By: Simone Wilson, Dietetic Intern
Meal planning for our clients should take into consideration common health conditions that have dietary factors, such as arthritis and joint pain. Between 2013 and 2015, almost 23% of the adult population was diagnosed with arthritis. The impact of arthritis is quickly growing and is now the nation’s leading cause of physical disability. Arthritis is technically an umbrella term for more than 100 diseases affecting the joints. The main cause of this is inflammation that leads to pain and stiffness. Fortunately, there are a few things we can do to reduce symptoms. Along with keeping a healthy weight and staying physically active, adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet may reduce inflammation. From this perspective, I provided a nutrition workshop to clients at the St. Peter’s Senior Center to discuss the main principles of an anti-inflammatory diet. These principles are actually very similar to the popular Mediterranean Diet. Clients learned about the benefits of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fats, avoiding processed foods and refined sugar, and staying hydrated. We explored specific foods that fight inflammation including dark chocolate, turmeric, ginger, walnuts, salmon, and berries.
During the workshop, clients were given a nutrition handout and sampled two kinds of dark chocolate. We discussed the anti-inflammatory properties of dark chocolate; where the higher the percent cocoa, the greater the nutritional benefit. Clients found the 85% cocoa to be slightly bitter but really enjoyed the 70% cocoa! To help combat the arthritis that many seniors are facing, try incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods including dark chocolate into your menus!