Tag Archives: aging

Best Foods to Eat for Healthy Aging

September is National Healthy Aging Month, a designation to raise awareness of our changing health needs as we age as well as giving attention to the positive aspects of growing older. This month, we’ll look at the roles nutrition and exercise can play in helping us age healthfully. 

The Best Foods to Eat as You Age
One of the best things you can do to stay healthy as you get older is to eat a healthy diet. As you age, your body changes, not just in the way you look, but also in how it works.

For instance, your digestion may slow down as you get older, or you may not feel as thirsty as you used to, which can lead to dehydration. These changes are some that most everyone will experience as they get older, but you may also experience other issues– especially if you have any chronic health conditions or other problems. It’s always best to check with your doctor about what type of diet you should follow, but for most people, there are several foods (and drinks) that can help with the changes that aging brings.

Drink Enough Water
As mentioned, as you age, you may feel less thirsty than you used to. But it’s still really important to make sure you are drinking enough water so that you don’t get dehydrated. Dehydration in older adults can lead to all sorts of other problems including fatigue, urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation, and even confusion. Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization in people over 65.

Older adults need to drink at least seven to eight (eight-ounce) glasses of water per day to stay properly hydrated. You don’t have to drink just plain water to stay hydrated. Other non-caffeinated beverages such as tea, fruit juice, and no-sugar-added seltzers are also good choices as well as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables since they also contain water.

Blueberries
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants like Vitamin C and E that help to keep your cells healthy. Plus, they’re delicious and easy to digest. Eat them whole or incorporate them into other meals such as a topping for low-fat yogurt, cereal or pancakes, or baked into muffins or desserts.

Yogurt
This superfood can help prevent bone loss by giving your body the calcium it needs as well as aiding digestion. Yogurt is also a good source of protein and Vitamin D. Choose low-fat or non-fat options or Greek yogurt and top it with fruit to get the most health benefits.

Fatty Fish
Aim for at least two servings of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines each week. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep your brain sharp and healthy as you age.

Fiber
Getting enough fiber in your diet is especially important as you get older. Fiber helps prevent or ease constipation, and can also lower your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, which can help keep your heart healthy and help prevent Type 2 diabetes. It’s best to get fiber from foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, but if you eat a well-balanced diet and still have problems with constipation, you may want to consult your doctor about taking fiber supplements.

Almonds
Nutrients found in almonds may help prevent the development or progression of cataracts, which are common as you age. Almonds are a source of healthy fat that provides protein, magnesium, and Vitamin E.  Almonds make a great anytime snack or can be used to top other foods such as yogurt or cereal.

Olive Oil
Switch to olive oil for cooking instead of vegetable oil or butter. This healthy fat is good for heart health and can help reduce inflammation, which can lead to diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis.

 

 

How Our Nutrition Needs Change Over Time

Experiencing changes in our bodies as we get older is expected; some we dread and try to prevent, and others we wear as a badge of honor.

As we advance in years, we experience changes in the amount of sleep we need, how quickly we feel full when eating, how quickly we heal, and our ability to see, hear, and even taste. Our risk for injury goes up, and we have a decline in immune function. Some changes, we can’t control, but the good news is that some we can control and taking the initiative to educate ourselves and make the right choices can have a profound effect on our total health and wellness, and even our longevity.

Nutrition is a vital element of overall health and affects the entire process of aging. Nutritional status in older adults has become increasingly recognized for its connection with many morbid conditions such as heart disease, dementia, and cancer.  A great nutritional status can prevent some chronic and acute diseases and impacts the ability to heal.

Unfortunately, malnutrition is regularly diagnosed among older individuals in spite of the fact that it is often preventable. One common change many people undergo is a declining appetite, and when you consider that older adults have the same or greater nutritional requirements than they did when young, you begin to see the problem. The quality of the food we are eating is extremely important as we enter those golden years.

Physical changes older adults experience can result in nutrient deficiencies.  A decreasing quantity of stomach acid reduces the ability to absorb vitamin B12, calcium, magnesium, and iron which further indicates the importance of getting enough of those nutrients.

Older adults should ask their doctors if vitamin supplements might be necessary to help prevent dietary deficiencies. Also, to increase these critical vitamins, consider eating these foods that will boost B12, calcium, magnesium, and iron:

Foods Rich in Vitamin B12

  • Eggs
  • Beef, chicken, and liver
  • Fish and shellfish – salmon, tuna fish, trout, and clams
  • Fortified breakfast cereal

Foods Rich in Calcium

  • Cheese (Parmesan is very high in calcium)
  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Sardines and canned salmon
  • Beans and lentils
  • Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, collards)
  • Fortified food and drinks

Foods Rich in Magnesium

  • Avocados
  • Legumes (chickpeas, black-eyed peas, lentils, soybeans, black and white beans, kidney beans, peanuts)
  • Bananas
  • Seed (pumpkin seed, chia, sunflower seed, flax seed)
  • Nuts (Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios,)
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Fatty fish (salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, halibut)
  • Tofu
  • Whole grains

Foods Rich in Iron

  • Beans (kidney, lima, navy)
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Molasses
  • Spinach
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Brown rice
  • Dark chocolate

To ensure that older adults are eating well-rounded diets, it is vital for them to choose a variety of whole foods that are rich in nutrients rather than high in calories. Lean meats, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy foods, whole-grain breads and cereals, nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables should be chosen over foods like white bread, biscuits, and desserts such as pie, cookies, cake, and candy.

Consumption of sweet tea and fruit juices, as well as soft drinks, also needs to be minimized. Older adults may be less able to recognize hunger and thirst which can lead to dehydration and unintentional weight loss. Adult children can help by monitoring or helping their aging parent(s) to track how much they are eating and drinking each day.

Getting older does require more attention to our choices and overall lifestyle, but by staying informed and taking the right steps for our bodies, we can enjoy optimum health at any age.