News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Nutrition essential for health

When you’re enjoying a great slice of pizza, you’re probably not thinking about the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrition it provides: the lycopene in the tomato sauce, iron in the meat, calcium in the cheese. Or the carbs, fat, and protein that help your body run.

Basically, your diet is like your medicine cabinet. Every time you reach for an apple, chips, or peanut butter, it’s like taking a drug that’s promoting health or hurting it.

Eating a well-balanced diet is an important part of remaining healthy as you age. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, stay energized, and get the nutrients you need.

Nutrition has a huge impact on the physical health and well-being of older adults. Many people may not realize that nutrition needs vary depending on a person’s age. Just like toddlers have different dietary needs than teenagers, nutritional needs for older folks are different than that of young adults.

As people age their metabolism slows down, so you need fewer calories than before. Your body also needs more of certain nutrients. That means it’s more important than ever to choose foods that give you the best nutritional value.

Poor nutrition can lead to undesired weight loss and jeopardize the immune system, making a senior more susceptible to infections like the common cold or the flu.

Older adults need the same nutrients as their younger selves, but in differing amounts. In fact, some nutrients are needed in increased amounts. The challenge is to develop an eating plan that supplies plenty of nutrients but not too many calories.

Eat foods that are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Limit foods that are high in processed sugars, saturated and trans fats, and salt. You may also have to adjust your diet to manage chronic health conditions.

The Food Guide Pyramid is a helpful guide for your food choices. Daily calorie needs vary depending on age and activity level, but for many older adults 1,600 calories will meet energy needs.

Calcium is important at any age and may need special emphasis as you grow older. Calcium is a mineral that builds strong bones and helps prevent osteoporosis. Eat at least two to three servings of calcium-rich foods every day. Low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese are good choices. Some dark green, leafy vegetables, canned salmon with edible bones, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and calcium fortified soy milk can add a significant amount of calcium to your diet. In addition, do some weight bearing exercise like walking for a total of 30 minutes each day.

A good daily dose of dietary fiber is a great way to start each day. High-fiber foods are generally low in fat and calories yet packed with essential minerals and vitamins that promote healthy bodily functions.

Numerous studies have proven that fibrous foods help older adults age healthier because they lead to lower cholesterol, control blood sugar levels, normalize bowel movements, and help them manage a healthy weight. Fiber is found in a lot of foods — fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, grains, and cereals — so it’s easy to add to daily meals.

Try eating these super foods on a regular basis for optimal health benefits. A super food is like a bundle of goodness, packed with nutrients that have health benefits.

Berries: These are a great superfood, loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. According to research, eating berries may help prevent and control cardiovascular disease and boost brain health. Frozen berries are readily available year-round.

Fish: Loaded with omega 3s, fish like salmon and sardines have a lot of the fatty acids that your body needs to stay heart healthy.

Yogurt: Low-fat yogurt is an ideal way to get the calcium your body needs to maintain healthy bone density, as well as some of the proteins you need too. Also, yogurt can be very helpful in regulating digestion.

Tomatoes: Chock full of lycopene, a natural anti-cancer chemical, you can also derive other fabulous vitamins and minerals. Some studies suggest that you’re better off with cooked tomatoes, as the cooking process releases more lycopene.

Legumes: Black beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans, lentils, split peas, kidney beans — they’re all a great source of filling fiber and protein.

Nuts: Omega 3s, fiber, protein and unsaturated fats. A handful of this heart-healthy snack is a great way to supplement a diet.

Don’t forget to hydrate! Water is vital. We’re 60 percent water and if you are dehydrated, your cells won’t work properly. As you age you may not realize that you are thirsty as quickly, leading to dehydration. That can lead to fatigue, cognitive issues (thinking clearly), headaches, constipation and that’s just with mild dehydration. Chronic or severe dehydration can lead to impacts on organs, including the fluid surrounding the brain, joint and muscle damage, an even death.

You can’t stop the aging clock, but you can improve how you feel.


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