Food as Medicine, Lifestyle Medicine, Preventive Medicine

Deconstructing the Anti-Inflammatory Diet: What to Drink

As a doctor, I see patients who put a lot of effort into their diets when it comes to deciding what foods to eat, but they sabotage themselves unknowingly by making poor choices when it comes to what they drink. How to complement your diet by choosing healthier beverages is a question I hear all the time. Here are some answers that can help.

 

What’s my healthiest drink option?

It’s all about the unsung hero of beverages — the only recipe you’ll ever need.

RECIPE

Ingredients: water, optional slice of lemon.

Instructions:

  1. Turn on your tap.
  2. Fill glass (no plastic please! It’s bad for mumma earth and your health, too).
  3. Enjoy.

Water is nature’s gift to our bodies and it’s all we need to stay hydrated.

Jazz it up with a wedge of lemon, a few slices of cucumbers or a spoonful of frozen blueberries, if you please. That’s all there is to it.

What about a morning cup of coffee?

Coffee, full of antioxidants, has demonstrated its health benefits again and again. In studies, coffee drinkers (compared to non-coffee drinkers) were less likely to suffer from a number of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer. Plus, they lived longer. Those who drank 3-4 cups per day, compared to those who drank less, benefited most.

And good news: the evidence for potential harm, such as effects on bone density, or to the developing fetus of pregnant women, are not as robust as previously thought. Studies suggest that up to four cups of caffeine per day is a safe upper limit for most people, with less than three cups for pregnant women (the experts agree).

P.S. Don’t pollute your coffee (and body) by adding sugar or other sweeteners. You’ll reduce many of the positive health effects gained from the drink in the first place.

Tea’s a healthy choice, right? But, what kind to choose…

Tea is an excellent addition to the anti-inflammatory diet. And whether you choose black or green tea, they both boast health benefits, reducing your risk of many chronic diseases.

Bonus: like coffee drinkers, tea drinkers studied were more likely to live longer.

Many herbal teas are also lovely, and you can even make your own. I love a good ginger/turmeric tea since both herbs pack anti-inflammatory punch. I also enjoy valerian tea at nighttime. If you’re buying loose or bagged tea, just be sure to read the label for any unwanted additions such as flavourings, sugar, honey, caramel, etc.

What about juice? Some boast “anti-inflammatory” properties.

Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables by making your own smoothies is a great way to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. However, once fruits and veggies are “juiced”, they’re stripped of their fiber, which is necessary to dampen their effects on blood sugar. Instead, natural sugars are left to their own devices, which can cause spikes in your blood sugar and insulin, contributing to inflammation. So stick with whole fruits and veggies, or blend them yourself.

Can I indulge in an occasional alcoholic drink?

Absolutely. Red wine has protective effects against both cancer and heart disease. One glass (5 oz) of wine daily for women and twice that for men has positive health effects for most people and is recommended as part of an anti-inflammatory diet for those who enjoy it. (Pregnant women, however, should steer clear).

 

Energy drinks? Protein drinks? Nope. We’re looking for whole foods, free of additives, and without any of their natural, inflammation-fighting properties taken away.

So, drink plenty of water. Add coffee and tea to your liking. Put your blender to work. Your body will thank you for it.

Cheers!

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