Aging gracefully means being as healthy as you can be for as long as possible. Your dietary and lifestyle choices play a significant role in keeping you in good health as you age. Although you may be exercising regularly and eating healthy foods, you should always be looking for ways to fight aging by eating anti-inflammatory foods.
All of the anti-aging philosophies, promises, and products can be daunting. You may wonder whether eating anti-inflammatory foods will benefit you. It turns out that inflammation not only accelerates the body’s aging process, but it has also been linked to many diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, and even cancer. You may want to talk to your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist to learn more about this.
What is inflammation and how can it affect your body?
The immune system responds to injury and diseases by producing inflammation in the body. For example, if you fall and try to break the fall with your hands, you will most likely injure one or both of your wrists. Moments later, it will become red, tender, and radiate heat. Those are all signs of acute inflammation – which is actually good for your body. It is a natural response that your body’s system uses as an aid to healing. As you heal, the inflammation fades.
Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is not healthy for you. This is inflammation gone awry; it’s your body’s enemy. Instead of fading, it stays in your body for an extended period. When inflammation gets out of hand, it can attack the healthy cells of your body, and the process that is meant to heal you becomes self-destructive. It is now well-known that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses, especially those related to the aging process.
Persistent stress, overexposure to environmental toxins, lack of exercise, and poor diet all contribute to this type of inflammatory process.
Can something be done?
The good news is that some lifestyle choices can help this process. A powerful tool for combating inflammation that contributes to aging begins with the selections you make in the grocery store. Choosing foods that fight inflammation is one way to control the aging process. While it sounds like a good idea, be wary. The anti-inflammatory diet is an eating plan you need to follow throughout your life to combat the aging process. It isn’t technically geared for weight loss, though you might lose some weight from healthier eating. Rather, this diet will help improve your overall long-term health.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The anti-inflammatory diet focuses on whole foods – foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, pesticide free, high in anti-inflammatory spices, high in healthy fats, and high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Some foods to include in an anti-inflammatory diet are:
- Soy products, such as tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and edamame
- Healthy fats found in coconut and extra virgin olive oil of high quality, beans, avocados, seeds, and nuts
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines that provide omega-3 fatty acids
- Vegetables and foods that are brightly colored, such as fruits (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges) and vegetables (tomatoes, dark leafy greens)
- Clean water and green tea as a beverage
- Spices that are anti-inflammatory, such as cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger
For a diet that provides even more healing nutrients, eat foods that are high in alpha-carotene, like bok choy, cabbage, red peppers, carrots, swiss chard, green peppers, asparagus, collard greens, broccoli, peas and winter squash. In his book Super Immunity, Dr. Fuhrman says that a higher intake of alpha-carotene decreases the risk of death from all causes based on his review of recent rese
Foods to Avoid
While it is important to consume anti-inflammatory foods, it is also important to decrease your intake of foods that cause inflammation including:
- Highly processed foods and carbohydrates that are quickly digested, such as sugar and sugary snacks, white foods (rice, bread, pasta). These foods are typically packaged in a box or a plastic bag.
- Foods containing vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats (produced industrially from vegetable fats and used in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods, and frying fast food).
- Polyunsaturated oils, such as soy, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils.
- Red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage).
It may be difficult to know if you are eating any of these foods. Thus, it is essential to read the food labels carefully to see if any of these inflammatory foods are in them. When you’re not sure, you should buy raw, unprocessed foods and cook them yourself. Foods that are labeled “raw” or “organic” are great foods to choose in an anti-inflammatory diet.
Cooking for yourself means eating nutritiously. If you prepare your own food, you know that you are eating nutritious food, not chemically laden items pretending to be food. And, you will have the peace of mind that comes with knowing what you are putting into your body.
Does an anti-inflammatory diet work?
According to the expert dietitians, monounsaturated oils and omega-3 oils fight inflammation. On the other hand, some of the information is inaccurate when it comes to eating anti-inflammatory foods to combat aging. One study indicated that heredity can play a role in who gets a disease and who doesn’t.
While diet is important, genetics also plays a role in the aging process. You can decrease the effects of chronic diseases by eating an anti-inflammatory food diet. Don’t make big changes all at once. Start introducing anti-inflammatory foods gradually, particularly alpha-carotenes, into your daily menus and take away inflammatory foods so that eventually your diet represents an anti-inflammatory diet as much as is possible.
Are there risks to an anti-inflammatory diet?
According to nutrition experts, there are no known risks to eating an anti-inflammatory diet. Indeed, quite the opposite. It is healthy eating for everyone and especially for seniors. You should, however, take precautions if you have food allergies. Talk to your nutritionist about finding ways how anti-inflammatory foods can benefit your body and help reduce or stop the aging process.