The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Buying Organic (or not!)

6 Mar

I was Stumbling around the web today and I came across Dr. Andrew Weil’s website – specifically, his Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, which piqued my interest. His position on food and health is that some foods promote an inflammatory response in the body, while others are anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a natural process by which the body heals itself, however prolonged inflammation (think heat, swelling, redness, etc) can be harmful, and eating anti-inflammatory foods helps to reduce inflammation and promote better health. Whether or not you subscribe to this way of thinking, I like the food pyramid he sets out, and I also like his dietary recommendations. He talks about “diet” in the same way that I like to think about it: not as a quick fix way to lose weight by eating only grapefruit or cabbage soup, but the daily practice of choosing what to eat to make your body healthy – looking at food as something good for you, rather than as something bad that you need to deprive yourself of. Ultimately, we need calories from food to live, and making healthy choices to get the most out of those calories (health-wise and enjoyment-wise!) is the best way to do that. Also, I like that chocolate is right at the top of the pyramid ;)

Anyway, enough preaching about that. This article gives the dietary recommendations that go along with the pyramid.

While browsing his website, I also came across these two lists: produce that can be bought conventionally grown because it does not carry a large pesticide load, and produce that should always be bought organic (when possible) because it does carry a large pesticide load.

Foods you don’t have to buy organic, aka the Clean 15:

(Assuming that the produce is washed)

  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapples
  • Mangoes
  • Sweet Peas
  • Asparagus
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe (Domestic)
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Honeydew Melon

Foods you should always buy organic, aka the Dirty Dozen:

  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries (Domestic)
  • Nectarines
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Collard Greens/Kale
  • Cherries
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes (Imported)

Looking at this list, I need to start making some more organically-minded choices at the grocery store.

I’m reading David Suzuki’s Sacred Balance right now, and in it he talks about how the pesticide and toxin loads that humans carry in their bodies are on the rise – ironically, they are highest in the least industrialized areas of the world, for various reasons (I recommend reading the book if you are interested in knowing why!). We dump pollutants into the natural environment pretty indiscriminately, and it is only a matter of time before it comes back at us. While the trace amounts of toxins and pesticides in our food might not seem like a big deal, humans are at the top of the food chain, so  those small amounts of toxins concentrate in our bodies – pretty nasty. Limiting that toxic concentration is a good argument for making organic choices when buying from the Dirty Dozen list! Again, I think it comes down to choosing your diet: balancing food choices that will make you healthy and happy.

(I know I haven’t mentioned it here, but I also think that buying locally and ethically is just as important as buying organic (and sometimes more!), not only for our personal health but for the health of our communities and the planet. However the links between organic, local, and ethical food are fascinating and complex, and that’s a kettle of fish to be saved for another post!)

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5 Responses to “The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Buying Organic (or not!)”

  1. nette March 6, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    “Red Wine – No more than 1-2 glasses a day”

    A day?! Does the average person really drink every day? This always strikes me as so strange. Its like saying: “Cans of Coke – No more than 2 a day!”

    I might have 3-4 glasses once a week(if that) when I get together with people. But the idea of drinking on a daily basis just seems so illogical…

    • Korena March 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

      I don’t know if it’s illogical, I know lots of people who keep wine in the house and have a glass every evening. I agree that *heavy* drinking on a daily basis is a bad idea, but a beer a day, or a glass of wine a day… I can see that, totally – if nothing more than for the relaxation that comes along with it (and that stress-reduction is most definitely beneficial!). There have been lots of studies showing that a glass of wine a day is good for you – combined with a good diet and moderate exercise (which is what this recommendation is based on). In moderation, it can reduce heart disease and the affects of aging (antioxidants). The moderation part is the key though – obviously if you’re getting sloshed everyday, it’s not good for you ;)

      I don’t think it’s encouraging people to start drinking everyday though – if you click on the picture, the link takes you to an explanation of the recommendations, and it says that the daily wine is optional, and that if you don’t already drink alcohol, don’t start!

  2. LeisureGuy March 6, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Turmeric in particular is a strong anti-inflammatory. Just 1/2 tsp per day is very protective. It does, however, fail the “local” test.

  3. LeisureGuy March 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm #

    Also: White tea has much more in the way of anti-oxidants and the like than black tea or green tea, and those are best preserved with a little squeeze of lemon or lime in the tea.

  4. Warren Dostie March 6, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Thats a good pyramid, but I’d even eat less of the grains. I don’t see why you need them if you eat lots of vegetables, broccoli, carrots, etc. And I think supplements should have a bit more prominent place. Overall though I could certainly live with this one.

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