At all stages of life, eating right is essential to staying healthy and happy. No matter what other lifestyle choices that we make, our bodies need the right raw materials to keep us feeling our best. Without them, our health inevitably starts to decline.
And once it’s gone, rebuilding it can be a huge challenge.
So even if you’re doing your best to stay active and keep your mind sharp, you may not be setting yourself up for success if your diet is lacking. To help keep yourself in top shape, follow these senior nutrition guidelines.
Look for Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important to our health at every age. However, they’re particularly important as we grow older.
A big reason for this is because of their ability to help fight and prevent various forms of inflammation. Left unchecked, chronic inflammation can lead to conditions like arthritis, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer.
Eating a diet rich in Omega-3’s may also slow the progression of Macular Degeneration (AMD), a condition that causes loss of vision over time. Omega-3’s are also essential to maintaining brain health and may be crucial to preventing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Prime sources of omega-3’s include cold-water fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines. You can also find them in plant-based sources like walnuts, flaxseed, soybeans, and canola oil.
You shake take a good serving of omega-3’s at least twice per week. If that’s not feasible, supplements like fish oil are popular alternatives. Just always remember to consult your regular doctor before starting any new supplements.
Take in Enough Calcium to Maintain Healthy Bones
We need calcium to build and maintain strong bones, as well as a number of other functions. But as we age, we tend to take in less calcium than we did when we were young.
Over time, our bodies compensate for this drop in intake by reabsorbing the calcium in our bones, making them thinner and brittle. If left alone, this process can result in osteoporosis, a chronic bone disease. By one estimate, there are some 53 million Americans who either have osteoporosis or are at risk of developing it.
To keep from becoming a statistic, you need to make sure that you’re getting plenty of calcium well into your golden years. Dairy products are the most straightforward choices for boosting your calcium intake. It can also be found in abundance in certain leafy green vegetables.
According to the World Health Organization, people aged 50 or older need at least 1200 mg of calcium daily. But some seniors have problems getting that much calcium through diet alone. With a doctor’s approval, calcium supplements can help make up that difference.
Be Sure to Fill Up on Fiber
Many of our body’s processes slow down as we age. And in particular, the digestive system is susceptible to this. And in addition to the muscles themselves slowing down, the GI tract gets thicker with age.
Altogether, this can lead to regular constipation.
Eating plenty of fiber can help mitigate this slowdown. High-fiber foods also promote better heart health, so it’s a nutritional double-whammy.
Examples include beans, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and vegetables.
Get Your Allotted Iron
We need iron in our bodies to produce hemoglobin, the protein molecule in our blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. Without it, we become susceptible to anemia.
Iron tends to be found in protein-rich foods like meat and poultry, seafood, and beans. It also shows up in leafy greens like spinach.
Stay Healthy With Vitamins C, D, and B-12
Our bodies need vitamins to accomplish a number of tasks. Vitamin C, for example, is an antioxidant that is linked to reduced risks of cancer and heart disease. It’s also used in the production of collagen, a protein that helps keep our skin healthy and younger-looking.
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. It also helps the body absorb calcium, so it helps stave off bone loss and the onset of osteoporosis as well.
And vitamin B-12 is needed to produce red blood cells and maintain healthy nerve function.
Vitamin C is largely found in fruits and vegetables, so if you’re already making sure that you’re getting enough fiber then it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Vitamin D is normally produced within our own bodies when our skin is exposed to sunlight. However, because we now know that too much sun causes skin damage and increases the risk of skin cancer, it may be wiser to talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement instead.
Vitamin B-12 is found in dairy products, so it goes hand-in-hand with getting enough calcium. However, as we age our bodies have a harder time absorbing enough of it through diet alone. For that reason, you may also want to talk to your doctor about supplementing your B-12 intake.
Enough Potassium a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Potassium serves a number of functions, including preventing kidney stones, regulating blood pressure, and assisting in healthy cell function. In men, healthy potassium intake is also linked to lower risks of prostate cancer.
It’s found most prominently in fruits like bananas and prunes, as well as potatoes.
Proper Senior Nutrition Helps You to Enjoy Your Golden Years
Eating in old age doesn’t have to be a dour affair. There are plenty of choices that are equally delicious as they are nutritious. And of course, no one will begrudge you for the occasional indulgence here or there.
Ensuring good senior nutrition is just a matter of finding what your body needs, and making sure that you’re giving it everything it needs to maintain your health.
And it’s also important to remember that proper nutrition for seniors is just one side of the equation. It’s equally important to make sure you’re staying active since once you stop moving, it’s hard to get going again. To that end, check out these simple exercises that you can do from home care to help keep you in top shape.