Spring is finally here for good, and with spring also comes change. It’s a season of rebirth and new life, and a great time of the year to re-evaluate your health habits and see where changes can be made.
One of the main contributing factors that determines our health is the food we choose to eat. This is especially true for seniors. As people age, their bodies go through many changes, and their diet needs to reflect these differences. Keeping up with an appropriate nutrition plan can improve quality of life in a variety of ways, including increased energy levels, improved sleep and reduced health risks in the future.
Although everyone’s body requires different types of sustenance based on pre-existing medical conditions, there are several nutrients and habits that, in general, provide large health benefits for older adults. The American Dietetic Association offers these suggestions:
More and more research has found the seemingly-endless benefits of Omega 3. And since our body cannot naturally produce Omega 3 fatty acids, it is essential that we receive this nutrient through the food we choose to eat. These acids have been proven to reduce inflammation, which can cause heart disease, cancer and arthritis. They can also help decrease chances of blood clots, which reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Omega 3s can be found in many different types of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and char. If you would prefer to eat veggies, many leafy greens including kale, spinach and brussel sprouts are high in Omega 3 fatty acids as well. Flaxseed oil and walnuts are also good ways to incorporate this fatty acid into your diet.
Calcium and Vitamin D are both essential in preserving bone health. Without both of these nutrients, your bone density can decrease and you are more susceptible to breaks. Calcium and Vitamin D work together to keep your skeleton strong and protected as you age, so getting the right amount of each is important.
Adults over the age of 50 need at least 1200 milligrams per day of calcium– equal to about four cups of milk per day. The best source of calcium comes from dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Make sure to purchase skim milk or non-fat yogurt though, or stick to soymilk as well. Other foods besides dairy that are high in calcium include some juices and green vegetables.
These same adults need somewhere between 800-1000 international units (IU) of Vitamin D per day, but some people may require more. Vitamin D is found in only a few foods, such as fish (salmon, mackerel and tuna) and dairy products. To get the correct amount of Vitamin D required for maintaining a balanced diet, many people seek out supplemental ways to receive the nutrient such as spending time in the sun or taking vitamins.
One of the most important ways to reduce hypertension is to prepare foods with low sodium. Too much sodium is difficult for your kidneys to process, and can lead to high blood pressure and other health issues.
Luckily, there are many easy ways to reduce sodium in your diet without sacrificing taste. One easy way is to cut out packaged or frozen meat and vegetables and stick to buying fresh groceries. The more processed the food is, the more likely it is to be high in sodium content. Pre-prepared meals are also high in salt, so make it a habit to make all your meals from scratch. If you are planning on eating at a restaurant, make sure you research their menu first and don’t be afraid to ask the waiter about low-sodium options.
As people grow older they may begin to feel less thirsty than usual. However, their bodies still need the same amount of liquids. This is why it’s important to drink plenty of fluids. Doctors still recommend at least 8 glasses of water per day, but some seniors may require more than this. A few good ways to make sure you are drinking enough water is to make it a habit to drink 1-2 glasses before bed and then in the morning. Leaving a water bottle on your desk or within sight can also increase your daily H2O intake. Eating foods that have high water content as well such as soup, fruits and veggies also count towards your total water consumption.
One thing to keep in mind is that many older people are usually skeptical of change. That’s why it’s best to make small changes gradually. If you are looking to make dietary changes for yourself or a loved one, small steps are easy ways to achieve your goals. Try making an effort to incorporate one of these nutrients into your diet more frequently one at a time. That way you can practice these healthy habits and learn the best ways to maintain a nutritional diet.
If you have any questions about diet habits for your specific health needs, feel free to contact an Angel nurse today to talk about how you can tailor your diet to your nutrition needs.