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The #1 Best Eating Habit After 50, Says Dietitian

If you’ve hit the half-century mark, envy your greens.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

What happens when you turn 50 besides having your friends tell you it's "the new 40?"

You start seeing the symptoms of chronic illness show up in family and acquaintances, if not in your own health. Diseases start to rear their ugly head, the result of a buildup of nutritional insults over the first half of your life, warns registered dietitian nutritionist Isa Kujawski, MPH, RDN, who holds a masters of public health in nutrition and dietetics and owns Mind, Energy, Awareness Nutrition. For example, metabolic disorders like high blood pressure, obesity, pre-diabetes, and type 2 diabetes are lifestyle-related, driven by poor food choices that cause tissue-damaging chronic inflammation.

If you're 50 or over, the best eating habit you can adopt to reverse those simmering health problems is filling your plate with anti-inflammatory foods at every meal, says Kujawski. She's talking about "plant foods that once were alive and have their own immune systems," she says.

"Colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with polyphenols and antioxidants that repair and restore damaged cells."

The importance of eating anti-inflammatory foods after 50.

fruit and vegetables

Inflammation can be a good thing; it's the immune system's response to foreign invaders like pathogens. But it is also triggered by eating inflammatory foods like processed foods, fried foods, baked goods, red meats, as well as smoking and drinking excessive alcohol.

RELATED14 Inflammatory Foods That Cause Weight Gain

This chronic low-grade inflammation is persistent; it never goes away and ultimately can damage the body. Chronic low-grade inflammation has been linked to heart disease, stroke, cancer, and autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Anti-inflammatory foods protect against disease

Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet can turn the tide on chronic disease, says Kujawski. The number one food to start eating at almost every meal, she says, is dark leafy greens.

"Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, dark greens are nutrient-dense. Go for anything that's pigmented and deep in color like blueberries, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsley, and cilantro. They're easy to incorporate into any meal."

The Best & Worst Greens to Eat—Ranked by Nutritional Benefits.

Anti-inflammatory foods support mental health as you age

Those same anti-inflammatory foods are important for maintaining good mental health as you age, too. "Many mental disorders can be a manifestation of deficiencies in B vitamins, folate, and vitamin D," says Kujawski. "Without those nutrients, your neurons won't be firing properly for key processes, and you may experience a domino effect of brain fog, anxiety, depression, and even dementia."

Eating a high-fiber diet is another important eating habit to follow over 50.

Another anti-inflammatory nutrient that's a must for the 50-plus crowd is dietary fiber. Fiber is critical to a healthy microbiome in your gut. "The gut and brain are so connected," says Kujawski.

"Foods influence the microbiota, which in turn can even create serotonin in your gut that regulates your mood."

For a flavorful way to further fight chronic inflammation, check out The #1 Best Spice to Reduce Inflammation, Says Science.

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Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff