Malnourishment is depressingly more common than we would think, especially among seniors. One study found that about 25% of all seniors and 44% of seniors with dementia are malnourished and up to 50% of all older adults are at risk for malnourishment. Changes in the way your brain perceives taste, swallowing difficulties, inadequate time to make healthy food, financial concerns, and myriad other issues can make it difficult to eat quality food. Some seniors, concerned about a slowing metabolism and weight gain, may even deliberately adopt unhealthy diets in an attempt to cut calories.
The food you eat is a major predictor of your health. Diet has a big impact on how long and how well you live. It can even reduce your risk of conditions such as diabetes, dementia, and cardiovascular disease. So load up your plate with these 5 natural foods that can fuel healthy aging...
If you struggle with weight gain as you age, protein may be the perfect antidote. Protein helps you feel fuller longer, making it possible to cut calories from your diet without feeling hungry. Protein is also vital for brain functioning, and can prevent your muscles from wasting away and becoming weak, which may reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
Focus on lean proteins rather than red meat and fried foods or fatty burgers. Grilled chicken is flavorful, low in calories, and healthy for your heart. If you’re a vegetarian or trying to eat less meat, nuts are a great option, too.
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna are great for your heart and brain. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, these protein-rich meals can help prevent many age-related maladies. Aim for about 2 servings per week. Limit your consumption of fish that tends to be contaminated with mercury, such as shark, swordfish, and mackerel. Most proteins, including fish, beef, and organ meats such as liver, are naturally rich in vitamin B12, which is a key nutrient that the body often struggles to absorb as you age. So fill your plate with a variety of healthy proteins.
Antioxidants are compounds that can help prevent cellular damage by free radicals. Free radicals tend to accumulate in the body as you age and may play a role in a wide range of age-related illnesses, including dementia and cancer. Most fruits are rich in antioxidants. They’re also a delicious substitute for artificially sweetened treats. Eat a wide variety of fruits, including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and bananas.
For a delicious breakfast, try blending together frozen berries, avocado, a banana, and a dash of honey. The healthy fat in the avocado keeps you full, while the antioxidants and fiber in all of the fruit can help your cells fight free radicals.
A diet rich in vegetables can help fight cardiovascular disease, lower your risk of cancer, prevent diabetes, and help you feel physically healthier. The fiber in vegetables can fight many diseases and may also help with constipation. To get the most benefits, embrace a rainbow-inspired diet that includes lots of different colored veggies. Some great veggies to try include:
- Peppers of every variety and color
- Sweet potatoes
- Dark leafy greens such as collards
If you’re like many people, you love a well prepared sandwich or a little bread with dinner. Unfortunately, processed white breads are full of empty calories. Whole grain breads and pastas, however, are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. They’re also rich in fiber, which can help you stay regular. Try switching out white sandwich bread for a hearty cracked grain roll.
Dairy products such as milk and cheese are a healthy source of protein. They’re also rich in calcium and vitamin D, which can help fight osteoporosis and lower your risk of broken bones. Try drinking a glass of milk with breakfast, eating a whole grain cereal with milk, or enjoying a savory snack of cottage cheese. For fewer calories, try reduced fat options such as 2% milk or even skim milk.
Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring or taste bad. It also doesn’t have to mean spending hours in the kitchen. Seniors at The Arbor at Bridgemill enjoy gourmet meals every day; their culinary artists can adapt their offerings to a variety of palates and dietary needs to ensure all residents eat great.