Eating healthy foods throughout our life is very important to the quality of life we have as we age.
As we get older it’s a must to choose our foods wisely so that we can combat chronic disease and muscle loss that comes when our diets are lacking in adequate nutrition.
Starting right when we’re young and keeping the momentum as we hit middle age will, to a strong degree, determine how successfully we age. Losing our nutritional health is a cumulative process, as is keeping it!
While we may be focusing on the next super food or how to lose a few pounds, we should keep in mind the importance of meal selections that pack a nutritional punch so that we give our bodies what they need.
Consequences of Inadequate Food Choices as We Age
Eating a balanced diet with good sources of essential nutrients are important to remain physically and mentally strong no matter your age. When we don’t achieve this, our bodies pay the price.
- Difficulty maintaining strong immune systems to fight opportunistic illnesses.
- Trouble keeping our brains sharp and delaying cognitive impairment.
- Failure to prevent muscle loss that could lead to functional decline and life changing falls.
- Inability to prevent chronic diseases from developing or managing those you may have.
- Loss of bone mass that can lead to fractures.
- Struggle to maintain a healthy weight that could lead to chronic diseases.
- Susceptibility to dehydration as fluid intake inadequate.
- Suffering from constipation or other GI disturbances when diet lacks fiber.
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies that lead to health issues.
- Loss of independence leading to facility placement when lose strength or functional capacity needed to complete activities of daily living.
Making the Most of Daily Food Choices for Healthy Aging
No one expects to have the perfect diet no matter what our age. We can’t just eat the “super foods” that will give us sharp brains either (if that is even possible!). We can try to eat foods that are healthy and eat foods that aren’t as healthy in smaller quantities! Here are some tips about what to include in your everyday meals to improve your health as you age.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible. When you don’t have them available, choose frozen without added sauces or sugar or canned without added salt or sugar syrup.
- Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables and not just one or two favorites will give a variety of nutrients and antioxidants to help keep you healthy.
- Include enough fiber to keep your gut healthy. Probiotics can also help keep you regular and reduce bowel trouble. Probiotics include foods with live and active cultures such as yogurt, Greek yogurt; fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut or fermented soybean in miso or tempeh; soft cheese like Gouda; kefir; and buttermilk or acidophilus milk. Your doctor may also recommend probiotic supplements if needed.
- Choose lean protein foods like poultry, fish or pork over fried and high fat meats such as lunch meat and sausages. Bake, broil or roast protein foods instead of frying or adding oils for cooking.
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong as you age. This can be done with dairy sources but you may need additional supplementation if your doctor feels osteoporosis is a contributing factor.
- Choose whole grains in the form of whole grain bread, cereal, pasta, brown rice and oatmeal.
- Drink plenty of fluid preferably in the form of water. Reduce sugar sweetened beverages.
- Use herbs and spices to flavor your foods instead of salt in order to manage blood pressure.
- Add in fish throughout the week. Fish is a good source of heart healthy Omega 3 fatty acids and it is recommended to eat three times a week.
If your doctor has prescribed a particular diet to manage a chronic disease, you may want to visit a dietitian near you who can guide you on the prescribed diet but also how to include adequate servings of foods you need so that your special diet doesn’t put your nutritional health at risk.
If you are taking nutritional supplements or herbal products, please discuss these with your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian to be sure there are no food/drug interactions that can endanger your health or the effectiveness of your medications.
It is a good idea to eat well by including a variety of foods before relying on a vitamin or mineral supplement unless prescribed by your doctor such as Vitamin B12 or Calcium/Vitamin D.
Small changes in some of our food choices can help us feel better every day and be healthy as we age.