Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most important things seniors can do to manage overall health, and prevent illness and disease.
This task becomes more challenging with age, as we have to make accommodations for physiological changes in the body and adjust accordingly.
Some of the physical changes we can expect to encounter as we get older, may be:
- Reduced strength and mobility
- Decreased cognitive function
- Impaired vision
- Impaired hearing
- Memory loss
- Decreased coordination and reflexes
- Reduced immune function
All of these conditions can affect every day living, and it is how we cope with these changes that dictate overall health levels.
One of the best ways to prevent premature aging and increased risk of serious illness is a nutritious diet.
Nutritious Diet for Seniors in Ottawa
There are definitely foods to target and avoid that can help improve seniors’ health. Some of the best foods to focus on are fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole grains. Foods to avoid are those that are heavily processed and contain high levels of refined sugars and unhealthy fats.
Nutrients to Focus on for Seniors
There is a list of about six essential nutrients for seniors to focus on as recommended by health care professionals and nutritional specialists.
Six nutrients of interest for older adults, are:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B 12
This essential mineral is important for seniors because of its ability to help balance out levels of other minerals in the body. One of these minerals is sodium.
These two minerals have a delicate balance in the body, and if sodium levels become too high it can result in health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
Regular potassium intake can help reduce high levels of sodium, while regulating fluid and blood levels.
Some good food sources for potassium, include:
- Vegetables – squash, spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
- Fruits – avocados, bananas, pomegranates, oranges, melon
- Fish and seafood
- Coconut water
Try to avoid adding extra salt to your food, spices and herbs are healthier choices for enhancing flavor.
Another vital mineral that is crucial to seniors’ health is calcium. Calcium is necessary for building and maintaining bone health.
Calcium also plays a role in muscle function, sending and receiving messages, heart regulation, and blood clotting.
Foods that are high in calcium, include:
- Soy milk
- Nuts and seeds
- Leafy greens
Calcium deficiency can lead to weakened bones which can result in the onset of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a health condition where bone density and quality are significantly reduced, decreasing mobility and increasing the risk of serious injury.
Along with calcium, vitamin D is also essential for developing healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D actually assists the body with calcium absorption, which helps establish the building blocks for many structures in the body.
Some foods that can help make sure you get the recommended daily dosage of vitamin D, are:
- Cod liver oil
- Fatty fish – salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, trout, herring, haddock, whitefish
- Beef liver (and other animal organs)
One of the best sources of vitamin D is the sun. Seniors are not as easily able to absorb and synthesize vitamin D from the sun, so they are at a greater risk for vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D deficiency can lead to more serious health conditions, like osteoporosis, rickets, skeletal deformities, muscle weakness, cognitive impairment, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Another vitamin that is essential for seniors, that many are deficient in, is vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is essential for the development of healthy red blood cells, DNA construction, and nerve function.
Deficiency in vitamin B12 often results in symptoms like fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of breath, heart palpitations, nerve damage, and impaired vision.
Food sources that contain healthy amounts of vitamin B12 are animal-based. For this reason, vegetarians are at a higher risk for B12 deficiency, but can easily find alternative sources.
Foods high in vitamin B12, include:
- Fish and seafood
- Quality beef and poultry
- Organ meats
- Fortified cereal or nutritional yeast
- B12 supplements
Everyone knows that water is not only essential for good health, but also for maintaining life itself.
With age, it is even more important to stay hydrated. With reduced water content in the body as we get older, seniors must make a conscious effort to drink at least 2 litres of water a day. This is the absolute minimum, and older adults should really try to drink as much water as they can manage everyday.
For seniors with health conditions, taking multiple medications, the need to stay hydrated is even more pronounced.
Fiber is crucial to maintaining a functional digestive system and good gut health. It can help keep digestion regular and regulate blood glucose levels. If blood sugar becomes to high, there is an increased risk for all kinds of health problems, like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Foods to target that are high in fiber, are:
- Beans and legumes
- Wholegrains and oats