They also contain compounds that enhance immune function. You can also complement your meal with 1-2 servings per day of whole soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh, edamame, soy nuts, and soymilk. Soy foods contain isoflavones (plant-derived compounds with estrogenic activity), which have antioxidant activity and can protect against cancer.
The pyramid recommends 2-6 servings a week of fish and seafood. Fishes like wild Alaskan salmon, herring, sardines, and black cod are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, considered a healthy fat (fats rich in mono saturated or omega-3 fats). Healthy fats are rich in polyphenols with antioxidant activity. Avocados, nuts, seeds, and extra virgin olive oil are all sources of healthy fats.
A side of whole and cracked grains, such as brown rice, basmati rice, wild rice, buckwheat, groats, barley, quinoa, and steel-cut oats can reduce the frequency of spikes in blood sugar that promote inflammation as whole grains digest slowly. Another side to consider is pasta, such as organic pasta, rice noodles, bean thread noodles, and Japanese udon and soba noodles. Cook your pasta al dente as it will have a lower glycemic index compared to fully cooked pasta. This form of carbohydrate helps minimize spikes in blood glucose levels.
Beans and legumes, vegetables, and fruits form the base layers of Dr. Weil's anti-inflammatory food pyramid. Anasazi, adzuki and black beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas and lentils are rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium, and soluble fiber. Vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard, and fruits like raspberries and pomegranates, are a great source of flavonoids and carotenoids (both serve as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents).
To learn more about Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, click here.