You wouldn't think the mention of whole grains and dark leafy greens could inspire such frenzied excitement, but when tied to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and wife and supermodel Gisele Bundchen, things change. Since Brady's personal chef, Allen Campbell, dished on the anti-inflammatory diet he feeds the golden couple, many are wondering what the deal is with this Dr. Andrew Weil–created, Mediterranean-based diet. In short, it's as good as any diet you could try to follow. Which doesn't mean it will be easy. We break it down for you here.
In the name of reducing or preventing inflammation — a chronic condition linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis — the diet calls for a variety of fruits and vegetables including lots of dark leafy greens and antioxidant berries, lean organic meats, whole grains, and fatty fish such as salmon rich in omega-3 fatty acids. People following the anti-inflammation diet can "splurge" on an occasional piece of antioxidant dark chocolate. Red wine is the only type of alcohol for which Dr. Weil gives a somewhat reluctant thumbs up.
On the "avoid" list: margarine, vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, white flour, white rice, white bread, coffee (green tea is recommended instead). So obviously, no processed or fast food. Ever. Dairy products are permissible but they should be organic and sparing.
Further Restrictions: Goodbye Dairy, Nightshades, and Caffeine
In his interview with Boston.com, Campbell said the Brady-Bundchen clan doesn't eat dairy, whereas Dr. Weil allows organic yogurt, high-quality cheese, and omega-3 enriched eggs. Brady's chef doesn't serve mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, or tomatoes, claiming that this "nightshade" group of vegetables are inflammatory; Dr. Weil's diet permits them. Dr. Weil recommends green tea, which has half the caffeine of coffee, while Campbell says Brady and Bundchen don't consume caffeine.
What's to Love
- It's low in saturated fat but high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts so you won't feel deprived.
- The diet is high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which help you stay energized, alert, and lowers your risk for inflammation-related illnesses.
- Even Campbell's version provides enough variety that you're not likely to get bored, and eating in restaurants isn't difficult.
- Anyone with access to organic produce and whole grains can follow it, and as long as you don't go nuts buying lots of organic, grass-fed meat, it's not an expensive way to eat.
- Why the hate for green tea and coffee, two of the healthiest things we drink?
- Rigid diets leads to cheating.
What the Experts Say
To be fair, Campbell never said that everyone should eat like his famous clients do, but because people might be inspired to anyway, experts caution that no diet — even a reasonable one — shouldn't be thought of as one size fits all. "It's true that some people can't digest some of these 'nightshade' foods and may actually have a sensitivity to them, but to say they're not part of a healthy diet for the general population is overstepping," says Dr. Holly S. Andersen, a cardiologist at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at The New York Presbyterian Hospital. Inflammation — acute and chronic — is a complex biological and biochemical process that isn't easily measured, she explains.
Nightshade vegetables could cause inflammation in some people, but it depends on the individual, says Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian in the San Francisco Bay Area and American Dietitic association spokeswoman. Similarly, coffee, which often needlessly gets a bad rap, can lower your risk for diabetes and isn't bad for you unless it causes reflux or other health issues.
The coconut oil thing, which Campbell says is all he cooks with, bugged Angelone, however. "Although coconut oil tastes delicious, it doesn't have data to show that it is indeed heart healthy," she says, explaining that a couple of much-touted studies are largely misunderstood.
The upshot: The anti-inflammation diet is a solid, healthy way of eating, but be wary of claims that any diet can prevent disease. And never eating dessert or drinking alcohol would be difficult for many people, particularly those for whom hotness isn't a job requirement (we're talking about Gisele here).