We are what we eat, so carefully choosing what we consume can have a wide range of benefits for physical and mental health. These food groups have amazing health promoting properties, and can be added to your diet regularly to best support the body as it ages.
Oily fish - salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines
Oily fish are the best food sources of anti-inflammatory, omega-3 fatty acids. Chronic inflammation in the body can lead to chronic disease, and one of its main causes is an imbalance of Omega-3 to Omega-6. Modern day diets provide too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3.
Ideally, we should aim to consume 2 - 3 portions of oily fish weekly. Meal ideas include sardines on toast with grilled tomatoes, salmon in a fish pie, mackerel salad or anchovies in a pasta dish with passata, olives, and capers.
If you don’t eat oily fish then walnuts and chia seeds can provide some Omega-3. An Omega-3 supplement, such as fish oil, may also be beneficial, especially if you suffer from an inflammatory condition.
A rainbow of fruit and vegetables - tomatoes, grapes, red peppers, broccoli
Fruit and vegetables contain antioxidants; these are plant compounds which prevent damage to the body from free radicals which can cause disease. They also contain phytonutrients which give the food its colour and provide health benefits. Eating a range of colours provides an array of different health benefits:
- White and brown are excellent for immune support e.g. garlic, onions
- Dark red may lower risk of high blood pressure and heart disease e.g. beetroot
- Green may lower the risk of certain cancers e.g. broccoli, brussel sprouts
- Blue and purple may improve brain function e.g. blueberries
The wider range of colours you can eat, the better! One easy way to do this is to eat seasonally or get a fruit and vegetable box delivery. If you're based in the UK, Abel & Cole, Riverford or Oddbox all deliver fresh and seasonal produce straight to your door.
Aim for 1 - 2 portions of fruit per day (ideally one of these will be berries as these are low in sugar), and 5 portions of vegetables.
Some ways to include fruits and vegetables into your diet:
- Incorporating vegetables into your breakfast, such as mushrooms and tomatoes, can be a great start to the day. If you need some inspiration, you might want to check out these vegetarian breakfast recipes from BBC Good Food.
- In the summer months, adding vegetables to a smoothie is also an easy way to hit the target. For a quick berry smoothie, blend 1/2 a banana, a handful of frozen berries, 1/2 an avocado, 1 frozen floret of cauliflower, 1 small handful of frozen spinach, 1 tbsp of nut butter and any milk of your choice.
Fermented foods - live yoghurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, tempeh
The health of the gut, and specifically the bacteria we find here, are strongly connected to immune system health and overall inflammation. Our immune system is important for helping prevent disease, therefore, supporting our gut is a great way to maintain health.
These fermented foods directly place good bacteria into the gut, while eating a healthy diet - choosing whole foods and avoiding processed foods - will maintain a healthy gut flora.
Some ways to include fermented foods in your diet:
- Avoid sweetened or flavoured yogurts and buy live, plain yogurt instead. If needed, you can add 1 tsp of honey and a handful of berries for a healthy breakfast. Yeo Valley is an excellent, and easily available brand for plain yoghurt.
- Kefir is a great drink to take 'on the go'. It is slightly more sour than yogurt but is often naturally sweetened with fruit. For a wide, well-regarded range of kefir products, check out Biotiful which is stocked in most supermarket chains.