From Fruit to Fiber: Nutrition and the Older Adult

From Fruit to Fiber: Nutrition and the Older Adult

June 12, 2018

Feed your body. Feed it well.

That’s a message our physical therapists impress on the older adults here at Glenmeadow, and we want to pass it on to you and other seniors in Western Massachusetts because proper diet and nutrition can help you enhance your mind, body, and spirit.

Eating well means thinking strategically about how you fuel your body. It also means understanding that what it means to eat well changes as we age. The metabolisms of older adults are slower and need fewer calories to fuel. Older bodies also need more of certain nutrients.

Research shows that consuming nutritious foods can change our moods and help us think faster. A healthy diet can also reduce the risk of developing diseases from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to diabetes.

Food for the brain often gets overlooked. People tend to focus on foods that aid in digestion or help maintain a healthy heart, but you should also be focused on what nourishes the mind.

Avocadoes are one of the best brain foods there is. They are packed with the good kind of monosaturated fats that keep blood sugar levels steady. The savory fruit also contains B, C and K vitamins, as well as folate, which together help prevent blood clots in the brain, protect against stroke, and improve cognitive functioning.

Salmon is also valuable for brain health. It’s an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals (including potassium, selenium, and vitamin B12), but it’s the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon that makes it feed the mind.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables that can improve our mental and physical health, think the three B’s: beets, blueberries and bananas. Beets can help reduce inflammation, are high in antioxidants that reduce the risk of developing cancer, and they help eliminate toxins in your bloodstream. Blueberries, on the other hand, help protect our brains from degenerating under stress, and bananas are full of serotonin that helps to boost mood.

There are plenty of foods that aid in digestion, and bananas again top the list here as they restore electrolytes and potassium to the body. Also good for digestion are moderate quantities of ginger, yogurt with live and active cultures, lean meat and fish, whole grains, and kimchi—a Korean side dish made from fermented vegetables, such as cabbage.

Experts also suggest that older adults need more fiber in their diets. Fiber helps us keep consistent energy levels and also helps prevent diabetes and inflammation. Good sources of fiber are, again, bananas, as well as other fruits such as oranges and apples, popcorn, legumes, whole-wheat bread, oats, and brown rice.

Another general super food for older adults is sweet potatoes, which hold almost eight times the amount of cancer-fighting and immune-boosting vitamin A you need daily.

Lemons are also an unsung hero food. Just one lemon has more than 100 percent of your daily intake of vitamin C, which helps maintain good cholesterol levels and strengthens bones. Citrus flavonoids in lemons may also inhibit the growth of cancer cells and act as an anti-inflammatory.

While it may go without saying, we suggest there are some food that are not good for you at this stage in life. Try to steer clear of fatty and fried foods, chocolate (with exceptions made for dark chocolate, which reduces blood pressure), soft drinks, and chili peppers, which can irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn or acid reflux. Berries and corn, while healthy, can also prove tricky to digest.

Take the time each day to think about what you’re eating, and how much as well! Keep portion control in mind, along with hydrating, and we think you’ll find a well-rounded diet helps you feel younger at heart.

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