Senior Nutrition: 5 Tips for Promoting Health and Wellness in Later Years
Having a vibrant lifestyle in our later years boils down to making the right choices for our health. Navigating the changes in our bodies as we age with slight adjustments to our nutrition can make a big difference. Luckily, we have ready access to more good information about senior health and wellness than ever before.
At the Mission at Agua Fria Senior Living, we know senior nutrition doesn’t have to be boring; it can be delicious and beneficial. It comes down to making the right choices and knowing what your body needs for your activity levels.
Here are five nutrition tips for promoting health and wellness in later years:
Hydration is essential for anyone at any age. Keeping hydrated can be a challenge as we age, as we don’t always recognize the signs that we’re dehydrated. Dehydration can negatively affect not just digestion but brain and cognitive function. Certain medications like diuretics and beverages like coffee or alcohol can contribute to dehydration. Health conditions like diabetes or even a minor illness can cause dehydration.
Drinking enough water is one way to stay hydrated. Using the “eight glasses of water per day” rule is one way to do this, but having a good idea of what your body needs to stay hydrated is another way to prevent dehydration. Your activity level, the weather, and the types of food you eat affect how much water you should be taking in.
Regular exercise contributes to water loss through sweat, as does hot weather. Drinking coffee or alcohol can be dehydrating. Other ways to stay hydrated include eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking juice and herbal teas, and even eating a fruit popsicle.
2. Fire Up Your Digestion
Another challenge we face as we age is the changes to our digestion. It starts with our mouths and saliva production. Saliva aids in our digestion of food by providing enzymes but decreases as we age for different reasons. Different medications and conditions affect our body’s ability to digest as well. Our bodies also don’t need as much food as they used to. Luckily, several foods can help our digestive systems and aid in a number of ways.
Probiotics and prebiotics are foods or supplements that help aid in digestion in a few ways. Probiotics contain live bacteria that assist in breaking down different substances and are found in foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and even refrigerated pickles.
Prebiotics are fiber-rich foods like apples, oats, bananas, and garlic. These foods aid in digestion as food for helpful bacteria in the digestive tract. There are also a number of supplements available that contain these, and even some digestive enzyme supplements. It’s always recommended to consult with a healthcare practitioner to figure out if these foods or supplements are right for you.
Fiber is also a crucial element in your diet that aids in senior digestive health. A diet rich in fiber not only helps with good digestion but prevention of other health conditions. Vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds are all excellent ways to include more fiber into the diet.
3. Eat for Brain Health
Did you know that there are foods that specifically aid in brain health and help prevent disease? Foods like almonds/almond butter, avocados, walnuts, blueberries, and some cruciferous vegetables are just a few of the foods that all contribute to brain health.
Recently, a neuroscientist who studied the effects of aging on the brain started taking a multivitamin due to the results of his studies. There are a lot of different multivitamin supplements, and some can interfere with medications, so consulting your doctor is essential before starting any supplement.
4. Eat for Heart Health
As we age, the challenge becomes switching from foods we ‘like’ to those that are ‘good for us,’ but we don’t have to forgo taste for quality. Luckily, there are ways of eating that are not just heart-healthy but rich in nutrition and flavor.
One of the recommendations for heart health is the Mediterranean diet. Based on the Mediterranean region’s culinary traditions and lifestyles, the diet focuses on eating fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, olive oil, and more plant-based options. This focus also includes eating more fish, like salmon, mackerel, and other omega-3 fatty fish, incorporating spices, and reducing red meat consumption.
According to the American Heart Association, the recommendation for a heart-healthy diet includes healthy protein sources, a rich assortment of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. More specifically, reducing your intake of processed foods and sugars is also important, especially when it comes to cholesterol.
While cholesterol can be found naturally in some foods, foods like sugary sodas and white breads can contribute to high blood sugar, which decreases the good cholesterol in our bodies.
5. Eat for Lifestyle
Senior health is about finding a balance between eating healthy for your body’s needs and the activities you do. Eating enough and not too much can often be a challenge. Finding the right amount of movement and exercise can also be a challenge. If you’re used to an active lifestyle of walking, exercising, or golfing, you should eat rich, nutrient-dense foods to support the muscular strength and energy needed to do those activities. Certain health conditions can present challenges, but many low-impact exercise options aid mental and physical health.
Seniors can fall into two traps: not eating enough or eating too much. This is where it’s helpful to get some guidance. At the Mission at Agua Fria Senior Living, we offer nutrition education workshops and advice on healthy eating and living. Senior health and nutrition isn’t as dull as eating oatmeal at every meal. Trying out new foods and exploring tastes can be a new adventure! To find out how we empower our residents with the knowledge and experiences to live well and thrive, contact us. We would love to give you a tour of our community and how we can support you or your loved one, not only with their nutrition but their whole life.