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An anti-inflammatory diet counteracts the chronic inflammation that may be the root cause of many serious diseases that become more frequent as we age, including heart disease, dementia, arthritis, macular degeneration, and diabetes. This dietary approach is designed primarily to reduce the risks of age-related disease and optimize health, and is not a diet specifically for weight loss. Nonetheless, many people will lose weight on it. Stabilizing blood sugar by eating low-glycemic-load meals, eating lean protein with healthy fats, drinking plenty of water, and having high quantities of fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables all contribute to increased metabolism, which helps the body burn fat rather than store it.
The anti-inflammatory diet aims for a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Most people consume an excess of omega-6 fatty acids from which the body synthesizes hormones that promote inflammation. These fats are found in oil-rich seeds and the oils extracted from them, which are used in almost all snack foods and fast foods. Avoid these foods! Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect and are found in oily fish, walnuts, flax, hemp, and even sea vegetables. In addition to correcting the balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, the anti-inflammatory diet eliminates consumption of margarine, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils - all of which promote inflammation.
Carbohydrate foods also influence the inflammatory process. In the body, chemical reactions between the sugars and protein produce pro-inflammatory compounds called AGEs (advanced glycation end products). You can moderate this process by keeping blood sugar low and stable. That means eating less bread, white potatoes, crackers, chips and other snack foods, pastries, and sweetened drinks, less refined and processed foods, and by avoiding fast foods and products made with high fructose corn syrup. Instead, eat more whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, winter squashes and other vegetables and fruits such as berries, cherries, apples, and pears.
As far as protein is concerned, eat lean meat and fish. If you eat fish, choose the oily varieties that provide omega-3s (wild Alaska salmon, sardines, herring, and halibut). If you eat beef, consider choosing grass-fed beef when possible.
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