According to the CDC, chronic diseases are broadly defined as those lasting one year or more, that limit normal daily function and/or require ongoing medical treatment. While some chronic diseases do have a genetic component, meaning they are inherited, many are lifestyle induced, as well as worsened by specific lifestyle choices. Like many other diseases, chronic disease can have less harmful impact on a person if he practices healthy lifestyle choices: getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking. When it comes to long-term care options and your overall health, making the best choices you can now will greatly benefit you later, and your diet is one of the best places to start.
What are some of the basic steps you can take to ensure you are eating a healthy diet? Here are four ways to make a few adjustments to your daily diet that could have long term benefits if you are dealing with a chronic disease (or want to prevent one).
1. Limit sugar intake.
Ample evidence shows that sugar increases inflammation in the body, which is a cornerstone of many chronic diseases such as arthritis, irritable bowel disease, and diabetes. At the cellular level, sugar wreaks havoc on a body, and reducing added sugar can help immensely. Instead of adding sugar to cereal or coffee, try using agave syrup, a natural sweetener that has a low glycemic index (won’t spike blood sugar levels, which is extremely important for people with diabetes). When buying processed foods, even cereal or crackers, look at the ingredients list: If sugar is in the first three ingredients, leave it on the shelf.
2. Eat plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Why is it important to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season? When you eat plant-based products that are in season, you’re getting the optimum bang for your buck in terms of nutrients. In the winter, oranges are at their peak in terms of flavor and levels of fiber and vitamin C. In the summer, stock up on berries, stone fruits, zucchini, tomatoes, etc. In this way, you are letting nature lead the way to the healthiest foods available. One way you’ll know you are getting seasonal vegetables is to shop local farmers markets.
3. Choose high-fiber whole grains.
Whole grains such as whole wheat, oats, quinoa, barley and many others will provide a boost of digestive system-friendly fiber in addition to vitamins and minerals like folate, niacin, and other nutrients that your body needs to fight chronic disease. In the cereal and bread aisle, look for the term “whole wheat” to know that you are getting a product made with the entire grain.
4. Drink water!
Drinking plenty of fresh water (not just water-based drinks, like tea and coffee) ensures that your body’s systems, especially the circulatory and respiratory) have what they need to help your organs work for you, cleaning your blood and oxygen so that your immune system can do its job fighting off disease. Regular water intake throughout your day, whether working at a desk or doing physical activities, is one of the best things you can do for your entire body and mind. Even mild dehydration can lead to brain fog and memory issues. Current best practices call for half your bodyweight in ounces, per day. So if you weigh 140 pounds, aim for 70 ounces of water per day, regardless of gender. And if you are working outside or exercising during warm or humid weather, drink even more.`
While these tips are by no means a completely sure-fire plan to combat chronic disease, staying as healthy as possible for as long as possible begins with a healthy diet. As you age and begin looking into long-term care options, lifestyle choices today can make a huge difference on how your life will look in the future.