The AI diet – SHOPPING PART 2 (Meats, Oils and Dairy)

As we continue our shopping adventure for anti-inflammatory foods, let’s follow up with discussion on meats and fish, oils and dairy.  If you recall in my previous post, The Anti-Inflammatory Diet, I provided a list of anti-inflammatory foods which should be consumed in quantity and proportion to one another relative to the priority in which they are listed. As a refresher, here is that list again:

Anti-Inflammatory Foods (listed in order of priority/ volume in which they should be consumed):
  • Water!: 3 liters daily
  • Fresh Vegetables: minimally, 5-6 servings daily * 
  • Fresh Fruits: 2-3 servings daily *
  • Healthy Herbs and Spices and herbal teas (unlimited QTY’s as long as uncaffeinated)
  • Healthy Fats: 1-2 servings daily
  • Fish & Seafood: 1-2 servings daily
  • Whole Grains: 1-2 servings daily
  • Beans and Legumes: 1-2 servings daily
  • Beef & Poultry & Natural Cheese: 1 serving a day
Always be aware of The Dirty Dozen 
Okay, back to shopping. Since we already tackled veggies, fruits and grains, remain clear of the tempting center aisles of the grocery store (typically filled with all of the processed junk) and head to the butcher’s station. You will find an array of meats…everything from whole chickens to packaged salami. Remain focused! Although lean meats are included in the anti-inflammatory approach, you likely need to decrease the total amount of meat protein consumed daily, as well as limit yourself to a few select choices. We know that omega-3’s are considered highly anti-inflammatory so look for fatty fish such as wild Alaskan salmon.  I advise against farmed fish which doesn’t hold a candle, in terms of nutrient-value, to wild fish (and there is an increased risk of mercury contamination). For either your lunch meal or dinner meal, serve fish.
Moving on to red meat and chicken…
Beef should be consumed minimally and when you do eat red meat, make sure to choose grass-finished, lean beef cuts only (sirloin, brisket, and round). Although I am not going to go into great detail on this subject matter right now, you need to be aware as to the dramatic nutritional differences between grainfed versus grassfed cattle. First of all, grassfed products tend to be much lower in total fat than grainfed products.  As an example, a 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer has almost 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grainfed steer. Additionally, grassfed cattle contain higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. The reason that grassfed animals have more omega-3s than grainfed animals is that omega-3s are formed in the green leaves (specifically the chloroplasts) of plants. Sixty percent of the fat content of grass is a type of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic or LNA.  When cattle are taken off grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on grain, they lose their valuable store of LNA as well as two other types of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.  Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.  You will notice that there is an obvious cost difference between conventional versus grass finished beef products.  If it’s not in the budget, skip the beef altogether.  Trust me, it’s better than opting for traditional beef cuts as there are so many other complete protein sources available to choose from.  If you’re seeking a little more information on factory farming methods, check out the movie, “Food Inc.”. It’s on Netflix.
On that note, let’s talk about chicken and eggs.  When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s. You want to look for free-range, organic chicken cuts and eggs. Additionally, those animals fed on grass and allowed to roam freely have much higher levels of vitamin E, which is a super powerful antioxidant, proven to lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Free range eggs are also higher in B-vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin K, and trace minerals like magnesium, calcium, and selenium. Incorporate chicken or beef into your diet, but you should limit all red meat portions to no more than 4 ounce servings and chicken 6 ounces. Limit your meat intake to only 1 serving a day.
While we are on the subject of meat, let’s segue over to oils and fats.  First things first – absolutely no trans fat items. No margarine, no shortening and no hydrogenated oils (another term for trans fat) which are most typically found in processed food items.  It’s not difficult to limit bad fats if you avoid processed and fast foods.  Fundamentally, we view oil in 2 different ways: oils you cook with versus oils you flavor with.  As any seasoned chef knows, every oil has what is called a “smoking point”, the temperature at which the molecular structure of the oil changes and becomes toxic. Believe it or not, there is significant variation given the heat at which some oils burn. Here is a breakdown:
  • Macadamia Nut Oil: This is an excellent frying oil due to its high heat capacity. Macadamia nut oil has a smoke point of 413 degrees F (210 C). It contains up to 85% monounsaturated fats and has a shelf life of around 2 years. It is good for stir fries, searing, baking or deep-frying.
  • Olive Oil: The smoke point for olive oil varies considerably and is based on the quality of the oils and the way in which the oil has been extracted. Pomace, extra virgin, virgin and extra light oils all have different qualities, but all are high in monounsaturated fat, making them heart healthy. Olive oil has a relatively high smoke point (the more refined it is, the higher the smoke point). Extra virgin oil breaks down at a lower temperature and is, therefore, best kept for uncooked uses.
    • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 320 degrees F (160 C)
    • Virgin Olive Oil – 420 degrees F ( 216 C)
    • Pomace – 460 degrees F (238 C)
    • Extra Light – 468 degrees F (242 C)
  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is extracted from fresh coconuts and tolerates a fairly high temperature, making it safe to use as a cooking oil. Smoke point is 350 degrees F (177 C). It is good to use in confections and as shortening. Use good quality, virgin coconut oil.
  • Walnut Oil: Unrefined walnut oil has a smoke point of 320 degrees F (160 C). It is, therefore, easily damaged when heated to a high temperature. Walnut oil is best used in small amounts, for salads and salad dressings. It has a rich nutty flavor.
Lastly, dairy. Dairy has the potential, for a number of reasons, to be very allergenic so it’s difficult for me to include as an anti-inflammatory food. However, if you’ve determined that you are not allergic or sensitive to dairy then including small portions into your diet can be of benefit, particularly organic and raw versions of milk, cheese and yogurt. Be cautious, however, because there is a strong link between food allergies and chronic internal inflammation. For additional insight on diary, please check out my post:
Hope this information assists in making wise, healthy, anti-inflammatory food choices…happy shopping – happy eating!

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