Heraclitus is credited with saying ‘The only thing that is constant is change’. As we age, we all become heralds of that truism. Throughout our lives, change has happened, whether we initiated it or were a by-product of it. Whether it’s changing the world’s political environment or the color of the living room draperies, we have seen change with every step of our life’s journey. One constant need, however, from birth to death, is the need for us to take care of our bodies in the best way we can. As we age, the ‘how’ we maintain our best self can change. This is Part 1 of our 3-part series on Maintaining a Healthy Diet as We Age. In this blog, we’ll look at the key ingredients that make up a healthy diet.
Maintaining a healthy diet though is vital to maintaining good health, especially as we age. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of the diseases (example: certain cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes) that older people suffer are as a result of lack of proper diet. As we age, our nutrient needs may change but the basic building blocks of a healthy diet remain largely the same. Begin with identifying what you need and from where to get it.
Step one: Know the basic nutrients that are vital for a healthy diet for older people.
- Carbohydrate-rich foods like sweet potatoes and brown rice
- Protein-rich foods like salmon and beans
- Fruits and vegetables
Step two: Know what foods contain the necessary nutrients.
high in Omega-3 fatty acids
- These foods help prevent inflammation which can cause cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease, can help slow down the progression of Macular Degeneration, and may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Omega-3 are found mainly in fish such as sardines, tuna, mackerel and salmon. They can also be found in flaxseed, soybeans, canola oil and walnuts.
- Include these foods in your diet at least twice a week.
rich in Calcium
- Calcium is essential to maintaining healthy bones and may assist in lowering blood pressure.
- Calcium is found in dairy products (milks, yogurt, cheese) and in leafy green vegetables and cereals fortified with calcium.
- If you find it difficult to consume the recommended 1200mg of calcium daily (that equates to about four cups of milk), ask your health provider if there is a supplement you can use.
that are fiber-rich
- We all know fiber helps our digestive tract do what it is supposed to do, but fiber- rich foods also lower your risk for heart disease. Studies also show that iron rich- food may also lower dementia risk.
- Fiber-rich foods include nuts, wholegrain cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, vegetables and brown rice.
rich in Iron
- Iron produces hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the body. A lack of iron in the diet means there is a limited supply of oxygen to the body tissues, resulting in lethargy and tiredness.
- Iron rich foods include spinach, dark leafy green vegetables, peas, lentils, soybeans, tofu, prunes, raisins and dried apricots.
rich in Vitamin C
- Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that may prevent cancer and heart disease. Vitamin C also helps repair bones and teeth and aids in the healing of wounds.
- Vitamin C is found in a multitude of fruits and vegetables.
containing Vitamin D
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. It can also protect against chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, cancer and rheumatoid osteoporosis. Vitamin D is produced by our skin when it is exposed to sunlight.
- Many foods are enriched with Vitamin D (cereals, milk, yogurt, and some juices). Vitamin D is also found in eggs, salmon and tuna. Supplements are also available – check with your health care provider.
that are rich in Vitamin B 12
- Vitamin B 12 maintains nerve function and produces red blood cells.
- B 12 rich roods include milk, meat and poultry products. It can be difficult to get enough B12 in your diet, but supplements are available, ask your health provider.
rich in Potassium
- Potassium aids in cell function, reduces blood pressure and lowers the chance of developing kidney stones. The recommended daily dose is 4700mg.
- Though it is easy to find potassium-rich foods like bananas, prunes, potatoes, this nutrient is a double-edged sword. A lack of potassium is a problem, but too much potassium is a problem as well. Check with your health care provider before you resort to supplements to get your daily recommended dose of potassium.
rich in Magnesium
- Magnesium is vital to keeping your heart healthy and your immune system and your bones strong.
- Magnesium is found in whole grains, nuts, fresh fruit and vegetables.
- As we age, our body’s ability to conserve water decreases, so we don’t feel thirsty as often. However, our bodies need water to function properly. Water wards off dehydration which can cause drowsiness and confusion.
- A good rule of thumb to follow when figuring out how much water to drink is the standard 8-oz glasses of water a day.
- Check! The surest way to check if you are getting enough water is to check your urine. Light and transparent means you are hydrated. If your urine is dark or bright yellow and cloudy, you could be dehydrated.
In Part 2 of the Healthy Eating series, we’ll look at creating health meal plans for one.