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Senior Nutrition: A Way to Better Health

Research has shown time and time again that fad diets might work in the short term but few, if any, are sustainable over the long term and most lose their appeal over time. As mentioned in our last blog, March is National Nutrition Month and this is the second installment of addressing better nutrition and the challenges seniors and their families face in maintaining good eating habits during these critical years.

Most nutritional and fitness experts say the best diet is one that you can stick to by incorporating healthier changes here and there that allow a person to continue eating favorite foods (with some modifications, like watching portion sizes and fat intake) but with the understanding that fresh fruits and vegetables should be the basis of a daily diet. Whole grains, legumes (i.e., beans) and small portions of lean meats should make up the rest of our daily diets.

Simple switches can have a dramatic effect on a person's health. Reducing or eliminating refined sugar and eliminating trans-fats altogether from our diets, along with reducing body weight by 10 percent (when overweight), can reduce a person's risk of heart attack, diabetes and arthritis--to name just a few.

To help consumers make smarter choices about what we eat, the editors of the famous, "Eat This, Not That," books teamed up with the nutritional experts at AARP to present a new approach to eating. They encourage Americans to treat food as "medicine." By eating healthier versions of our favorite foods, a person can address major health concerns without feeling deprived. For seniors with chronic health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes, this is a novel way of approaching eating and one that holds out hope of staying healthier during the final decades of life.

Here are some of their suggestions:

- Don't add salt at the table. Rather, cook with some salt but keep intake around

2,300 milligrams daily--about one teaspoon (2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines). Choose

raw, unsalted nuts as a snack rather than roasted, salted nuts or salty potato chips.

- Increase fiber in your diet (typically with fresh fruits and vegetables) by spreading

peanut butter on whole grain breads and adding a banana or other fresh fruit to

increase its heart-healthy benefits. Don't use sugar-laden jams and spreads.

- Avoid "mood" foods like mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy or foods

processed with canola, corn or soy oils which are high in omega-6 fatty acids. These

fats are linked to depression and inflammation of the joints and muscles. Best bet:

Choose spinach salad over kale because spinach helps support the production of

serotonin and dopamine, two "feel-good" neurochemicals. And it's much higher in

magnesium (a mineral linked to lower depression) than kale is.

- Eat fatty, coldwater fish such as, salmon, tuna, halibut, cod, and sardines which are

high in omega-3 fatty acids. These particular fats help reduce your risk of diabetes. - Eat whole, fresh berries rather than drinking the sugary juices made from them.

- Finally, seniors in particular need to eat adequate amounts of protein because they

experience lower rates of protein absorption than younger individuals do. A 180-lb

senior needs 63 grams daily, while a 150-lb adult requires 53 grams to maintain

muscle mass and heart health. But eating too much meat can increase the risk of

heart disease and certain cancers. A better bet is to get proteins from other sources,

such as nuts, beans, tofu, and certain grains, like quinoa. And choosing fish or

chicken over beef boosts levels of "good" HDL cholesterol and reduces levels of

"bad" LDL. This can help maintain heart health and prevent strokes.

At AAging Better, we place a strong emphasis on preparing nutritious meals for our clients, and working with them on healthier grocery shopping as well. If you or your loved one is at a point where some additional help at home is needed to ensure healthy eating, give us a call to discuss your concerns. A nurse will do a free in-home consultation to determine exactly what might be needed to make sure you or your loved one remains safely at home. Call either our Eastern Washington toll-free line at 1-844-814-8080 or our North Idaho toll-free line at 1-866-464-2344 to talk to one of our nurses now.

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