3 Best Diets To Improve Senior Health (Foods to Eat & Foods to Avoid)

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Are you confused by the sheer number of diet plans on the market? You're not alone.

Every year there's a new diet fad making claims that it alone offers longevity, health, energy, vitality, or improved memory. Whether it's a new super food, ancient grain, exotic seed, eating like a caveman or grazing like a wild animal. The fads and claims are endless.

The danger of course, is that diet can have a real impact on your health - positive or negative. So we decided to take a look at which diets have the most research behind them and the best results over the long term. These diets aren't about losing, weight. They're about achieving specific positive health outcomes. Choose the diet that fits your goal best.

THREE BEST DIETS FOR SENIORS HEALTH

We found 3 diets that demonstrate the ability to increase longevity, reduce chronic illness and reduce dementia. We selected these diets because they also have the support of the country's leading medical institutions and health authorities like Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic and the National Institute of Health.

The three diets plans we endorse are:

  • The Mediterranean Diet (heart health & longevity)
  • The DASH Diet (reduce high blood pressure)
  • The MIND Diet (reduce Alzheimer's-dementia)

THE MEDITERRANEAN DIET

The Mediterranean diet an approach to eating which tries to replicate the diets of those living near the Mediterranean sea, who were studied and shown to live longer and healthier lives than the average.

The Mediterranean diet is not a meal plan per se. It identified foods to emphasize and foods to avoid such as:

Foods to emphasize:

  • Extra virgin olive oil (replaces butter, margarine and vegetable oils with olive oil and use it liberally)
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Fruits & Vegetables (cover your plate primarily with fruits & vegetables)
  • Nuts
  • Fish (fatty fish with lots of Omega 3 like salmon, sardines & mackerel - this is your main source of protein)

Foods to avoid:

  • Highly processed foods
  • Refined carbohydrates (white bread, white potatoes, white rice, breakfast cereals, energy bars)
  • Sweeteners
  • Processed meats (cold cuts, hot dogs)
  • Fried & fast foods

Recommended recipe books:

THE DASH DIET

The DASH diet is an approach to eating intended to lower high blood pressure. People who follow the diet have been shown to improve overall heart health and significantly lower the chance of heart failure, which currently afflicts close to 6 million Americans.

The DASH diet is also not a meal plan per se. Although it encourages you to emphasize nutrients that lower high blood pressure like potassium, calcium and magnesium and avoid ingredients that raise blood pressure like sodium.

In the standard DASH diet, you can consume up to 2,300 mg of sodium per day. In the lower sodium DASH diet you can consume 1,500 mg's of sodium per day. Compare that to the typical American diet which consumes over 3,400 mg of sodium per day.

Foods to emphasize:

  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Low-fat, non-fat Dairy
  • Lean meat, poultry, fish
  • Nuts, seeds, legumes
  • Fats & oils
  • Some sweets

Foods to avoid:

  • Sodium (look especially hard at canned foods, mixed spices, sauces and condiments)
  • Alcohol (increases blood pressure)
  • Fried and fast foods

Recommended recipe books:

THE MIND DIET

The MIND diet is actually a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet and has been shown to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's and dementia in its follower by over 35%.

Like the Mediterranean and DASH diets, it focuses on natural plant based foods and limiting the intake of animal and high saturated fat foods. However, it emphasizes eating fresh berries and green leafy vegetables specifically - and de-emphasizes other types of fruits, eating lots of dairy or even eating fish more than once per week. That's not to say eating more fish isn't good for your health, just that having more than one serving per week didn't reduce dementia any more than having one serving of fish per week.

Foods to emphasize:

  • Berries (specifically blueberries and strawberries)
  • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, lettuce, broccoli)

Foods to avoid:

  • Red meat and meat products
  • Butter and margarine
  • Whole fat cheese
  • Pastries and sweets
  • Fried/fast foods

Recommended recipe books:

 

The commonality that all of these diets have is that they encourage you to eat lots of whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Try to incorporate each of them in each of your meals. As a rule of thumb, cover the majority of your plate with fruits, vegetables and legumes so that your serving of fish, meat or poultry is minimal and not the main dish. Also make your meals colorful, encouraging you to use a multitude of healthy ingredients.