I got the surprise of my life when people were complaining about a DR editorial. You mean the BYH column is not the...

Kathy Kolasa: Take the Med way to health

Kolasa, Kathy

Kathy Kolasa


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Q My doctor told me to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. Can you give me any tips? MM, Winterville

A I hope your doctor gave your more information about your dietary goals since you won’t find that title in the diet manual used by health care professionals.

Most registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) would suggest that an anti-inflammatory diet isn’t much different than the healthy diet they recommend for the prevention of disease. That diet would emphasize eating mostly real whole foods including fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds and healthy fats — and all within your calorie budget.

Alcohol would be allowed but in moderation with one serving for women and up to two for men. A serving is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer (a low alcohol beer), or 1½ ounces of spirits.

Foods thought to be inflammatory include anything highly processed, overly greasy or super sweet. One popular eating approach that has been shown to reduce inflammation is the Mediterranean approach. The RDNs at Vidant Health have developed a tip sheet for patients interested in starting to eat this way. Here is what they are saying:

The Mediterranean Way is a lifestyle which includes mindfulness. It involves a variety of healthy foods, eaten in modest portions and has been shown in well-designed studies to help decrease the incidence of multiple health issues, including but not limited to heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and memory loss.

Many of the RDN’s patients like the plate method as a guide to help plan healthy meals. So, the Mediterranean plate would have half of the plate with for fruits and vegetables and the other half is for lean proteins and higher fiber carbohydrates. On the side is a glass or bowl for small amounts of low-fat dairy like milk, cheese or yogurt (1-3 servings per day).

There would be a snack box with 3 ounces of nuts and seeds for the week and lots of waters and unsweetened tea.

Consider these tips as you fill the plate:

Choose healthy cooking methods: grill, broil, bake, boil, stir fry, air fry, oven-fry use an insta-pot.

Eat fewer inflammatory foods like deep-fat fried foods, fast foods, fatty and processed meats, biscuits, boxed meals or noodles, gravies and cream sauces.

Instead choose lean meats like seafood, fish, chicken, and turkey.

It’s OK to have a little lean red meat occasionally but not three times a day.

Choose fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, halibut, catfish, tilapia, flounder, bass and cod (2–3 servings per week).

Choose nuts, seeds or edamame (a preparation of immature soybeans in the pod). You’ll find edamame in cans or pouches orin the freezer case. Be careful, it’s easy to pop them into your mouth and eat way more calories than you planned. Read the Nutrition Facts label since the calories per ounce of edamame vary by product.

Use healthy fats sources in measured, small amounts including olive oil, sesame oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocado, olives and nuts. But again, use these foods within your calorie budget.

Choose more fresh or plain frozen foods that are naturally lower in sodium, but fruits and vegetables can be fresh, plain, frozen or healthy canned.

Choose healthier grain products with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving (it’s listed on the Nutrition Facts label) such as breads, cereals, pastas, brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal and crackers.

Add fruits and/or vegetables to each meal and any snacks. Leave the peeling on whenever possible.

Folks in eastern North Carolina have a grand tradition of eating vegetables but for some reason they have fallen off many people’s plates. Add beans like pinto, red, black, navy and cannelloni; peas including green, chick, black-eyed and split; and/or brown, red, black, or green lentils to soups, casseroles, salads or have as a side dish.

Include hummus as a spread. Hummus, a mixture of pureed chickpeas, tahini (a condiment made from toasted ground hulled sesame), lemon juice, garlic and salt, also can vary greatly in calories.

Use herbs and spices (garlic, red/white/black pepper, chili powder, oregano, basil, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and mint as well as vinegars (white, apple cider, red wine, balsamic) to add flavor to foods.

Fruits and vegetables like lemon/lime juice, orange zest, onions and peppers of all colors, and carrots and celery can flavor food too.

Limit sugar, honey, molasses, agave, raw sugar and brown sugar to keep the calories in check.

Although it’s not part of the Mediterranean Way, it’s OK to use modest amounts of natural or artificial no calorie or low-calorie sweeteners like Equal, Splenda, Sweet ‘N’ Low and Stevia.

Choose water, water, water or non-caloric beverages (diet soda, Crystal Light, flavored waters) instead of drinks with added sugars if you are needing to lose some weight.

Two great websites are www.medinsteadofmeds.com and www.oldways.com. You can make an appointment with an RDN for help with planning the perfect anti-inflammatory diet for you.

Professor emeritus Kathy Kolasa, a registered dietitian nutritionist and Ph.D., is an affiliate professor in the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. Contact her at kolasaka@ecu.edu.


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