|Dr. Andrew Weil|
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Greetings from Seattle
I’m blogging from the 2013 Nutrition and Health Conference in Seattle. This is the 10th year for this conference and it's a great venue for doctors and other health practitioners to come and increase their knowledge of nutrition. The problem of having insufficient nutrition education in medical schools is well known. In 1985 only 27% of medical schools met the dismal requirements of 21 hours of nutrition education. In 2006 only 41% of med schools provided the new and still inadequate 25 hour minimum. Many doctors want to know more as is evident by their attendance here at this conference (over 50% of the attendees are physicians).
Please note, this is not a vegan conference and I will be reporting findings that many of my followers may not agree with but I feel it's important to bring you all information unfiltered.
This morning, Dr. Weil gave a great talk on "the optimum diet". He encouraged dietitians and doctors to consider the individual when recommending a diet. He doesn't feel that one diet fits all and discourages what he calls “dietary extremism” – or diets that avoid entire food groups in the name of health: whether it be Dean Ornish and fat avoidance, the Paleo diet which avoids beans and grains, vegan diets that avoid all animal products (of course for many vegans, the avoidance of animal foods in products is not just for health but for reasons of compassion and the environment), raw food diets that avoid cooked foods, and others.
When looking at what diet is best for a person, Dr. Weil feels that we must not ignore that each of us has unique genomes and biochemistry which makes us benefit from different types of diets. We are also products of different ethnic and cultural traditions where the foods we eat not only contribute nutritionally but also to our enjoyment and social connection.
Looking at epidemiological evidence, both the traditional Mediterranean diet and the Japanese diet are the ones most associated with longevity. In addition, most age-related diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and others have been increasing linked to inflammation. Dr. Weil’s dietary recommendations take both of these key factors into account. He promotes many of the foods that are common in either the Mediterranean diet or the Japanese diet, many of which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Let me note that although diet can significantly effect inflammation and disease, he also points out that stress, genetics, lack of exercise and exposure to environmental toxins also contribute greatly to inflammation.
Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Pyramid
Starting at the bottom of the pyramid:
Eat Vegetables and Fruits (More veggies than fruits):
* Vegetables, both raw and cooked (4 to 5 servings a day minimum)
Because they are rich in flavonoids and carotenoids that have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Focus on dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables and all parts of the color spectrum - organic when possible.
* Fruits, (3 to 4 servings per day). Also rich in flavonoids and carotenoids. Go for a wide range of color and those lower in glycemic load such as berries and others.
Eat Grains, Beans and Legumes:
* Eat whole and cracked grains (3 to 5 servings per day.) Whole grains digest slowly, stabilizing blood sugar. According to Dr. Weil, when you pulverize a grain however, even a whole grain, it loses its ability to do this. Foods with a high glycemic Index are digested rapidly and are inflammatory. So pulverized whole grains are as inflammatory as white flour. I interpret this to mean that cracked wheat, barley, brown rice and quinoa would be superior to flour, even if it's whole grain. So if you don't see the "whole grain", it doesn't have the benefit of the whole grain.
* Pasta (2 to 3 servings per week). “Al dente” pasta not only tastes better but has a lower glycemic index than “fully cooked” pasta! Who knew?
* Beans and Legumes (1 to 2 servings per day). Rich in folic acid, soluble fiber and other important nutrients, they are a low-glycemic-load food. Eat beans like Anasazi (my favorite), chickpeas, and lentils, to name a few.
Healthy Fats I was so pleased to see that Dr. Weil does not fear fat (I don't either). He promotes healthy fats, especially extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, avocados, hemp seeds and freshly ground flaxseeds. These healthy fats are rich in either monounsaturated fats or omega-3 essential fatty acids. The Mediterranean diet uses lots of extra virgin olive oil, rich in polyphenols that have antioxidant activities.
Dr. Weil recommends 5 to 7 servings of healthy fats per day where a serving is 1 teaspoon of oil, 2 walnuts, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed or 1 ounce of avocado.
Fish and Seafood
Dr. Weil promotes the consumption of 2 to 6 servings of fish per week, such as salmon, herring, sardines and other high omega-3 fish. EPA and DHA omega-3, found in seafood and algae, has strong anti-inflammatory properties.
Whole Soy Foods (1 to 2 servings per day of whole soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, soymilk, edamame or soynuts).
Although soy foods are quite controversial with regard to their health benefits, Dr. Weil feels there is an enormous amount of misinformation circulating, much of which comes from the meat and dairy industries.
The main controversy is with respect to soy's safety for breast cancer survivors and young boys. Although soy contains isoflavones that have estrogenic activity, Dr. Weil interprets the data to say that soy does not accelerate breast cancer but actually blocks access to estrogen receptors. It has even been found to be safe for women on tamoxifen. It also does not feminize boys, another piece of misinformation which has caused mothers to not feed it to their young sons. Moderate consumption of whole soy foods (not soy isolates) is safe and beneficial.
Eat Unlimited Amounts of Cooked Asian Mushrooms
Shiitake, enokidake, maitake, oyster and others, contain compounds that enhance immune function.
Other Sources of Protein such as eggs and cheese (if consumed at all) should be limited to 1 to 2 servings per week. In general, he feels it is important to reduce the consumption of animal foods. If you eat chicken, it should be organic and cage free with the skin and associated fat removed. Organic dairy should be used moderately. Eggs should be from free-range chickens or omega-3 enriched.
Healthy Herbs and Spices, especially turmeric, curry powder, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, basil, cinnamon, rosemary and thyme are natural anti-inflammatory agents. Use generously to season your foods.
Tea: Drink 2 to 4 cups of white, green and oolong tea per day. Tea is rich in catechins that naturally reduce inflammation. Also drink pure water through the day.
Best Recommendation of All - Wine and Chocolate
Drink a nice glass or two of red wine per day.
And, eat a piece of dark chocolate with at least 70% pure cocoa, a few times per week. Dark chocolate contains beneficial polyphenols with antioxidant activity.
Check out the printable version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammation Pyramid.
Stay tuned .... more to come from Seattle!