As we age, we tend to gain weight as our body ages and changes. We can’t eat the way we used to in our teens and 20’s. Older Americans need different vitamins and minerals than younger people. It’s an unfortunate fact of life.
No matter your age or your eating habits, it’s not too late to change your diet and improve the way you think and feel. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be about dieting and sacrifice. It should be all about enjoying fresh and tasty foods, along with wholesome ingredients that you enjoy.
Those that don’t feel well or are recovering from an illness or procedure tend to eat what is convenient and easy, but not necessarily what they need for their body to heal. A caregiver can help ensure that you or a loved one eats a proper balanced meal with proteins, fruits and vegetables and healthy grains. They can help with the shopping and preparation of the meal to take that healthy eating obstacle away.
Eating well now can improve how you feel and can help:
- Sharpen your mind. Studies show that people who eat fruits, leafy green vegetables, and certain fishes and nuts loaded with omega-3 fatty acids may be able to improve focus and decrease their risk of Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation, cancer, and the progression of macular degeneration – a condition that leads to poor vision. An-tioxidant-rich green tea may also enhance memory and mental alertness as you age.
- Feel better. Whole food meals can give you more energy and help you feel better, resulting in a boost to your mood and self-esteem. It’s all connected—when your body feels good, you feel happier inside and out.
- Live longer and become stronger. Good nutrition can help boost your immunity, fight toxins that cause illness, keep your weight in check, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, bone loss, and cancer.
The key to healthy eating is to focus on whole, minimally processed foods. This means sticking to food that is as close to its natural form as possible. Our bodies respond differently to different foods, so finding the healthy diet that works best for you may take some experimentation. Here’s some tips on how to start:
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Break the apple and banana rut and go for color-rich selections like berries or melons. Aim for 2-3 servings a day. When it comes to vegetables, choose antioxidant-rich dark, leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli as well as colorful veg-etables such as carrots and squash. Try for 2-3 cups every day.
Found in fruits and vegetables, Vitamin C has antioxidant properties which are believed to help prevent cancer and heart disease. It’s also involved in the production of colla-gen, which helps the skin and aids in healing wounds.
Get enough Vitamin D. Speaking of vitamins, Vitamin D is very important as it aids in the absorption of calcium in the body slowing down the rate at which bones lose calci-um. New evidence shows that it may also protect against chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis.
Some foods come fortified with it such as cereals, milk, yogurt, and juices. Naturally, Vitamin D is found in eggs, salmon, and tuna. A Vitamin D deficiency may increase your chances of falling. As always, consult with your physician in regards to adding vitamins and supplements to your diet.
Get more calcium for bone health. Maintaining bone health as you age also depends on adequate calcium intake to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. It’s also been known to lower blood pressure. Good sources include milk, yogurt, cheese or non-dairy sources such as tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale.
The World Health Organization recommends that people above the age of 50 consume 1200 mg of calcium daily. This translates to 4 cups of fortified orange juice, milk, soy, or almond milk.
Go for “good fats” instead of “no fats.” Omega-3 fatty acids are important for people of all ages including elderly people as they help prevent inflammation, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease. They can be found in fish such as sardines, tuna, mackerel, and salmon. They are also found in flaxseed, soybeans, canola oil, and walnuts. Supplements are also available, but be sure to consult your health provider before getting started.
Vary your sources of protein. Eating enough high-quality protein can improve your mood, boost your resistance to stress, anxiety, and depression, and even help you think more clearly. However, eating too much protein from processed meat products such as hot dogs, bacon, and salami may increase your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. Vary your sources of protein instead by including more fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds in your diet, and limiting red meat.
Eat more fiber. As we get older, our digestive system slows down. Dietary fiber can do so much more than keep you regular. It can lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, improve the health of your skin, and help you lose weight, so it’s important to include enough fiber in your diet. Foods rich in fiber include nuts, wholegrain cereal, wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice, brown bread, fruits, and vegetables.
Choose complex carbohydrates. Choose whole grains over processed white flour for more nutrients and fiber. This also cuts down on sugar and refined carbs. As we age, we retain the ability to distinguish sweet tastes the longest, leading many older people to consume more sugar and refined carbs than is healthy. Unlike complex carbs that are rich in fiber, refined or simple carbs (such as white rice, white flour, refined sugar) can lead to a dramatic spike in blood sugar, followed by a rapid crash which leaves you feeling hungry and prone to overeating.
Along with physical activity, a balanced diet can also contribute to enhanced independence as you age, and can also be a key to keeping a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced. Food fuels our minds as well as our bodies.
In the video below, we talk with Beth McGovern RN, director of marketing and clinical liaison at CareOne at Wall about the importance of good nutrition on our health and our recent volunteerism at Fulfill.
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