You've seen him on Oprah, Good Morning America, 20/20, and countless lifestyle shows as well as his own award-winning PBS-TV specials, New York Times best selling author (and my former boss), Nicholas Perricone MD, FACN is a board certified clinical and research dermatologist, and is regarded as the Father of the Inflammation Theory of Aging. For more about him, go to:
Dr Perricone’s anti-inflammatory diet is the cornerstone of the Perricone Program. The right foods and beverages will help prevent age-related diseases and degenerative conditions—both physical and mental. Our food choices will ensure that our skin will look youthful, supple and radiant, our mental states positive and upbeat, our energy levels high and our thinking clear and sharp.
The anti-inflammatory diet consists of the following components:
• High-quality protein, like that found in fish, shellfish, poultry and tofu
• Low-glycemic* carbohydrates including colorful fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains such as old-fashioned oatmeal, and legumes such as beans and lentils
• Healthy fats, such as those found in cold water fish (especially wild Alaskan salmon, halibut, sardines, herring, anchovies, etc.), nuts, seeds, and olive oil
• 8 -10 glasses of pure spring water per day
• Anti-oxidant rich beverages such as green tea
*will not provoke a glycemic response when consumed in moderation
These foods and beverages act as natural anti-inflammatories and help to maintain normal levels of insulin and blood sugar.
The incomparable health and beauty benefits of Dr. Perricone’s anti-inflammatory diet are visible in just three days.
“Before you eat a meal, hold up 3 fingers and think to yourself: I need a protein, a good carbohydrate and a small amount of unsaturated fat”
-- Nicholas V Perricone, MD
The Power of Protein
Protein is the basic material of life. In fact, the word ‘protein’ comes from an ancient Greek root meaning ‘of first importance’. The body could not grow or function without it. When protein is broken down by digestion the result is 22 known amino acids. Eight are essential (cannot be manufactured by the body) the rest are non-essential (can be manufactured by the body with proper nutrition). Since the human body can only manufacture 14 of the twenty-two amino acids that are essential for life, the remaining eight must be provided through the intake of dietary protein. Yet, the contemporary American diet rarely contains protein in sufficient quantity to maintain and repair cell and skin health.
When the protein supply is depleted, the body is forced to feed upon itself. This causes both tissue and muscle to break down.
Protein is essential to cellular repair. Without adequate protein, our bodies enter into an accelerated aging mode. Our muscles, organs, bones, cartilage, skin, and the antibodies that guard us from disease are all made of protein. Even the enzymes that facilitate all-important chemical reactions in our body—from digestion to building cells—are made of protein. If your cells do not have complete availability of all essential amino acids, cellular repair will not only be incomplete, it will be much slower than it should be.
Remember this key fact: we cannot store protein in our bodies. To keep our face and body firm, toned, lithe, and supple, provide it with a fresh supply of high quality protein every day. That’s three meals a day and two snacks.
Recommended Proteins include:
• Fish - wild Alaskan salmon is the best choice
• Free range poultry
• Omega 3 organic eggs from free range chickens
• Low fat dairy products, esp. yogurt and kefir
As always, eat your protein first, and enjoy your fruits at the end of the meal to avoid any possible negative effects on blood sugar. An added bonus -- protein will help suppress your appetite and keep you from overeating.
One of the keys to a long and healthy life is learning how to control fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin. These swings in both blood sugar and insulin are caused by the simple sugars, starches, and high fructose corn syrup that are ubiquitous in food and beverages today. They are also responsible for the obesity epidemic and degenerative health conditions prevalent in both adults and children.
Sugar, Inflammation, and Aging
Sugar and high glycemic carbohydrates – fruits and vegetables that rapidly convert to sugar – create inflammation on a cellular level throughout your body. If you eat a large quantity of refined sugar or a bowl of pasta that converts to sugar in the bloodstream, the sugar triggers an insulin response from the pancreas to control the level of blood sugar in your body. Diabetics do not have a properly functioning pancreas, and consequently they suffer from high blood sugar, which must be treated with insulin. Diabetics with poorly controlled blood sugar actually age 1/3 faster than do non-diabetics. Diabetics tend to have widespread, measurable inflammation in their bodies. Their constant high sugar levels cause kidney failure, blindness, heart attacks, and strokes. Studies have shown that when diabetics keep their blood sugar levels within normal range, they can cut their rate of health problems by 70 percent.
Carbohydrates and the Fat Production Paradox
Whenever sugar increases insulin levels in the body, fats are also stored. This leads to obesity, even though caloric intake may not necessarily be excessive. A rice cake has about 45 calories and 0 grams of fat. Yet this dietary mainstay of millions of American women can make you fat. Rice cakes are quickly converted to sugar, because puffed rice has a very high glycemic index, making it pro-inflammatory. Eating a rice or corn cake will generate the insulin response that causes us to store rather than burn fat.
The body must have carbohydrates to function. To meet these nutritional needs, Dr. Perricone recommends four to seven servings of low glycemic carbohydrates in the form of fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes and whole grains such as old fashioned oatmeal. As a group, these foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to slow or reverse signs of aging while supplying essential energy. They also contain water, which helps hydrate the skin and body. Choose fresh or frozen produce, but avoid canned items, as heating and processing destroys many nutrients while adding unwanted salt and sugar.
Almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts
Apples, peaches, pears and plums
Blueberries, cantaloupe and blackberries
Asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, spinach
Beans – black, kidney or lima
Slow cooked Oatmeal (not instant)
Breads, Processed Cereals
Fruit Juices and Dried Fruit
Grapes, Oranges, Banana
Carrots, Peas, Corn, Potatoes
We need good fats, such as those found in salmon, sardines and other cold water fish, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and açai (a Brazilian berry whose fatty acid ratio resembles that of olive oil). These “good” fats will help us absorb nutrients from our vegetables and fruits, keep our cells supple, our skin glowing and wrinkle-free, our brains sharp and our mood upbeat. We also need dietary fat to burn fat.
Essential Fatty Acids
The omega 3 essential fatty acids are particularly important and the best sources are the aforementioned cold water fish and fish oil capsules, with nuts and seeds as the second best source.
However, omega-3 is not the only type of essential fatty acid necessary for good health. Also important are the omega-6 and omega-9. All are needed to form and maintain the structural and functional integrity of cell membranes, provide fuel for cellular energy and create the hormone-like messenger chemicals, the prostaglandins and the eicosanoids, which regulate many key metabolic functions.
Because the body cannot make these essential fats, we must obtain them from our diets. This is a lot easier said than done. For one thing, many of us consume a low ratio of essential fatty acids compared to our intake of saturated fatty acids, such as those found in full fat dairy products and meat (we all know that saturated fats are pro-inflammatory and are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease).
Unfortunately, when most of us do consume essential fatty acids, they tend to be omega-6, which is found in grains and vegetable oils such as corn and safflower. In fact, very few of us are getting the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, which may account for the growing prevalence of serious health conditions like heart attacks, cancer, asthma, lupus, schizophrenia, depression, accelerated aging, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes in our society.
This imbalance upsets the proverbial fat-metabolizing apple cart. An overabundance of omega-6 is inflammatory and interferes with the body’s ability to use omega-3s—a serious situation because of the positive effects of omega-3s we talked about earlier: They inhibit the calories we consume from being stored as body fat, while promoting the burning of body fat we already have. It is believed that human’s evolved with a 1:1 ratio of omega 3 to omega 6. It is now believed that the Western diet is 15:1 or significantly greater with the omega 6 intake far surpassing the omega 3 intake. To prevent disease and to look and feel your best, drastically limit intake of omega 6, eliminate all refined vegetables oils other than extra virgin olive oil and increase your intake of the omega 3’s.
Best Choices for Omega 3 Essential Fatty acids (Linolenic Acid)
• Cold water high fat fish, esp. wild salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, shad, herring and trout
• Flaxseed oil (flaxseed oil has the highest linolenic content of any food), flaxseeds, flaxseed meal, hempseed oil, hempseeds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame seeds
• Certain dark green leafy vegetables, including kale, spinach, purslane, mustard greens, collards, etc.
Best Choices for Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids (Linoleic Acid):
• Flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, flaxseed meal
• hempseed oil, hempseeds
• grapeseed oil
• pumpkin seeds
• Pignolia (pine) nuts
• pistachio nuts
• raw sunflower seeds (raw)
• borage oil
• evening primrose oil
• black currant seed oil
Corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and cottonseed oils are also sources of linoleic acid, but are refined and may be deficient in nutrients
Best Choices for Omega-9 Essential Fatty Acids (Oleic Acid)
While Omega-9 is not technically classified as an essential fatty acids because our bodies can manufacture it –however foods rich in oleic acid are recommended because oleic acid oleic acid assists in cancer protection, and decreases the risk of heart attacks and arteriosclerosis.
• Olive oil (extra virgin or virgin), olives
• sesame oil
• pistachio nuts
• macadamia nuts
A special note on nuts and seeds: Buy organic when possible, in small batches and store in the freezer to protect from rancidity.
The Importance of Drinking Water
Pure spring water is an essential component of the anti-inflammatory diet. Logic tells us that when we have an unwanted fire, we throw water on it to put it out. Therefore it makes perfect sense that water would help quell the cellular inflammation that goes on in our bodies. In fact, this is true. Water will decrease inflammation in the body.
Approximately sixty-five to seventy percent of the body weight is water. Water maintains moisture in the body; it transports oxygen to the blood, and helps carry nutrients through blood. Water is necessary to maintain an ideal internal body temperature - in fact, nearly every biological function requires the help of water.
Water naturally suppresses the appetite and helps the body metabolize stored fat. Studies have shown that if we decrease our water intake our fat deposits will increase. Conversely, an increase in water intake will reduce fat deposits. One of the roles of our liver is to convert stored fat to energy. Because our kidneys can't function properly without enough water, if we don’t have enough water in our systems, the liver steps in and assists kidney function. This results in the liver not being able to metabolize fats as quickly and efficiently as it did when it was not assisting the kidneys. As a result, it metabolizes less fat; more fat remains stored in the body and weight loss stops.
Water is also essential to fat metabolism. The more you weigh the more water you need. An even mildly dehydrated body will cause a 3% drop in baseline metabolism resulting in the gain of one pound of fat every six months. A dehydrated body will also provoke the development of aging, inflammatory compounds. Dehydration is also a major cause of fatigue.
When we give our bodies adequate water (6 to 8 glasses per day – or approximately two quarts), we should notice a decrease in our appetites. Women and body builders have often avoided drinking enough water because they fear bloating. You will not become bloated; in fact, the opposite will occur: the well-defined look will be enhanced as more fat is metabolized and wastes are flushed from the body.
The best choice is spring water*. Avoid tap and chlorinated, fluoridated waters to eliminate substances that you do not need in your system.