What’s in your diet?
A hotdog here and a plate of greens there?
A well balanced diet benefits individuals of all ages, but aside from eating a little something from each food group, consuming enough key nutrients promotes physical and mental wellbeing. Some vital nutrients are particularly important as a person ages, even though unique medical conditions and lifestyles determine the specific foods that some should and others cannot eat.
A review of four diet essentials can be an eye-opener for older adults, who often restrict what they eat for convenience, medical reasons and personal preference.
Vitamin D is essential to bone health, muscle strength and muscle function. In addition to combating osteoporosis and protecting the skeletal system, sufficient levels of vitamin D are necessary for organ health. Research also shows that vitamin D protects the cells from cancer.
Foods rich in the D vitamin:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna
- Egg yokes
- Fortified foods, including cereals and orange juice
Most are aware of the role calcium plays in bone preservation, so they further make the connection to healthy teeth. Other benefits include safeguarding against kidney stones (the opposite of what many believe is true), regulating blood pressure, preventing certain cancers, preventing cardiovascular disease, balancing pH levels in the body (which, for one thing, puts less stress on the kidneys), aiding the digestive process, enhancing skin health, and regulating hormones for optimal function.
Foods rich in calcium:
- Dairy products
- Dark leafy greens
- Beans and broccoli
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Sesame and chia seeds
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
While the body can manufacture most kinds of fats it needs from other materials, including various fats, Omega 3s must be ingested from a source. As a result, studies show that deficiencies in Omega 3 fatty acids appear in every age group. Notably, by keeping inflammation in check, Omega 3s are essential in controlling or preventing arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids:
- Fish (particularly salmon), fish roe (caviar), and shellfish (oysters)
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
- Chia seeds
Dehydration is a common problem among older adults. Interestingly, thirst tends to decline with age, but humans continue to need about as much fluid. Certain medications also require additional water to work effectively. Clear, light-colored urine usually indicates that an individual’s water intake is sufficient. Other fluids, such as juices, contain water, but they can also have high levels of sugar. If concerned about filling up on water and diminishing the desire to eat, then curtail drinking before and during mealtime.
With so many factors to consider, those who have questions or concerns about diets for seniors should consult a physician and possibly a dietician for personal guidance.