Tomorrow I’m headed to the food Mecca of the south, New Orleans! In honor of this city and the fabulous food it offers, we’re going to explore the important role that food plays in senior health. In a previous Homecare Advocate post we addressed the importance of food preventing falls, so let’s take it a step further and address 7 common food questions.
1) How many calories do seniors need each day?
Your ideal caloric intake depends on a few factors. Are you exercising or physically active? If so, you will need to consume more calories to offset what you burn off in activity (women need about 1800 calories, men between 2200-2400 calories). Likewise, those who are very physically active need the most (women 2000, men 2400-2800), and those who are inactive need less (women 1600, men 2000). However, proper nutrition is more than just the calories you consume each day.
2) What kind of problems can develop from malnutrition?
Malnutrition is often associated with hunger, but it is more about the lack of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals the body needs to be healthy. According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition may be caused by a combination of physical, social, and psychological features. Malnutrition can lead to serious health problems, including a weakened immune system, difficulty with wounds healing in a timely fashion, and muscle weakness. Each of these issues can complicate other health risks and compound a person’s health problems.
3) What kinds of food can I eat to minimize inflammation from my arthritis?
A classic Mediterranean diet of fish & healthy fats, vegetables, and fruits is rich in foods that help reduce inflammation caused by arthritis. The Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and rainbow trout can help with joint stiffness, swelling, and pain. When cooking, try using extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter for a healthier meal, as this oil is also linked to decreased inflammation. Certain antioxidants may help prevent and slow arthritis progression, so consider adding the following to your diet: sweet peppers, broccoli, kidney beans, cantaloupe, oranges, tuna, tilapia, whole-wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, and more. Anthocyanidins such as blackberries, eggplant, raspberries, and plums help fight free radicals that may cause inflammation.
4) With 1 in 8 older Americans developing Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, what foods can help increase focus?
Start your day by eating breakfast; several studies suggest it can help improve short-term memory! Omega-3 fatty acids (described above) have strong correlations to brain performance and are linked to lower dementia/stroke, enhancing memory, and prolonging cognitive reasoning. Blueberries and acai berries are the super-fruits of brainpower. A study done by the USDA and Tufts University even revealed that blueberries can reverse age-related brain decline! Nuts, fish with Omega-3 fatty acids, and brightly colored vegetables/fruit are key players in minimizing your risk for dementia.
5) As a senior, am I at a higher risk for dehydration? What effects can it have on my body and mind?
Yes, seniors are especially susceptible to dehydration due to your body’s dulled sense of thirst. Dehydration an lead to headaches, urinary tract infections, constipation, and even confusion. It is est not to drink sports drinks that can be high in sugar. Classic H20 is the route to go.
6) I’ve never been a big vegetable and fruit eater. What creative ways can I add them to my diet?
If you’re tired of broccoli and carrots every night or avoid fruits and vegetables all together, you may be interested in checking out some of these recipes that infuse fruits and vegetables into healthy smoothies. You still get the nutrients you need but can now experiment and create your custom signature healthy drink. Check out this raw vegetable smoothie by Dr. Bill Harris or this delicious banana smoothie found on Spark Recipes. Concoct an interesting combination of your own? Send it to us at advocate(at)lambertshc.com, and we may post it on our blog!
7) My medication makes food taste bland, yet too much salt is bad for me. How else can I put more flavor in my food?
The National Institute of Health has a fabulous Web site that highlights healthy flavorings, herbs, and spices to be used on specific meat and vegetable products. It suggests dill or thyme on your green beans, garlic on your potatoes, and nutmeg on your summer squash. Delicious! For fish, try curry powder or pepper. Chicken, one of the most versatile meats of the American diet can be complimented with ginger, paprika, poultry seasoning, sage, rosemary, and much more. I hope this inspires you!
Speaking of inspired, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to share this article by The Times-Picayune that told how Chef Marilyn Doucette of New Orleans was transforming lives by giving new life to New Orleans classics with a healthy spin. Read this article for her low-sodium tricks, healthy substitutions, and an encouraging story of how one woman is changing the way we see food one meal at a time. She now owns a catering business, which you can learn more about here. I’m excited about trying her home-cooked, authentically healthy Creole food later this week!
Though New Orleans is famous for Po Boys, beignets, and king cake, I also wanted to share some healthier recipes true NO style that touch on some of our super foods we addressed above. Try New Orleans Red Beans & Rice, Cajun Chicken Pasta with whole wheat, Creole Tomato Salad and Cajun-Seasoned Pan-Fried Tilapia with vegetables. Send in your own recipes, and we may post them on an upcoming Homecare Advocate post!