Love him or hate him, but there’s one thing most of us can agree on about quarterback Tom Brady: The guy is really disciplined about his diet.
Brady has often talked about how an anti-inflammatory diet—which he says fights inflammation and helps his body absorb nutrients—is one of the secrets to his success on the field.
“If I know my body will experience inflammation every Sunday during the season, the last thing I want to do is stack on more inflammation on top of it — not if I want to feel great every time I take the field,” said Brady in a book he wrote about his diet and lifestyle.
Want to be invited over to Brady’s house for a meal? Expect wild fish, free-range, hormone-free meat, whole grains, nuts and certain fresh, local and organic fruit and vegetables. What you won’t see are mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, dairy, gluten, white sugar, white flour, processed sweets, condiments, alcohol or salt.
Is an anti-inflammatory diet for you?
It’s normal to feel a bit skeptical. Science still hasn’t found that all inflammation is bad. In fact, some is good, as in when your body’s immune system revs up to help you fight off a fever or other infection. Other research has found that chronic inflammation may be linked to heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and arthritis.
Meanwhile, if you Google the words “anti-inflammatory diet,” you can expect to find numerous books, eating plans and products—including Brady’s.
“In my opinion, it’s another tagline and a way to sell a book,” said Andy Yurechko, a dietitian at Augusta University Health. “There certainly are pro-inflammatory foods that can make you feel lousy, but my advice is to ignore the name ‘anti-inflammatory’ and aim for a healthy balance.”
That means that certain foods recommended by Brady and other anti-inflammatory experts are very good recommendations. This includes foods you’d expect, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and fish. Beans are a great choice too as a high-fiber, high-protein, plant-based food. “If you want to talk about their anti-inflammatory properties, these foods help our bodies fight stress and oxidation associated with inflammation,” said Yurechko. “Oranges, for example, contain the antioxidant vitamin C, which helps our immune system do its work so we’re less likely to get sick.”
On the other hand, a steady diet of high-fat foods—pizza, hamburgers, white pasta with cream sauce, donuts—stresses out the body, and in the short term, that stress ends up making us feel tired, lethargic and overall not so great. In the long run, these foods can also make us age more quickly and increase the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, heart problems and others.
It’s your choice
While you can’t go wrong with choosing foods with lots of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, it’s not like these are the only foods you can eat, said Yurechko.
After all, it’s pretty unrealistic to say you’ll never eat a slice of cake or drink a soda again. “Eating well-balanced foods is definitely the way to go,” said Yurechko. “And if you do eat high-fat foods, choose to do so in moderation.”
Because the truth is, if you eat a donut, you won’t immediately get sick. At the same time, if you eat only Tom Brady’s diet, you aren’t guaranteed to never get sick—or even to win six Superbowls.