Combatting Sugary Temptations
Food is an integral part of all of our lives. We celebrate with food; we grieve with food, plan meals for the week and challenge ourselves with tasty and complex new recipes. Food is central to our day and activities and a critical part of our various cultures. In fact, sharing the joys of food is a vital way to learn and explore another’s lifestyle, culture and personality!
With so much of our lives focused on food, it can be challenging to stay on the right track regarding optimal nutrition. However, as long as we choose healthy options most of the time, we can enjoy the occasional treat. As we age, though, certain foods are best left off the table as they can complicate our health.
Still, enjoying many fantastic culinary opportunities and remaining healthy is possible. We know infants and children have specific nutritional needs, as do teens and pregnant women. As we get older, we also have particular requirements for what we eat, which often means leaving certain items off our plates. The need to exclude specific foods is due to the complications they can cause with our older bodies, certain medications and other health factors.
1. Unpasteurized Milk and Other Dairy Products
Milk and dairy products have been pasteurized for decades as a solid method to destroy potentially fatal bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria. The bacteria in unpasteurized milk and dairy products can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting. Even worse, the bacteria can cause life-altering and potentially fatal diseases such as Guillian Barre Syndrome and hemolytic uremic syndrome.
The Centers for Disease Control states that the “people most at risk for severe foodborne illness are adults 65 years and older.” As we age, fighting off infections becomes more challenging for our bodies. For these reasons, older adults should avoid consuming any unpasteurized dairy products.
2. Energy Drinks
If you are active, thirsty or feeling dehydrated, plain water is always your best choice. While energy drinks may be appropriate for the super athlete, they can cause complications for many others, even those super athletes. Energy drinks contain high levels of caffeine and sugars, and because they are just drinks, there is very little safety regulation around their production and sale.
Energy drinks have been linked to sleeplessness, anxiety, higher blood pressure, irritability and faster heart rates. As we age, many of us need to take various prescription medications, and energy drinks can impair the effectiveness of many medicines. So, given their many drawbacks, always choosing water is a simple and healthy choice.
3. Fried Foods
While often delicious, fried foods do not have a place on a healthy plate at any age. It should come as no surprise that fried foods are high in fat, and consuming fried foods can lead to heart disease. However, there is another critical reason to avoid fried foods as we age. Fried foods often contain harmful trans fats, which cause painful joint inflammation. This inflammation can worsen arthritis pain and limit movement.
4. Fatty Foods
As we age, we tend to slow down a bit, so eating high-fat foods can cause unwanted weight gain. Foods high in fats increase our risk of heart diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Choices such as bacon, mayonnaise, butter and potato chips are nutrient-poor, so filling up on high-fat foods may result in poor nutrition overall. Maintaining good health as an older adult requires a balanced and nutritious diet.
5. Raw or Undercooked Foods
Like unpasteurized dairy products, raw and undercooked foods present a significant risk for older adults. Raw and undercooked foods may contain bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Severe food poisoning can be life-threatening and may even lead to sepsis. Older adults are at an increased risk for serious illness, and for many, fighting any infection can be life-altering and even deadly. Wash uncooked produce thoroughly, and ensure meats are cooked to the required temperature.
Grapefruit is delicious, but its high nutritional benefits can be met with many other citrus fruits and some vegetables. Grapefruit should be avoided by anyone taking medications for high blood pressure, anxiety and insomnia because it may intensify the effects of the medicine. Talk to your pharmacist if you are unsure how grapefruit will interact with your medications.
7. High Sodium Foods
Consuming too much salt can elevate blood pressure and worsen already high blood pressure. Avoid adding salt to foods or use a salt substitute. Look at your snack foods with a critical eye; many snack foods are very high in sodium and are likely poor nutritional choices anyway, so they are best left off our plates.
8. Nutrient-poor Foods
Eating well is critical if you want to age optimally, with independence, vigor, and energy. Your diet should contain a variety of healthy fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, and all the other delicious options. When we eat nutrient-poor foods, we may not have the appetite for these healthy foods, which will provide us with what we need to age well!
9. Artificially Sweetened Foods
We have all been tempted by the labels that proclaim a drink or sweet treat to be ‘sugar-free’ or ‘calorie-free’ as they seem to promise the impossible: guilt-free eating! However, the latest research has shown that artificially sweetened foods may lead to unwanted weight gain and may cause other health problems. Further, just because it is sugar-free does not mean your choice is nutritious or even low-calorie.
10. High Sugar Foods
By reducing your sugar intake, you may avoid unhealthy weight gain and Type 2 diabetes. High-sugar foods are also filling, so eating too many sweets will limit your intake of much healthier options. If you crave a sweet treat, choose a yummy apple or grapes!