8 Great Foods Seniors Should Incorporate into Their Diets

8 foods for seniors

Did you know that a majority of the diseases we suffer from as we get older are actually the result of an improper diet? That’s according to the World Health Organization. There are a few good examples to back this up: diabetes and osteoporosis are two diseases that are related to overall diet. Medline reports that good nutrition can also help with high blood pressure, heart disease, and more. And there are some types of foods that are known to cause serious issues, such as certain fats in foods that contribute to the incidence of colon, prostate, and pancreatic cancers[1].

Incorporating the right foods into your diet is an essential part of taking care of yourself. Just as you go to see the doctor on a regular basis, invest in medical alert technology, stay physically active as much as possible, and pay attention to your mental health, you should be focusing on getting the right foods into your diet. This becomes even more important as we get older.

Reasons Why You Need More Nutrition

The older we get, the more we change. That’s especially true with our physical bodies, which start to process nutrients differently than they once did. Here are some of the culprits that lead to inadequate nutrition in older adults[2]:

·         Issues with mobility. Did you know that issues with mobility can lead to trouble preparing food? It can be tough to stand long enough to cook something at the stove, carry in groceries, or manipulate a knife to prep the food.

·         Side effects of medication. Some medications can lead to a lower appetite, nausea, and even a change in how foods taste to you. These side effects can lead to you eating less or skipping meals.

·         Less sense of smell and taste. As you get older, you might notice that your sense of smell is decreasing; this can make food less appetizing. And your sense of taste might decrease too, meaning food tastes bland. Neither is good for encouraging healthier eating!

·         Tight finances. If you are on a fixed income or facing unexpected expenses, you might find yourself cutting corners when it comes to fresh foods.

·         Dental problems. Receding gums, mouth sores, pain in your jaw, and loose or missing teeth can make it harder to chew. That can lead to eating less. (Recipes for elderly with chewing problems can help with this as well.)

·         Transportation difficulties. Driving to the store requires the mobility to get there, walk through the store, and get back home. If you can no longer drive, you might not have a family caregiver who can take you to the store. 

·         Depression and/or isolation. Feeling depressed or lonely can lead to a loss of appetite or simply not caring whether you eat or not.

·         Issues with memory. If you have trouble remembering things, it can be easy to believe you ate something for a meal but simply forgot you did. This is especially true if you have little appetite.

If you are dealing with one or more of the problems listed above, speak to your doctor or nutritionist about how to overcome them. Many of the issues can be remedied in simpler ways than you might think, such as a change of medication or utilizing senior transportation options.

The Great Eight: Excellent Foods for Seniors

As your nutritional needs change, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the quality food you need to stay as healthy as possible. These eight foods can be part of your senior health solutions. Load up on these first, before you put anything else on your plate[3].

1. Fresh Fish

·         The Superstar: Salmon

Fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and tuna are powerful sources of Omega-3. This fatty acid can help prevent inflammation, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, slow down macular degeneration, and fight against arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. A serving of fish twice a week is recommended. (If you want an extra dose of calcium with your fish, consider using canned salmon – it often comes with small, soft, edible bones.)

2. Other Lean Protein

·         The Superstar: Beans

In addition to fish, look for very lean meats (those with little visible fat), beans, legumes, nuts, and poultry. According to the Mayo Clinic, 10 to 35% of your daily diet should come from protein. Just how much you need depends upon many factors, such as your gender, age, lifestyle (active people need more), medications you might be on, and more. Speak with your physician about just how much protein you need in your diet.

3. Dark, Leafy Greens

·         The Superstar: Spinach

To get plenty of vitamin K (which improves your bone strength and helps your blood clot) and a whole host of other vitamins, dive into kale, spinach, arugula, mustard greens, collard greens, and other greens. If you don’t find them all that palatable, consider dropping spinach into any sort of pasta sauce or cooking kale into your soup. According to WebMD, you should aim for about two cups of greens every day.

4. Colorful Fruits and Vegetables

·         The Superstar: Blueberries

Fruits and vegetables bring an enormous share of nutrients to the table. For instance, vitamin C is found in citrus fruits; it protects you from cancer, heart disease, and even wrinkles. It can also help repair bones and teeth. Bananas, prunes, and potatoes are loaded with potassium, which lowers blood pressure, strengthens bones, and helps you avoid kidney stones. Magnesium is in a variety of fruits and veggies and can help boost your immune system. When dishing out the fresh fruits and vegetables, the American Heart Association suggests you fill half of your plate with them at every meal. And get colorful! The more varied colors you have on your plate, the more variety of nutrients you’re getting.

5. Dairy Products

·         The Superstar: Milk

Calcium is vitally important for healthy bones. It also lowers blood pressure. Those over the age of 50 should get 1200 milligrams of calcium each day[4] – or about four cups of milk (almond milk works too), or four cups of orange juice fortified with calcium. You can also get it through yogurt, cheese, and cereals that are fortified with calcium. If you can’t get this amount of calcium through your diet (many people simply can’t), then supplements are a good idea. In addition to calcium, dairy products provide many other nutrients, such as B12, often found in milk. It helps you create new red blood cells. One of the most important aspects of dairy, however, is vitamin D – it helps with the absorption of calcium and protects against conditions like diabetes and cancer.

6. Whole Grains

·         The Superstar: Oatmeal

Whole grains bring a wealth of fiber, which can help protect you from heart disease. They can also help avoid constipation and improve regularity of bowel movements. Look for wheat germ, cereals (including oatmeal), pasta, and bread labeled as whole grain, as well as brown rice, fruits, vegetables, and even nuts. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating three ounces of whole grains every day. (In addition to whole grains, look for other foods with fiber; asparagus is loaded with it, and apples are especially high in fiber. They make an easy, nutritious snack.)

7. Healthy Fats

·         The Superstar: Olive Oil

Though you want to avoid saturated fats (which usually come from animals) and trans fats (which are often found in processed foods, such as vegetable shortening or margarine), you do want to eat healthy fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the good kind; these can be found in nuts, seeds, avocados, and fish, as well as some oils – such as olive oil, sunflower oil, or corn oil[5].

8. Carbohydrates

·         The Superstar: Sweet Potato

Though many of the foods already listed here, like beans and rice, are carbohydrates, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right kind of carbs[6]. For instance, sweet potatoes are better than white potatoes, and beans of all kinds are much better for you than processed bread, especially if the bread is made with white flour. When choosing the right carbohydrates for your plate, look to those that bring a vitamin and antioxidant punch – and avoid those that give you empty calories, no matter how tempting that fluffy dinner roll might be.

Don’t Forget the Importance of Water

One thing we might often forget about in our diets is the most basic requirement of human life: water.

As you get older, you might notice that you don’t feel thirsty as often as you used to. You might take that as a sign that you don’t need more water. The truth is that your body still needs just as much water, if not more – it’s the aging process that makes you feel as though you need less.

To make sure you get enough, make that water taste delicious. Keep it cold in the refrigerator, pour it over ice, or spike it with a squeeze of lemon or lime. About eight glasses a day is considered the usual benchmark for a healthy adult; you might need more. Speak to your doctor about what you need to avoid dehydration, especially if you are on a high-fiber diet.

And remember, though drinking plain water can be best, some people can benefit from drinks like green tea, which packs an antioxidant punch while ensuring that you get a good amount of water. As an added bonus, green tea can help with digestion and improve metabolism[7]. Just check with your doctor that it’s approved with your health conditions and medications.

Other Ways to Take Care of Yourself

In addition to getting those eight great foods and others that fall into the most-needed food categories, you should add exercise to the mix. Exercising at least 30 minutes, five times a week can help you in all sorts of ways. Studies have shown that regular physical activity leads to better cognitive ability, as well as improvements in social well-being, as well as physical, mental, and psychological health[8].

Exercise can help keep your body strong. But it’s also important to be prepared for the unexpected, which is why investing in an Alert1 Medical Alert matters so much. If you are out exercising on a secluded trail, the medical alert watch can be your saving grace if you happen to trip and fall. If you’re at home in the kitchen cooking up your favorite meal and suddenly feel a physical sensation that just isn’t right, help is right there with a single touch of your medical alert pendant. If you are still working on your diet but have deficiencies in some areas, your body might be weaker than you’d like – and that can mean an increased risk of falls in the shower and other places in the home. For those moments when the unexpected happens, a fall detection device for seniors can help you stay safe and secure.