How do we age in a healthy way?

June 06, 2019
Woman chopping vegetables in a kitchen

An anti-inflammatory diet can play an important role

Aging adults may experience a higher risk of chronic disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Time and time again, inflammation has shown to be one of the primary reasons behind pain and disease.

Many people may be familiar with acute inflammation and the symptoms that may occur when we stub our toe or roll our ankle. Acute inflammation generally causes redness or swelling. In most cases, it lasts for a relatively short period of time. On the other hand, chronic inflammation is persistent and goes on for years. It can cause serious problems such as osteoarthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease and various cardiovascular diseases

What role does food play?

The “standard American diet” is high in trans and saturated fats, refined sugars and starches, and highly processed products.* Foods such as red meat, cakes, cookies, butter and soda contain arachidonic acid, a fatty acid that triggers an inflammatory response in our bodies. Products that contain added sugars also have a pro-inflammatory effect. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, processed sugars trigger the release of inflammatory cell-signaling compounds called cytokines. Long-term consumption of typical Western diet foods and added sugars can lead to chronic inflammation, causing organs and other bodily systems to fail.

Now, the answer to the long-awaited question: What should we be eating? Vegan, vegetarian and Mediterranean diets, or those such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), all have protective, anti-inflammatory effects.* These diets have one main thing in common: They are primarily plant-based. It’s recommended that our diet consist of mostly fruits, vegetables, soy, nuts, extra virgin olive oil, fatty fish and whole grains. These foods can decrease inflammation, with the help of their phytochemical and antioxidant properties. Consuming a diet high in plant-based foods can play a role in preventing many chronic diseases, helping us live a higher quality of life as we grow older.

Article provided courtesy of Haley Bishoff, dietetic intern at Spring Valley Hospital.

*“Inflammation and Osteoarthritis.” Today's Dietitian, Oct. 2016,