When it comes to a healthy diet, different things work for different people depending on health requirements and how the body reacts to various foods. Many older adults live with the steady pain and discomfort of chronic inflammation, which can be decreased or even avoided by maintaining a healthy anti-inflammatory diet.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s natural immune system response to a range of irritants, infections, and injuries. There are certain health conditions, like arthritis, that are prevalent in seniors, which trigger the body’s inflammation defence even though there is nothing really to fight off. This can result in the immune system attacking healthy cells and causing unnecessary damage.
Why is a healthy diet so critical for older adults?
The reasons to maintain a healthy diet are innumerable, and there are so many benefits for the body that comes from simply being aware and conscious about what you use as fuel. For many seniors who are dealing with conditions such as chronic pain from ailments like arthritis, an anti-inflammatory diet can make a huge difference in daily comfort and the ability to carry out an independent lifestyle.
Anti-inflammatory diets focus on foods that reduce inflammatory responses within the body. Restricting or completely avoiding foods that increase inflammation in the body is essential for achieving the desired results. In essence, the goal is to eat foods that establish and maintain balance in the body and to avoid foods that will cause inflammatory flare-ups.
Eating nutritious foods rich in vitamins and minerals is so important for seniors for several reasons. A nutritious diet provides the energy needed for daily tasks and activities, but it also helps lower the risk of developing more severe health problems like:
A lot of people only consider the physical repercussions of an unhealthy diet. However, research continues to show direct links between excess sugar intake and cognitive decline. Healthy eating is not only good for your body but also your brain.
To Eat or Not to Eat
When it comes to an anti-inflammatory diet, there are general lists of foods that are suitable and others that are detrimental.
Foods to Avoid
The following are foods that are important to avoid when seeking to reduce inflammation:
- Refined Sugar
- Red Meat
- Greasy, Fatty Foods
- Corn Oil
- Highly Processed Foods
- Refined Starches
- Caffeinated beverages
Some people can enjoy foods like red meat and dairy when consumed in moderation. Still, others may experience an inflammatory flare-up even when the smallest amount of these foods is eaten. It is important to know your body and what it is capable of digesting easily without negative effects.
On top of involvement in inflammatory responses, the foods listed above can also create discomfort in other areas of the body, causing things like stomach pain, drowsiness, mental fog, and other problems when they are consumed in excess. For these reasons, even seniors who are not explicitly on an anti-inflammatory diet should give some thought to monitoring and reducing the consumption of these problematic foods for better overall health.
While not specific food items, alcohol and tobacco should be avoided in excess to prevent inflammatory episodes. While some seniors may be able to handle alcohol in light moderation, smoking tobacco should be avoided at all costs for an array of health reasons.
Foods to Target
Foods that actively help to reduce inflammation are encouraged for anti-inflammatory diets. Here are some foods that can produce positive health benefits for the mind and body:
- Leafy Greens – kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage
- Other vegetables – beets, onions, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms
- Fruit – berries, cherries, grapes, avocado
- Beans, nuts, seeds
- Whole Grains – quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread
- Fatty fish – salmon, tuna, mackerel, trout
- Herbs & spices – spices like turmeric provide anti-oxidant properties but may not agree with some peoples’ digestion
- Healthy oils – extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, walnut oil
Striking a Balance
Maintaining a healthy diet isn’t just about thinking of some foods as ‘good’ and others as ‘bad.’ It is not always that straightforward, as some of your favourite foods can be eaten in moderation and still be healthy.
Being on an anti-inflammatory diet does not have to feel like a punishment. Never eating some of those sugary, fatty foods that so many of us enjoy is just not realistic for some people. Limiting those delicious but potentially damaging food items is key, especially after you know exactly how they impact your body.
Finding the right balance between what makes the body feel healthy and what makes the soul feel good is all a part of the process, and there are always ways to manage those luxury foods that bring so much satisfaction and joy.