5 Inflammation-Fighting Foods Help You Age Gracefully from Inside Out
By Andrea Schwartz, MEd, RD, LDN, CLC, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Registered Dietitian—Virtua Medical Nutrition
Fine lines, brown spots, and grays are often dreaded outward signs of aging. But, because we can’t see what’s going on within our skin, we don’t often think about how we’re aging on the INSIDE.
Autoimmune and diet-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure are taking a serious toll on American life expectancy. The good news is that you can help prevent these diseases by focusing your diet on foods that reduce inflammation. Here are the foods that will help you anti-age your diet.
Your body needs fat. But, there are good fats (like monounsaturated omega-3s) and not-so-good fats (like polyunsaturated omega-6s, trans-fats and saturated fats).
You can get plenty of omega-3s by eating 2, 4-6 ounce servings of fish, like salmon, per week. But, you can also get omega-3s from flaxseed oil, olive oil, walnuts, seaweed vegetables or supplements.
Omega-6s are found in corn, soybean and other vegetable oils. This type of fat is found in abundance in processed foods. Because omega-3s and omega-6s compete with each other biologically, you need to decrease omega-6s while you increase your omega-3s. You should avoid trans-fats altogether.
Fruits and Vegetables
You should be eating fruits and veggies in abundance for many reasons, but their high antioxidant levels give them great anti-aging value.
Every day, chemical reactions in your body produce unruly oxygen molecules called free radicals. Free radicals can make a mess of your cells and damage them. Antioxidants are the “mops and brooms” that help clean up and rid the body of free radicals.
You can see antioxidants because they are often responsible for the bright colors of fruits and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables (like spinach, Swiss chard, kale, seaweed) and red tomatoes are especially good. But other vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, beets, onions, and peas are great, too. The idea is to “eat the rainbow” to get a variety of antioxidants.
Fruits don’t all provide the same antioxidant benefits. The best are berries (especially blueberries), apples, pears, plums, and citrus fruits because they contain less sugar. If you have trouble eating enough fruits and vegetables, supplementing with vitamin C provides antioxidant benefits as well.
The building blocks of protein are called amino acids. Each protein source varies in the level and type of amino acids they provide. Variety is important, but you might want to choose those that are more easily digested and contain healthier fats.
Your best animal-based protein choices are chicken and fish with a limited amount of red meat and pork. If you choose beef, switch to grass-fed over grain-fed to decrease your intake of omega-6 fats.
Plant-based proteins like tofu and legumes (lentils, chickpeas, black beans) are also good options. Nuts and nut butters can be very healthy in reduced-sodium varieties, and they bring the added value of healthy fats and vitamins. Protein powders, made from pea and brown rice proteins, are an option as well and provide a balance of amino acids.
Whole grains like oats, brown/wild rice and quinoa are high in fiber and offer anti-inflammatory qualities.
Sprouted grains are easier to digest, and provide more essential nutrients. They’re becoming easier to find and can be found in pastas and certain varieties of breads in the freezer section of your grocery store. Be wary of processed foods that contain “whole grains” as they often come with added ingredients that aren’t good for you.
Your gut has healthy bacteria that help you digest foods and absorb nutrients. Fermented foods contain active probiotic cultures that help you maintain these healthy bacteria.
The most widely available fermented foods are plain Greek or low-sugar yogurts and raw sauerkraut. Other choices include kefir (a drinkable yogurt that’s also available in non-dairy), kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) and kombucha (a fermented effervescent drink). Supplementing with a daily probiotic pill is fine, but it can be pricy—in the $25 range for a 30-day supply.
Try to limit ingredients like sugar and refined flour, which actually PROMOTE inflammation. And, try your best to maintain calorie balance to avoid gaining weight and carrying extra body fat.
By modifying your diet to include these foods, you’ll be anti-aging from the inside in no time.
Updated March 14, 2017