Our nutritional needs change throughout our lifetime. Infants and children require lots of omega three fats for brain growth and fat storage for physical growth. Adults need a high protein and nutrient rich diet without as much fat as a younger person’s diet. As an elderly person, your diet will likely differ depending on your overall weight, body mass index, and whether or not you suffer from an illness that affects your metabolism. Examples of diseases that would affect the way your body uses food are diabetes, hypothyroidism, and hyperthyroidism. These and many other changes in your health will require you to talk to your doctor or nutritionist for exact diet specifications. In general, though, it is important for older adults to get plenty of protein, calcium, vitamins, minerals, fiber and healthy fats.
Luckily, we can ensure that our diets are properly balanced by selecting the appropriate ingredients in what we cook. The below foods will help to ensure that your diet is properly balanced with the nutrients that your body requires:
- Protein: Fish, Eggs (hopefully cage free), Chicken, Peanut butter and Nuts;
- Calcium: Broccoli, Orange Juice, Milk (preferably Soy or Almond Milk), Kale, Eggs, and Turnip Greens. Bone-in salmon and sardines are great sources of calcium as well, but only enjoy them if you are able to avoid swallowing the bones;
- Vitamins: All vegetables, fruits and fruit juices. Be sure to buy fruit juices that do not have added sugar. Juices with pulp are even better as they adds fiber. Vitamin D has been found, in recent studies, to play a key part in neurological health. It can play a big part in preventing diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease;
- Minerals: Foods like lentils, tofu, turmeric, eggs, spinach, parsley, beans, tomatoes, asparagus and other leafy green vegetables provide essential iron for older folks with borderline or full on anemia. Zinc is a mineral required for several enzymes to function and can be found in foods like asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, beans, eggs, seeds, green peas, red meat, oats and miso. Magnesium is essential for processing ATP (cell energy) to the bones and is found in soybeans, cocoa mass, tomatoes, halibut, beans, ginger, cloves, and cumin;
- Fiber: Fiber is the great system cleaner. It takes all of the wastes left over after your body processes the nutrients and pushes it through so that you stay regular. Fiber is contained in beans, seeds, dates, whole grains (be sure to check actual fiber content on the box), popcorn, brown rice, vegetables, fruit and oatmeal, to name a few;
- Healthy fats are found in eggs, walnuts, flax seed, olive, coconut, grape seed, canola and vegetable oils, olives, avocados, salmon, herring, and mackerel, among other sources.You may have seen some foods listed more than once above. That’s great! You can “kill two birds” (or more than two) with one stone. People who are aging need to be sure to consume enough calcium for retaining bone growth as well as protein for maintaining muscle mass. Exercise certainly helps with both of those as well.
Something else you may have noticed is that essential nutrients can be found in spices as well. You do not have to eat a bland diet when eating properly. Eat healthy and enjoy it!