When the days get shorter, colder and a little bit ‘gloomier’ - it’s harder to…
It’s no lie that as we age our dietary needs change. Long gone are the days of 2am corn chips, tacos and burgers. Green tea, fibre rich foods and leafy greens are in. Eating healthy is essential to feeling your best as you age, and can improve your mood and decrease the risk of disease. Whether you are out for lunch, cooking up a storm or eating our catered meals, consider what foods are best for you.
Your Caloric Needs Change
As we age, our bodies no longer need as many calories as when we were young. We move less, have a reduced muscle mass and a slower metabolic rate. It is important to adjust your intake, too many calories and you may gain weight, too few and you may become malnourished. Stick to nutrient-packed foods to maximise the benefits of your calories, and ensure you are getting all the necessary nutrients. These include kale, salmon, potatoes, blueberries and eggs.
How Our Bodies Respond to Nutrients as We Age
It’s no shock to say our bodies change as we enter our later years. These physiological changes impact how we absorb nutrients. For example, stomach acid production reduces with time. While this may seem like a welcomed relief for the heartburn sufferers among us, stomach acid plays an essential role in breaking down foods to release nutrients. We become less efficient at attaining, and absorbing iron, calcium, vitamins B6, B12 and folate. Look for these in your diet, or consider taking a supplement. (An important note is that some supplements interfere with medication, so it is always best to check with your doctor.) Moreover, with age, our skin is less efficient at converting sunlight into vitamin D, and we tend to spend less time outside. Vitamin D is essential in our bodies as it helps to absorb calcium for bone strength. To ensure you are getting enough, incorporate vitamin D rich foods such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks into your diet. Alternatively, head out into the sun! Go for a walk, or do some gardening to soak up the sun. (Slap the sunscreen and sunhat on first of course!) At Greenview Park Village, we offer our residents room to grow and maintain their own gardens.
Protect your Heart
Eating right for your heart should be done at every age, but becomes increasingly important over the years. High blood pressure is tied to an increased risk of heart disease and strokes. Your diet plays a monumental role in managing your blood pressure. Foods rich in potassium such as leafy greens, bananas, kumara and beans are great for reducing blood pressure. Consider a spinach and fruit-filled green smoothie in the morning or a banana as a snack. Sodium from salt is believed to be one of the biggest drivers of high blood pressure. Our senses change as we grow older, and many find their sensitivity to salt decreases. This can cause people to pile on the salt to get flavour, risking their health in the process. Consider using herbs such as thyme, basil or rosemary, or seasonings such as curry powder. These will make your dishes exciting, without compromising on health.
What Foods are Great
It is possible to eat great tasting food, while also keeping healthy. Don’t be afraid to try old and new recipes alike, tweaking to address your health needs. For example, instead of cornflakes, try high fibre muesli. Add a nutrient-rich spinach or kale salad alongside your regular dinners. Another important food group is fruits. Fruit is full of fibre, complex carbohydrates and can even bolster your immune system with ‘disease fighter’ nutrients zinc, vitamin C and E, phytochemicals lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. It is recommended to eat at least nine servings each day. They are perfect as a mid-morning snack, in smoothies, on top of cereal or in salads.
Having Fun with Food and Appetite Changes
Something many elderly people comment on is that sometimes food becomes no longer fun. Sensory changes can reduce the sensitivity to salt and bitterness, and the loss of smell can reduce some of foods enjoyment. Or, you may just not feel hungry anymore. Medications, loss of food enjoyment, and reduced caloric needs can all contribute to reduced appetite. For many, this is a normal part of ageing, but it could suggest an underlying issue so it is always good to check in with your doctor. Food is not just an obligation to your body, but something that ought to be enjoyed! Experiment with new tastes, invite your friends over for tea, add spices instead of additional salt and eat what you enjoy. Take the time to have fun with food. If mealtime brings too much stress, consider meal planning in advance. Set some time at the start of the week to work out your meals, and relax during the week. You will feel on top of it, and can just enjoy the food.
With little changes, the food you eat can add years to your life. At the end of the day, food isn’t just about nutrition but should be something you enjoy. Experiment, add flavours, remove salt, and have fun. With this knowledge, you can keep eating happy and healthy.