You are no doubt aware of the biological changes that affect us as we grow older. But are you aware that proper nutrition can have an extremely positive impact on how our bodies and minds deal with these changes?
Research has shown that sound nutrition can actually enhance heart and brain function and help guard against short-term memory loss. In combination with with an active lifestyle, nutrition plays a vital role in ensuring a higher quality of life as we age.
Some basic rules of thumb will help you focus on the special nutritional needs of older adults:
More nutrient-dense foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains)
Limit fat and sugar
Tufts University developed a food guide pyramid for older adults (click on the link or the pyramid illustration for a larger version). It may help you visualize the recommended servings that constitute healthy eating habits for older adults.
- Eat a variety of foods that are good sources of protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
- Eat at least 3 servings of calcium rich foods. These include, milk (including lactose-reduced milk), yogurt and cheese.
- Water is at the base of the pyramid. More water is needed due to increased medicine intake and to prevent dehydration and constipation.
- Eat fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans and nuts.
- Eat foods that are fortified with B12, calcium and vitamin D. B12 is needed to make red blood cells. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and you get it from the sun as well as fortified foods.
Research shows that eating a plant-based diet helps the body fight off viruses, pollution and cancer. It can also slow the aging process.
Follow this example and you will be eating a plant-based diet. Notice how half the plate is vegetables, ¼ of the plate is grain, and ¼ of the plate is meat. In addition, fruit can make a great dessert, and glass of milk makes the meal complete.
For more information on healthy living:
Tufts Food Guide Pyramid of Older Adults
Atlanta Regional Commission Aging Resources