There is an exciting new field called New Biology and it is turning what we thought we knew about food, diet and nutrition upside down! Concepts from this new line of thinking are particularly important as we age and focus mainly on not eating for caloric intake, but instead feeding our gut bacteria the nutrients they need to thrive. It also pays attention to inflammatory versus anti-inflammatory foods.
Eating healthy later in life means paying attention to the foods that cause inflammation in the gut and those that are anti-inflammatory in nature. While, unfortunately, our Western diet is highly inflammatory, there are many foods that will soothe inflammation, feed the good bacteria in the gut and deprive the bad ones from flourishing.
Foods to either reduce or eliminate include certain grains, dairy products, sugars, and certain oils. Most of the wheat in Western nations is grown industrially, with chemicals and more gluten than our bodies can handle. Therefore, it’s wise to reduce or stop eating wheat, rye, barley, rice, and corn. Try replacing refined grains like white bread and white rice with whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat bread.
In terms of dairy, milk and coffee creamer, ice cream and yogurt, and most cheeses are to be consumed very little, if at all. In terms of sugar… it is enemy #1 for an aging gut and is highly inflammatory. Certain oils from corn, soy, canola, and vegetables are also to be avoided, as they are highly processed and inflammatory.
We’re not done eliminating inflammatory and gut-unfriendly foods! Legumes are also on the list of foods to reduce or eliminate and include peanuts, lentils, and black beans. These contain lectins which are inflammatory proteins. Other nuts like almonds and cashews are hard to digest and can cause inflammation. Eggs contain albumin, which is also inflammatory. And finally, nightshades (tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant) contain alkaloids that cause inflammation.
So, what does one eat? While reducing or eliminating the foods just described, begin to incorporate anti-inflammatory and gut-health foods like clean proteins and seafood including Alaskan wild-caught salmon, bass, Alaskan cod, crab, Mahimahi, scallops, shrimp, tuna, and sole. Adding moderate levels of organic poultry and grass-fed beef, lamb and pork are healthy options. Organic green, leafy vegetables are also gut-healthy and consuming around 4 cups per day can lead to improved overall health. Include low-fructose fruits like avocados, berries, grapefruit, Honeydew melon, lemons and limes, oranges, papaya and pineapple. Cook with cold-pressed oils from avocados, coconut, and olives. And, add all the herbs and spices as you wish.
Eating healthy and enjoying a vast array of foods isn’t as difficult as most people think. It just takes a little bit of research to find the right kinds of foods that will maintain good health later in life. Most importantly, eliminating inflammatory foods and replacing them with gut-friendly, anti-inflammatory foods may be one of the best things an individual can do to live a long and healthy life.