We all know that the things we eat are extremely important, but maybe we don’t know exactly why it’s important. The fact is that our diets have a great effect on our overall health.
Inflammation, which is a natural immune system response, has been linked to the health condition of frailty. Frailty is a state of increased vulnerability resulting from a decline in function across multiple physiological systems such as muscle strength, and cognition. Frailty affects older men and women and is a serious condition of impaired function of ability that increases the likelihood of falls, hospitalizations, and mortality. Accordingly, it is a risk factor for mobility loss, disability, and several chronic diseases.
About 15% of people in the United States who are 65 or older already have frailty, and among those without frailty, 45% are at a higher risk of developing frailty in the future. With the average life expectancy rising, more and more people will reach advanced age and thus face the possible risk of frailty.
Malnutrition is a major contributing factor for the development of frailty, and therefore a healthy diet of nutritious food that meets all the requirements for macro and micronutrients is an excellent line of defense.
Inflammation is a natural process by which the body responds to a problem. It’s a normal reaction that signals the immune system to the presence of something wrong, so it can release natural chemicals and immune cells to fight off infections or heal injuries.
Many foods contain antioxidants, and are sometimes referred to as miracle or superfoods. While no single food is a miracle, or can provide 100% of nutrition, these foods typically have lots of nutrients and antioxidants that can reduce the amount of age-related inflammation in the body. Individuals who primarily consume a diet that is packed full of natural dietary antioxidants typically have a lower risk of developing chronic diseases.
One popular dietary pattern is the Mediterranean style diet, which is rich in nuts, whole grains, fish, olive oil, beans, fruits, and vegetables. This type of diet is so named because it is traditionally eaten by people living in the Mediterranean region, such as Greece or Italy. The effect the Mediterranean diet has in fighting frailty may come from a number of factors, such as high amounts of vitamin C, which plays a role in controlling infections and healing wounds, vitamin E which enhances immune function and prevents the formation of clots in the arteries of the heart, and carotenoids that work together with other antioxidants to strengthen your body’s defenses.
Now, with all the benefits a Mediterranean diet has with fighting inflammation, you may be wondering how to begin. Start by building meals around vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Eat fish at least twice a week, especially fatty fish like salmon, which are rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Swap butter and cooking oils for olive oil. Greek yogurt with fruit added into it makes for an excellent breakfast as well, just make sure you’re getting plain or naturally sweetened Greek yogurt, as many of the flavored varieties are loaded with unnecessary amounts of sugar.