Most of us are aware of the vital role nutrition plays in living our best life. Even if we don’t stick to a healthy diet, we know many of the reasons why we should. From weight control to disease prevention and cholesterol management, the benefits of eating right are numerous.
What an older adult may not know is that nutritional needs change quite significantly as we age. The body absorbs and processes nutrients differently, which alters the number of vitamins and minerals a senior requires.
In honor of National Nutrition Month, celebrated annually in March, we share tips to help older adults maintain a healthy diet.
5 Nutrition Tips for Older Adults
- Consider it a lifestyle not a diet
No one wants to go on a diet. The negative images conjured by this word make it less than appealing. Instead, think of healthy eating as a lifestyle you are adopting over time. Following a method of eating that’s practiced in “Blue Zones” around the globe is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Blue Zones are five places around the world where people live the longest and are the healthiest. In these communities, residents eat more fruits, vegetables, lean sources of protein, and fewer meals that contain red meat. Most consume at least 5 to 7 colorful fruits and vegetables every day.
- Include flavanols in weekly menus
The use of flavanols is another practice derived from the Blue Zones. These are plant-based antioxidants that protect both brain and heart health. They are also known for helping to manage asthma and diabetes.
Flavanols can be found in citrus fruit, tea, vegetables, legumes, berries, cocoa, grapes, apples, and even chocolate and red wine.
- Monitor sodium intake
Eating too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease, and these risks increase with age. Instead of relying on salt when you are cooking or grilling, learn how to use herbs and spices to add flavor.
Basil livens up tomato-based dishes. Chives, dill, and sage can enhance the flavor of root vegetables, cucumber salad, and fish.
- Keep an eye on vitamin D levels
Seniors experience vitamin D deficiencies in higher numbers than younger adults. A lack of exposure to natural sunlight and problems absorbing vitamins and minerals may be the primary culprits.
A vitamin D deficiency is linked to health complaints, such as muscle pain, fatigue, as well as a higher risk for cancer and heart disease. Older adults who are deficient in this essential vitamin may also be at increased risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Work with your primary care physician to determine if you need to be screened for a deficiency, and whether or not a supplement may be necessary.
- Incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into menus.
Omega-3 fatty acids promote heart and brain health. They aid in regulating blood clotting and controlling inflammation. Some research also shows they help manage autoimmune diseases, and may protect against cancer.
Working foods high in omega-3 fatty acids into your diet at least twice a week is best. They can be found in flaxseed, flaxseed oil, sardines, leafy greens, salmon, lake trout, tuna, walnuts, and mackerel.
Savor Dining at Clearwater Living
Understanding how nutritional needs change and what older adults need to live well is an essential ingredient of the Savor Dining program at Clearwater Living. By providing diverse, well-balanced meals that offer residents a variety of choices, we encourage a healthier approach to nutrition.
Aging with Grace
Interested in learning what else you can do to age well? 7 Tips for Successful Aging has suggestions you can follow to live a longer, healthier life.
If your retirement plans include a move to a senior living community in California or Nevada, we hope you will consider Clearwater Living. Call the community nearest you to set up a time for your private tour!