Today’s guest post is written by Julie Davis, Chief Content Officer of www.parentgiving.com. (Learn more about Julie in the bio below the post.)
It’s never too late to start eating nutritiously. The right foods can help control many senior conditions, including diabetes and high cholesterol. And more importantly, filling up on the wrong foods can worsen them. Portions matter, too. Some seniors eat too little, while others might take in more calories than they need, adding to a weight problem.
These general nutrition rules promote good health in seniors:
Fill up on good carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—whole wheat bread, brown rice, and side dishes like barley and polenta. These carbs should make up most of your healthy diet. Limit processed, packaged foods that are high in sugar and refined flour. Consider this research finding when choosing between whole and refined grains: Eating five or more servings of white rice per week was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes while eating two or more servings of brown rice per week was associated with a lower risk of the disease.
Have some lean sources of protein every day. Rather than red meat that contains saturated fat, choose chicken and turkey (without the skin), fish, beans, and lentils.
Healthy fatty acids are important to process fat-soluble vitamins, including A, D and E. But get fat in the form of plant oils, like olive and safflower, nuts (walnuts and almonds are great) and coldwater fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. Plant oils are the best choice for cooking (rather than butter) and for mixing simple salad dressings at home. Of special note, researchers have found that olive oil has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce heart disease risk. Extra-virgin oil has the highest concentration of phenols, the compounds responsible for the heart-health boost—look for those words on the label.
No- or low-fat dairy is a must for natural calcium; look for milk fortified with vitamin D, essential for bone health. Vitamin D also seems to play a role in brain health. While 10 minutes a day of sun exposure may be enough to stimulated the body’s own production of Vitamin D, it’s possible to get the vitamin through foods, including certain fish, like salmon, and egg yolks—for seniors with high cholesterol, ask your doctor for guidance on how many eggs are safe to eat each week. In some cases, a vitamin D supplement may be needed.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Signs of hydration will appear even before the sensation of thirst, so sipping water throughout the day is a must.
For treats, dark chocolate may be as healthy as it is tasty…in limited amounts. In recent research, dark chocolate helped to reduce blood pressure levels in people with hypertension, or high blood pressure. The explanation is flavanols, compounds in chocolate that cause blood vessels to dilate. Eating chocolate is not a substitute for high blood pressure medication, but it may help get the overall number down. Having a square or two of dark chocolate a day is also a mood booster. Just don’t overdo it—chocolate is high in calories and fat.
In situations where getting the right nutrition is difficult, ask your loved one’s doctor about adding nutritional supplements, such as Boost or Ensure. These drinks can provide needed protein and other nutrients to help meet daily requirements.
Julie Davis is the chief content officer for www.parentgiving.com, a comprehensive website dedicated to the health and wellness needs of seniors and their caregivers, both near and far. Parentgiving offers hundreds of informative articles and thousands of products that allow people to age well at home, practical tools for all the activities of daily living for those who want to stay independent, as well as those with limited mobility. Julie’s mission is to provide the widest possible range of articles on all issues affecting better aging, from advances in medical research to preserving quality of life and enabling aging in place. She has been a health and fitness editor for over 25 years, has written over 50 books and developed more than two dozen magazines and websites.