The consumption of “junk food” has continued to increase over the last 20 years, including in anti-aging diets for older adults. In the beginning, the selection of junk food was found in a small area of the grocery store. Now, you’re presented with it in almost every corner, even at the checkout counter, which makes it that much harder to maintain healthy, nutritionally-dense diets for older adults.
Junk food can take many different forms, from snack foods like chips and donuts, to processed foods like frozen dinners and canned fruit.
Everyone knows that junk food is detrimental to anti-aging diets for older adults, but do you know why? To answer this question, we have to look at the common nutritional denominators in most junk foods. The quality of our aging experience is greatly influenced by the foods we chose to consume, and being able to single out these nutritional factors will help you determine what does and does not meet the appropriate nutritional needs for older adults.
Here’s what you need to know to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your anti-aging diet.
Sugar in Your Anti-Aging Diet
A lot of junk foods, particularly things like pastries, desserts, candy, soda, and breakfast cereals, are void of nutrients (so they don’t meet the nutritional needs for older adults) because they contain a higher concentration of sugar by caloric content. This means that the total amount of calories per serving size is predominantly composed of sugar, which is one of the most detrimental components in diets for older adults.
High fructose corn syrup, sucrose, maltose, and dextrins all have a similar effect on our body; they all increase blood sugar and insulin levels very quickly and dramatically. This causes a great deal of body fat storage, elevation in blood pressure, and an increase in triglyceride levels. The continued over-consumption of simple sugars, especially in diets for older adults, also encourages the inflammatory response and the development of the metabolic syndrome. Plus, these “empty” calories in your anti-aging diet can adversely affect the areas of the brain that sense hunger, encouraging you to overeat.
The problem with sugar isn’t only that it does nothing for satisfying nutritional needs for older adults—it also has an impact on appearance. Too much sugar in your anti-aging diet encourages the formation of advanced glycation end-products (AGE), which cause premature wrinkling of the skin, due to changes in the collagen structure of the dermis and the associated free-radical damage. Furthermore, the damage to your cells can lead to premature aging of the brain and other organs.
Trans Fat in Your Anti-Aging Diet
One of the important anti-aging diet issues relative to the consumption of junk food is that those crunchy, chewy, and frozen treats may also contain trans fats. Trans fats are artificially produced when liquid vegetable oils are subjected to heat and hydrogen gas. This is done to make them solid so they can be used in the preparation of foods that can stay on the shelf or in the freezer longer.
The problem with these fats in anti-aging diets for older adults is that they can badly damage the cells of the body, including those of the brain and circulatory system. The consumption of trans fats has clearly been shown to cause free radial damage and increase the risk of heart disease. They can also damage the function and absorption of the good fats that are being consumed in your anti-aging diet.
The alarming thing is that even though labels may indicate that a product is trans-fat-free, it isn’t always entirely accurate, because foods containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving are allowed to carry the “trans fat-free” label. Depending on the serving size, you could be consuming a great deal of this harmful ingredient in your anti-aging diet at any given time, which can therefore increase your risk of disease and actually minimize the benefits of healthy diets for older adults. Foods fried in vegetable oils can also have a significant amount of trans fat, and there’s no labelling in this case.
All that trans fat in your anti-aging diet can also affect the membranes of your skin cells, decreasing your skin’s ability to repair itself when it’s damaged. Long story short, that means more wrinkles and other very visible signs of aging. So, if you want to age well both inside and out, you should avoid trans fats in your anti-aging diet at every opportunity.
Food Additives in Your Anti-Aging Diet
Common food additives in diets for older adults can include various chemicals, dyes, sweeteners, fillers, and preservatives. Although some of these chemicals are there to create a palatable “fake” food, they have no place in our bodies and do not contribute anything to the nutritional needs for older adults. Some artificial colorings and dyes have been banned in countries like the U.S., Canada, and Europe, but there are still at least seven additives that are still allowed to be used in the manufacturing of today’s junk foods. These additives have been shown to cause health problems in children and adults alike.
My advice for maintain healthy anti-aging diets for older adults is to stick to eating real food when you’re craving a snack. Natural whole foods like fruit, vegetables, hummus, whole wheat pitas, smoked salmon, and guacamole are excellent examples of healthy snack options for your anti-aging diet! Click here to see even more delicious snack options.
McCalmon, G., “The Truth About Junk Food,” Yahoo! Web site, March 31, 2014; http://www.agein.com/6-healthy-snacks-for-your-anti-aging-diet-and-theyre-delicious-too-2-4744, last accessed April 14, 2014.