New Year Older You: Five Foods You’ve Got to Reduce
by Lou-Ann Jordan Feb 5, 2024
Did you groan when you read the title? We know many of us don’t like to think about changing our diets. The fact is, we eat what we love, so why stop? Still, you weren’t deterred by the foreboding title, so it stands to reason that you’re ready to make changes or interested enough to learn about the changes you can make when you’re ready. Either of those two reasons is a good place to start.
So, why stop eating the things you love? It’s simple. There comes a time when what you love to eat does not affect your body as it used to. As we age, our bodies react differently to foods we’re accustomed to eating. For example, you may find eating wheat now causes heaviness in your stomach, alcohol intoxicates you faster, and having sweets makes you sluggish. You may even notice a difference when eating spicy foods, as they now leave a lasting, or rather, burning impression as they exit your body.
It can be disheartening, but it shouldn’t be avoided, as it’s about choosing what’s best for our bodies. We all want to be healthy, but optimal health requires intentionality and dedication. It’s foregoing immediate gratification for long-term benefits. You’re not alone on this journey. The New Year Older You series is about outfitting you to enjoy growing older. Our previous issue discussed new hobbies you can start this year. Now, we’ll look at five foods you may want to say goodbye to or of which you should lessen your consumption.
Five Foods You’ve Got to Reduce
Processed Foods – First, let’s address what are processed foods. The National Health Association defines them as any food that’s been modified during its preparation. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics expands this by including foods to which ingredients have been added to give flavour and texture. Some foods are minimally processed, like frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Others, such as cereals, sausages, bacon, deli meat, boxcakes, and biscuits, are heavily modified. Certain foods, such as frozen fruits and vegetables, are excellent substitutes if you can’t access fresh ones. However, you should aim to reduce and eventually avoid ready-to-eat foods. An easy way to do so is to prepare your meals at home and maintain a diet of whole foods. Ensure your meals comprise more foods that are close to their natural state.
Added Sugars – Do you pay attention to your sugar intake? Sadly, many people don’t because it involves more than how many spoons of sugar are used to sweeten a beverage, though that is also important. Chances are, you enjoy the wide variety of fruits the Caribbean offers. You need to have your 5-A-Day. However, besides fruits containing natural sugars, do you consume fruit juices, soft drinks, flavoured coffees, and desserts, many of which contain ‘added sugar’ too (read the labels)? Possibly, you’re more health conscious and may opt for protein bars, sports drinks, and various low-fat foods such as yoghurts and granola, but do you know these also contain the dreaded ‘added sugars’? So, what do you do? Firstly, you need sugar, which you can get from fruit and dairy, as they provide the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy diet. However, the American Heart Association recommends that adult men maintain a daily intake of 36 grams of sugar, while women should aim to consume less than 25 grams daily. This is advice to which you should adhere. With the changes your ageing body is experiencing, too much sugar will only create complications, and that may include weight management issues, oral decay, and diabetes.
Fried Foods – Here in the Caribbean, we love fried foods: fried plantains, bakes, chicken, fish…the list goes on. So, we know this one will be difficult to address, but it’s important that you do. Thankfully, modern technology offers us a helping hand with the air fryer. Try it! But, back to why fried foods are unhealthy. Fried foods are high in calories and trans-fat, but for many of us, the tastiness obliterates that fact. However, did you know this preparation process makes it difficult for your body to break down the food, causing health issues? Some of the negative health effects of eating fried foods are diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. That said, begin by reducing with the intention of stopping altogether.
Salt – How much is too much salt? Well, it’s been said that if you can taste the salt in your food, then chances are it’s too much. We know that’s difficult to digest since no one enjoys a bland meal. Nevertheless, abusing sodium can result in high blood pressure because as we grow older, our bodies become more sensitive to the mineral. Although having earned the ominous title, ‘silent killer’, many of us don’t pay enough attention to this illness, treating it as though it’s a rite of passage or generational inheritance (our grandmothers, mothers and aunts had it, and so will we). Our indifference to the illness is reflected in The University of the West Indies (UWI) report that hypertension is prevalent in the Caribbean among older people. The UWI further stated that “21% of adults in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, 25% in Jamaica, and 35–38% in St Kitts, British Virgin Islands and Grenada” had hypertension. However, high blood pressure can be controlled. You have control. Use less salt daily.
Alcohol – We’ve got it backwards on this one because the older we get, our alcohol consumption seems to increase. However, it’s time to cut back on the number of glasses of wine, beers, or ciders you drink. In addition to your body’s reaction to alcohol changing, it can also worsen underlying health issues. Although you may not abuse alcohol, you should still drink less. If, however, you do have a dependency on alcohol, you should seek professional assistance, as excessive drinking over a period can lead to liver damage and other severe illnesses.
Your health is your wealth—you’ve heard it, right? As you age, you’ll realise that there is truth to this expression. Good health is your most important asset because with it comes countless possibilities. For too long, it has been assumed that ageing equates to illness. However, if you decide to take better care of yourself, you can enjoy a new year and an older you!
Stay tuned for our next edition of New Year Older You.