Inflammation is one of our immune system’s ways of protecting us from illness or injury. But sometimes our bodies respond to common situations like stress, excess weight, exposure to allergens or other things that don’t pose an immediate threat by becoming inflamed. Because of this, many people experience chronic low-level inflammation. Research suggests that chronic inflammation is unhealthy and that it can contribute to many diseases common among seniors, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and arthritis.
Some foods – such as red meat, white flour, soda and anything fried – can contribute to inflammation. But other foods have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that can combat chronic inflammation. These foods may even help prevent or lessen the effects of some diseases associated with aging, such as the joint pain caused by arthritis. For that reason, anti-inflammatory foods are an important part of elderly nutrition. Here are seven of the best anti-inflammatory foods and anti-inflammatory drinks for seniors.
A Rainbow of Fruits and VegetablesFruits and vegetables are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods, because they have many different anti-inflammatory properties, including antioxidants and polyphenols. Seniors should aim to eat at least five servings a day of anti-inflammatory vegetables and fruits in a variety of colors (yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, brown and white) to fight inflammation most effectively. Some of the best anti-inflammatory vegetables are broccoli, peppers and leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens. Some of the best anti-inflammatory fruits are berries, cherries, tomatoes, avocados, grapes and oranges. Because fruits and vegetables are low in calories, they can also help with weight loss, which can reduce inflammation.
BeansThe fiber and protein found in pinto beans, red kidney beans, black beans and garbanzo beans will keep you full, and the antioxidants and magnesium they contain can reduce inflammation. Adding a cup or more of beans to a senior’s diet just twice a week can reap great anti-inflammatory benefits.
NutsNuts are a tasty source of fiber, protein and healthy fat. And some nuts, such as almonds and walnuts, are also high in anti-inflammatory compounds, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Choosing a handful of nuts in place of a sugary, highly processed snack is an easy way to add anti-inflammatory food to a senior’s diet.
Fatty FishSalmon, herring, trout, mackerel and sardines have lots of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which fight inflammation. Omega-3 supplements are popular, but the best way to harness EPA and DHA’s inflammation-fighting powers is to put fatty fish on the menu twice a week.
Extra Virgin Olive OilA staple of the popular and heart-healthy Mediterranean diet, extra virgin olive oil is the definition of a healthy fat. Research suggests that a few tablespoons a day of this oxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory oil can lower risk of heart disease, cancer and other serious health problems.
Dark ChocolateEmbracing an anti-inflammatory diet doesn’t have to mean giving up on dessert! Dark chocolate contains antioxidants as well as flavanols, both of which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. That could explain why eating dark chocolate has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease and other conditions associated with aging. Milk chocolate does not have the same effect though, so seniors should stick to chocolate that is made up of at least 70 percent cocoa.
Green TeaIt’s no wonder that green tea has long been thought of as medicine: With antioxidants and a polyphenol called EGCG, this is the granddaddy of anti-inflammatory drinks. Replacing a soda or other sugary beverage with hot or cold unsweetened green tea is a refreshing way to fight inflammation and dehydration in seniors.
Outside of their anti-inflammatory properties, all of these foods and drinks are healthy and delicious, so seniors have nothing to lose – and much to gain – by adding them to their diets.