The Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

What exactly is inflammation?

Without a doubt, it's easy to see inflammation when you cut your finger or skin your knee. The affected area begins to bleed and becomes red and swollen. This is called acute inflammation and is your immune system's way of doing its job!

But what happens if your body's immune response doesn't 'shut off'? This persistent internal inflammation-called chronic systemic inflammation-is a totally different scenario. It's much more worrisome, especially because you can't see it or feel it! It's literally doing 'silent' damage. Unlike the repair that occurs during acute inflammation, chronic inflammation does not allow for this healing and can lead to serious diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

A Healthy Diet Helps Control Inflammation

So, does this mean you are doomed to a life of constant, chronic systemic inflammation? NO! In fact, there is much you can do to 'cool it down', including eating a healthy diet. The Mediterranean Diet is a good example of such a plan. Make no mistake about it, the Mediterranean Diet is not a diet at all! It is a style of eating which reflects the traditional eating patterns of those countries surrounding the Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean style of eating promotes:

  • Whole, unprocessed foods with simple preparation (foods are rarely fried)
  • A diet rich in healthy carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans
  • Small amounts of healthy fats-such as extra virgin olive oil, olives, nuts or seeds-with each meal
  • Eating fish 2-3 times each week for a healthy heart and brain
  • Low-fat yogurt and cheese in moderation
  • Herbs and spices to flavor your foods versus salt, sauces and gravies
  • Water to quench your thirst
  • At least one vegetarian meal per week
  • Very small amounts of healthy proteins and very little red meat
  • Enjoying your favorite foods in moderation

The Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

A great body of scientific research supports the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. These include:

  • Longer lifespan
  • Improved brain function
  • Lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease
  • Lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels
  • Improved weight control
  • Prevention of depression