By John Fairchild, CPT, Nutritionist ADA, Employee Wellness Coordinator, Liberty Lutheran
Aging adults who routinely include healthy behaviors, are preventative with their health care services, and have a supportive social network are more likely to remain healthy, be more independent, and incur fewer health costs. Preventing chronic diseases and reducing associated complications by eating right and being active is essential for staying healthy as we age.
Eating right and staying active are important preventive health measures throughout our lifespan. As we get older our bodies have different needs, and certain nutrients become especially important for overall good health.
Aging adults need more calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health. Two to three servings of low-fat / fat-free milk or yogurt included with a plant based diet will ensure adequate levels each day. Other calcium-rich foods include fortified cereals, some fruit juices, dark greens such as kale and spinach and canned fish.
Evidence suggests that magnesium may play an important role in regulating blood pressure. Diets that provide plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of potassium and magnesium, are consistently associated with lower blood pressure. Food sources include nuts, beans and vegetables.
Eat more fiber-rich foods to stay maintain a healthy digestive tract. Fiber also can help lower your risk for heart disease, control your weight and prevent type 2 diabetes. Consuming whole-grain breads, cereals, and more beans will help you acquire your daily needs. Fruits and vegetables also provide beneficial fiber.
Increasing potassium along with reducing sodium may lower your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Fruits, potatoes, beans, dark greens, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt are good sources of potassium. Also, select and prepare foods with little or no added salt.
Know Your Fats
Avoid high fat foods, like marbled red meats, poultry skin, fried foods and fast foods to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol may also lower your health risks. Most of the fats you eat should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil and nut butters.
Increase your intake of protective foods.
Current research suggests that certain foods may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and help maintain a healthy brain.
Generally, dark-skinned fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of antioxidants. Sources include: kale, spinach, red pepper, onion, brussel sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beets, and eggplant. Fruits with high antioxidant levels include: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, red grapes, plums, oranges, and cherries.
Omega 3 fatty acids from cold water fish such as halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna provide many health benefits as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Nuts also contain Omega 3 fatty acids. Include some almonds, pecans and walnuts in your diet.
Ask the Doctor
If you have a specific medical condition, be sure to check with your primary physician or a registered dietitian about foods you should include or avoid.