Eating Well as You Age

The older we get, the more diseases we encounter. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are among the many illnesses that plague seniors. There are several medications for the prevention and treatment of these illnesses, but they usually end up replacing the problem with a new problem.

Medications Make You Sicker

Every medication comes with a mile-long list of side effects, ranging from slightly annoying to life-threatening. This means our bodies were not meant to consume these medications. So, what else can we do to ensure that we remain healthy as we age?

Healthy eating choices are at the core of good health. As we reach the age of 50, it becomes even more important to watch what we eat.

For example, John has high blood pressure. He begins taking beta blockers to lower it. Now, John’s blood pressure has been lowered, but he is also suffering from erectile dysfunction, depression, and insomnia because of the medication. What if John had cut his salt intake and started eating more fruits and vegetables instead of taking the beta blockers?

What Changes Can You Make to Maintain Your Health

Most people have seen the food pyramid before. We will always benefit from eating these recommended serving amounts. However, as we age, we must be more selective about what we choose to eat from the food groups.

Less Salt

The more we age, the more salt starts to affect our health. A high salt intake in older adults can cause strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, osteoporosis, cognitive decline, stomach cancer, Meniere’s disease, edema, and kidney disease.

To reduce your salt intake, try a variety of herbs and spices in your cooking until you find some favorites to replace salt. Avoid buying a lot of processed food such as bread, pies, pastries, lunchmeat, canned soups, pizzas, and microwave meals. If you do continue to buy these foods, opt for the low-sodium version. Try some new foods that are low in sodium; what you like may surprise you.

Less Sugar

Sugar is a dominating source of illness in our country; it is the main cause for type 2 diabetes. Twenty-six percent of Americans aged 65 and older have diabetes. Thirty-five percent of Americans in the same age group are obese. High sugar intake can cause other illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease, high cholesterol, polycystic ovarian syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, and all forms of cancer.

To reduce your sugar intake, try to completely avoid eating things like cookies, cake, and ice cream. Sugar is already in just about everything that we eat, so foods that are noticeably sweet are very unhealthy for us. Aim for a maximum amount of 25 grams of sugar per day. This amount includes natural sugar from fruit. Do not opt for sugar alternatives, as these are worse for you than natural sugar.

Less Trans Fats

Have you heard of good fats and bad fats? Trans fats are the bad fats. They can dramatically increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. Try to eat as little of these fats as possible.

Fried food, packaged snacks, and commercially baked goods are where you can find the most trans fats. Many foods that contain trans fats are labeled as trans-fat free. In this case, look for partially hydrogenated oil in the list of ingredients. If you see it listed, avoid that food.

More Water

Most people don’t drink nearly enough water as they should. Not drinking enough water can lead to confusion, urinary tract infections, and constipation. These conditions are more dangerous in the senior population as they can potentially cause other illnesses. There are also studies that link lack of water to bladder cancer, colorectal cancer, and kidney stones.

Because the thirst mechanism in our brains can start to malfunction as we grow older, we cannot attribute how much water we need to how thirsty we feel. Aim for at least a half-ounce of water for every pound you weigh. For example, if someone weighs 120 pounds, they should drink at least 60 ounces of water per day.

If you have a difficult time drinking that much water, you can count coffee, tea, milk, and other drinks in your water intake. Eating fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, lettuce, oranges, and cucumbers also get you closer to your goal. Even soup counts as water intake. With all the different ways water adds up, it’s easy to reach our daily goals.

More Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D

Older people cannot absorb vitamins as easily as younger people can. Therefore, we must compensate by adding more vitamin rich foods to our diet. Our body uses vitamin B12 to keep our nerve and blood cells healthy, as well as provide us with energy. Vitamin D is used to fight infection, help our muscles move, and regulate cell growth.

To increase vitamin B12 and vitamin D consumption, try eating more eggs, shitake mushrooms, fish, fish oil, shellfish, beef liver, and dairy products.

More Good Fats

Many people associate the word “fat” with being unhealthy. The truth is, not all fats are bad. As I mentioned above, there are good fats and bad fats. Good fats are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke as well as provide transportation for the nutrients that our aging bodies are craving.

These fats can be found in avocados, cheese, dark chocolate, whole eggs, fatty fish, nuts, chia seeds, olive oil and sunflower oil.

Eat Your Way to a Healthier You

Implementing these diet tips and tricks can eliminate the need for medications, as well as have a positive impact on mood, appearance, and cognitive function.

Start eating healthy to live healthy today.