Senior man sitting at kitchen table as his wife and caregiver prepare a healthy meal.

Eat This, Not That! Why Seniors May Need to Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Last updated on February 15, 2024

Processed foods like chips, cookies, and soda are notorious for their low nutrition and high-calorie counts. Eating too much of these foods can lead to health problems in seniors like weight gain and type 2 diabetes.

But there’s another health concern that should be top of mind regarding nutrition for seniors: Inflammation.

Ongoing inflammation damages the body’s cells. Over time, inflammation can contribute to new or worsening health problems, including:

  • Certain cancers, including liver and pancreatic cancer
  • Depression
  • Diabetes complications
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart disease
  • Joint pain related to arthritis and other health conditions

Inflammatory Food Swaps for Seniors

Certain foods may not cause immediate problems but could contribute to the inflammatory process over time. Work with your senior and their doctor to decide what foods to add, avoid, or swap.

Here are some popular foods and drinks to help your senior avoid (or have only once in a while), along with healthy and tasty anti-inflammatory food swaps.

Red and processed meats

Hot dogs, bacon, and bologna contain preservatives and chemicals that trigger inflammation. Many of these products are high in calories and low in nutritional value.

Try this instead: Introduce lean meats or fatty fish such as salmon or tuna. Include more plant-based proteins like beans, legumes, nuts, or seeds, as tolerated.

Packaged sweets

Donuts, cookies, candy, brownies, and individually wrapped snack cakes contain a wallop of sugar that fuels inflammation. Packaged sweets also drive insulin resistance, which interferes with how the body turns food into energy.

Try this instead: If your loved one has a sweet tooth, steer them toward a square of dark chocolate or a superfood like vitamin-rich fruits such as oranges, strawberries, or blueberries. These choices have antioxidants to help support a healthy immune system.

Fried foods and margarine

French fries, fried chicken, and butter-like spreads are full of grease and oils that carry unhealthy trans fats and chemicals.

Try this instead: Use an air fryer or bake food instead of frying it to reduce oil consumption. Apply flavored olive oil instead of margarine to spice up breads and cooked dishes.

Bleached, white, or enriched flour

Bread and pasta with these ingredients strip away slow-digesting nutrients and increase insulin levels, causing inflammation.

Try this instead: Help your senior choose whole-grain, sprouted, or lentil-derived bread and pasta that retain more nutritional value with less inflammation.

Bottled beverages

Canned sweet tea or coffee, soda, and sports drinks contain high amounts of sodium and sugar. Some have 39g of sugar or more—that’s 2.5 tablespoons!

Try this instead: Water is the best beverage. If your loved one wants something different, add fruit slices to seltzer water for a fun twist. When they’re on the go, bring a bottle of water and a flavor packet that contains little or no sugar, sodium, and added colors or preservatives.

Related reading: Brain Boosting Foods

Visiting Angels Promotes Healthier Eating for Seniors

Visiting Angels personal care services will guide your aging loved one toward healthier and safer food choices at home. Professional caregivers will collaborate with you and your senior to develop meal plans that align with nutritional needs and dietary restrictions. This proactive approach ensures your loved one will receive well-balanced and wholesome meals, enhancing their energy levels, cognitive function, and immune system.

Visiting Angels will foster a supportive environment at home and offer assistance with grocery shopping and meal preparation to enhance your senior’s nutritional health, independence, and quality of life.

Contact us now to learn how Visiting Angels can assist your senior in eating right and staying healthy at home.

If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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