Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The aim: Optimum mental and physical health, along with disease prevention.
The claim: Chronic inflammation causes chronic disease. Reducing inflammation prevents age-related disease and promotes overall wellness.
The theory: Developed by Andrew Weil, the Harvard-educated doctor and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, this diet reflects Weil’s belief that certain foods cause or combat systemic inflammation. Unlike the redness or swelling that occurs when your body fights a chronic or low-grade infection, inflammation can lead to serious conditions such as heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Stress, environmental toxins, physical activity and diet all play a role in one’s inflammatory state, Weil says. His diet aims to boost physical and mental health, provide a steady supply of energy and reduce the risk of age-related diseases by serving up healthy fats, fiber-rich fruits and veggies, lots of water and limited amounts of animal protein – except when it comes to oily fish.
Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet is ranked:
Weight Loss Short-Term2.9
Weight Loss Long-Term2.8
Easy to Follow3.0
Scores are based on experts’ reviews.
How does Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet work?
Dos & Don’ts
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is based on a daily intake of 2,000 to 3,000 calories, depending on your gender, size and activity level. About 40 to 50 percent of your calories will come from carbs, 30 percent from fat and 20 to 30 percent from protein. Weil suggests striving for a mix of all three nutrients at each meal.
It’s based on the Mediterranean diet, Weil says, with a few extras such as green tea and dark chocolate. The program calls for a variety of fresh foods, with a heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables, which Weil says provide phytonutrients that fight cancer and other degenerative diseases. In addition, he recommends routine consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and avoiding fast and fried foods at all costs.
The guidelines get more specific by dietary component. For example, when it comes to carbs, you want the kind that will keep your blood sugar low and stable. Toward that end, opt for less processed foods, filling up on healthy carbs such as whole grains, beans, squashes and berries.
You’ll cut down on saturated fat, which is found in butter, cream and fatty meats, and steer clear of margarine, vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated oils. Instead, your dietary fat will come from extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation. The plan stresses substantial intake of omega-3s from cold-water fish such as wild salmon, sardines and herring. If you’re not eating oily fish twice a week, Weil recommends a daily fish oil supplement that includes EPA and DHA. Protein sources include fish, yogurt, cheese and beans, especially soybeans.
You’ll aim for a variety of colorful produce, especially berries, tomatoes, orange and yellow fruits, cruciferous veggies and dark leafy greens. Whenever possible, choose organic to avoid pesticides. (Weil helps promote the Environmental Working Group’s list of produce that’s most and least contaminated with pesticides – the so-called “dirty dozen” and “clean 15,” respectively.) Along those lines, Weil suggests drinking only purified water to avoid toxins such as chlorine and chloramine. Opt for tea over coffee, particularly the white, green and oolong varieties. He also permits plain dark chocolate (with a minimum cocoa content of 70 percent), which contains antioxidants, and red wine, in moderation, which has been linked to cardiovascular health.
How much does it cost?
You don’t have to purchase anything except, of course, fresh ingredients. You might want to buy “True Food” and the newest book, “Fast Food, Good Food: More Than 150 Quick and Easy Ways to Put Healthy, Delicious Food on the Table.” However, there are plenty of free recipes available on Weil’s website.
Will you lose weight?
Probably. Weil’s approach is based on the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to weight loss and a lower likelihood of being overweight or obese. While it’s well-documented that inflammation and related diseases are caused by obesity, whether the reverse is true – that reducing inflammation induces weight loss – is less substantiated. However, some studies suggest that inflammation itself increases the risk of obesity.
How easy is it to follow?
Very. Since there are no strict meal plans, the Anti-Inflammatory Diet provides plenty of flexibility. You’ll simply have to adjust your regimen to adhere to the key principles of the diet: plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lots of fish or fish-oil supplements.
Convenience: Weil’s website is full of detailed information and recipes. Meal prep may be time-consuming. Eating out, however, is doable, and alcohol is allowed.
Recipes: “True Food,” one of Weil’s cookbooks, provides recipes from his restaurant chain by the same name. A concept Weil built in coordination with award-winning restaurateur Sam Fox and executive chef Michael Stebner, the True Food restaurant is meant to show that healthful food can be delicious. The book lists ingredients for stocking your “True Food” pantry and features a full range of recipes. Nutritional breakdowns are not included in the book, but are noted in the recipes featured on Weil’s website.
Weil’s newest cookbook, “Fast Food, Good Food: More Than 150 Quick and Easy Ways to Put Healthy, Delicious Food on the Table,” is a collection of his favorite recipes from his personal collection, all of which take 30 minutes or less to make.
Eating out: Allowed. Check out restaurant menus beforehand to find meals that most closely resemble those in the book. When in doubt, Weil advises opting for Japanese food.
Alcohol: Allowed. Several cocktails are included in both cookbooks.
Timesavers: Stock up on the pantry items recommended in either cookbook so you’re prepared to create an inspired and approved dish.
Extras: Membership in Weil’s online guide to the anti-inflammatory diet provides nearly 300 recipes, videos, nutrition advice and additional support. After a two-week trial period, the service costs $3.99 per week, with a four-week minimum.
Fullness: Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of satiety, the satisfied feeling that you’ve had enough. You shouldn’t feel hungry on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet, which allows for 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day. Plus, you should be getting lots of fiber, which helps stave off hunger.
Taste: Among the offerings in “True Food,” there’s spaghetti with tuna puttanesca, Southwestern bison meatball soup, chocolate pudding and even cocktails, like the Acai Mojito. The newest book offers tasty sides, including: buffalo mozzarella bruschetta; zucchini ribbons with basil and parmesan; and smashed potatoes with horseradish, greens and herbs.
Health & Nutrition
Experts weren’t overly impressed. Although it’s considered “nutritionally balanced,” it’s a complicated plan, and dieters are told to avoid certain fruits and veggies if they’re not organic. “This kind of advice unnecessarily deters folks from consuming healthful fruit and vegetables,” one expert said.
What is the role of exercise?
Weil takes a holistic approach to wellness, and exercise is part of his overall regimen. Although it’s not explicitly outlined in this diet, Weil encourages it for physical and mental health. Walking is one of the best exercises, because it boosts bone, organ and immune health, he says, but he also plugs the benefits of yoga, belly dancing and tai chi. For his part, Weil swims laps in his home pool.