How to Help the Senior in Your Life Make Healthy Food Choices

July 28, 2020

It can be challenging to see your parents’ health in decline. A normal part of the aging process involves changes in diet, which all too often results in malnutrition. When senior citizens consume less food, they can easily miss out on important nutrients that will help them to stay healthy, strong, and energized. Vitamins and supplements can be helpful in an effort to replace and replenish, but when it comes to bioavailability, there is really no substitute for ensuring that proper senior nutrition is achieved. With some advanced planning and careful consideration of ingredients, disease-causing dietary deficiencies can be managed or avoided. Read on to learn more about foods that will boost memory, immunity, and energy levels in order to optimize recipes for your elderly parents. 

Foods to Boost Memory

According to AARP, Vitamin E may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. Findings from a study involving more than 600 patients revealed that a daily high dose of vitamin E extended participants’ ability to accomplish everyday tasks (such as getting dressed, bathing, or eating) independently by an average of six months. When you are considering food options for your elderly parents, there are some vitamin E and omega rich ingredients that you should considering including.

Unrefined oils (like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil) are a nutrient-dense option. They can be added into salad dressings, used for cooking, or drizzled on top of meat or veggies for extra flavor and boosted senior nutrition. Avocados are a superfood as well as a source of vitamin E. Bonus! They require very little preparation. This is great news for those short on time who are tasked with planning make-ahead meals. If the senior in your life is picky or gets bored easily when it comes to dining, consider preparing them seafood. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna are high in omega-3s and can be prepared in a variety of ways, so you can easily switch it up each week.

Nuts, seeds, and whole grains are healthy additions to diet plans for the elderly as well. Whole grains are rich in fiber and are usually easy to chew and swallow. Oatmeal is a perfect breakfast choice when it comes to senior nutrition. It is somewhat of a blank canvas and therefore an opportunity to provide some variety in flavors every morning. Fruits, nuts, and seeds can be added to oatmeal. If they cause difficulty in the digestion process, nut and seed butters are not only potent for brain health, but also beneficial for the heart.

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Immunity-Boosting Foods 

Perhaps now more than ever, we are aware of the vulnerability of the senior population. With the pandemic at the forefront of every news broadcast and every social media feed, the awareness and desire to protect our elderly population is greater than ever. Even prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, it was understood that when it comes to older adults, nutrition guidelines must include immune-boosting ingredients. There is a strong connection between the body’s immune system and the body’s gut health. Keeping the perfect balance of healthy bacteria can make or break a person’s defense to common colds, the flu, or any other predatory invasion of the biome.

The consumption of probiotics can be a gamechanger in promoting gut health and efficient digestion. Chances are, your parents or grandparents already have to take a fair amount of medications. Rather than adding in probiotic supplements, you can add yogurt into their meal plan. Many brands of yogurt on the market are loaded with sugar, preservatives, and other additives. This can weaken its potency, or worse, be detrimental to the health of the consumer. You are better off sticking with plain yogurt and adding it to smoothies or nutritional drinks for seniors. While you are preparing the blender, add in some elderberry, which is loaded with antioxidants (and delicious flavor), pomegranate juice, which is high in vitamin C, and wheat germ, which is high in zinc.

Another staple for make-ahead meals for seniors should be sweet potatoes and carrots. They are easy to prepare and keep without spoiling for a long time. These beta-carotene providers will help remove free radicals from the body. You can sprinkle them with sautéed garlic for flavor, and to aid in fighting bacteria and viruses.

The Importance of a Strong Immune System

Foods to Boost Energy Levels

Senior nutrition can play a critical role in how much energy a person has, how often they need to sleep, and for how long. Many older adults take prescribed medications that cause dehydration. An obvious dietary choice (though not a food) is to consume more water. However, another – perhaps more enjoyable – way to hydrate is to eat watermelon. This miracle fruit is a potent antioxidant and can help alleviate muscle soreness. It is also rich in vitamin C and lycopene, which can boost immunity and heart health.

Walnuts are another prime source for a quick energy boost, carrying an abundance of protein and fiber. Experts say that foods are helpful in maintaining the health of the body parts that they visually resemble, and walnuts resemble a human brain in that they are a similar shape. Improved cognitive function, memory, and mood can be achieved by adding walnuts to diet plans for the elderly.

The old adage, “You are what you eat,” may have been written to teach children about food choices, but it still holds validity in a nation that is (according to the health.gov Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020) rampantly exceeding the recommended intake of added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that dietary factors correlate directly to diseases common in our senior population. Because the elderly population tends to operate at a lower caloric intake, it is exceedingly important to ensure that their calories count. By cutting out the junk and including an abundance of nutrient-dense foods that boost memory, immunity, and energy levels, you can prolong and optimize the health of your loved ones.

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