Lifetime health through nutrition is very achievable. The opposite is also true. Are we risking poor health, illness and early death because of poor eating habits? We may be without realizing it. Good nutritious eating habits can help you live longer, healthier lives. Nutrition plays a huge part in your ability to have better physical strength and energy while sharpening your mental capabilities and adding to your self-happiness. Basically, when your body feels good, you feel good all over and you are able to enjoy life more. This is true in all of us regardless of age or gender. It is, however, especially important in the young and the elderly.
What Does It take to Be Truly Healthy?
There are a number of components of good health that we normally may take for granted until we lose our “taken for granted” good health. Proper rest, nutrition, exercise, social activity, and many other factors are all a part of a truly healthy lifestyle. There are many things that we should do and a long list of other things which we should definitely avoid… If we really want to have and maintain good health.
In this article, we wanted to focus our attention on the over 50 crowd and how a balanced nutrition and healthy eating habits can be a valuable contributing factor to their good health as they approach their senior years.
Do you know how many calories those of us over 50 need? According to the National Institute Of Aging, women who are not physically active need about 1600 calories per day. Those women with some activity need about 2200-2400 calories per day. And, quite active women need about 2400-2800 calories per day in their diet.
As for men over 50, from the same source, non-active men need about 2000 calories per day. Men with some activity need about 2200-2400 calories per day. Whereas, really active men need about 2400-2800 calories per day in their diet.
Of course, these are just general figures. But how do these apply to you, depending on your level of activity? If you are someone who has participated in on again, off again dieting, you may find that these calorie levels will actually cause you to gain weight.
Instead of being overly concerned about your calorie levels, we suggest that you pay more attention to getting in more nutrient dense foods. Nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables will help you to feel full with lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals without causing you to see rises on the scale. Starchy foods, while being a part of a well-balanced diet, will increase your waist size and cause problems with your health if overeaten. Unfortunately, many people make these the bulk of their diets and cause themselves to age prematurely as their health goes downward.
How To Improve Nutrition In The Elderly
It is true that the older we get the more we have to watch what we eat and how much we eat in order to feel better now and later on in years. So, in order to prepare before we get to that elderly stage, let us ask ourselves some very important questions to find out what is going on and is our diet truly a balanced one. Far too many people never get to be a senior because they shorten their lives with poor eating habits. If changes need to be made then they need to be made as young as possible in order to be healthy enough to get to those older years and then be able to actually enjoy them.
Are you opting for those wholesome and nutritious foods in your diet… or simply eating what is handy?
- Are you staying away from processed foods? The more processed they are the less nutrition there is in them.
- Are you eating natural foods close to their original source, rather than after they have been processed into substitute foods?
Example: whole grain rolled oats instead of instant oatmeal.
- Are you getting at least 2-3 servings of fiber, vitamins and minerals a day from those all important fruits… berries and melons?
- Are you eating at least 2-3 daily cups of antioxidant-rich dark and leafy green veggies… such as kale, broccoli, spinach… with some orange and yellow veggies… such as squash, yams, carrots?
- Are you getting in at least one serving of raw fruit and vegetable a day?
- Are you taking in healthier grains, such as whole-grain flour instead of white and processed ones? The elderly need about 6-7 ounces of grains per day. This is to ensure that they get enough fiber in their diet along with many of the B vitamins. Keep in mind that whole grains contain all the nutrition whereas the white flour variety has been stripped of much of its nutrition during processing.
- Are you only getting your Vitamin B12 from meats and eggs? Normally, this is how most people get it. One problem that the elderly have, however, is actually absorbing Vitamin B12 from their foods. As you get older you have a decreased amount of an intrinsic factor in your stomach that enables you to absorb it. For that reason, many older people are deficient in B12 even though they may be taking a supplement. They need it either in liquid form under the tongue or in shots that their doctor can prescribe for them to take at home. Low levels of B12 can cause all kinds of problems.
- Are you making sure you take in a sufficient amount calcium and vitamin D so that you can safeguard against the possibility of bone fractures and even osteoporosis? Are you taking the minerals magnesium, and manganese along with the vitamin K2 to ensure that the calcium goes to strengthen your bones instead of going into your bloodstream?
- Are you getting a daily dosage of 1,200 mg per day of calcium? This is the dosage required for the elderly. It can be found in milk, cheese, and yogurt. It is also available in collard greens, broccoli, almonds, and kale. This 1,200 mg of daily needed calcium represents your combined intake of food and any supplements you may be taking. Did you know that your body actually absorbs more calcium from your leafy greens than it does milk?
- Are you getting enough protein? Your body needs a sufficient amount of protein as well but not as much as many people tend to think. Usually, 50 to 60 grams a day is sufficient. A 3-ounce chicken breast will provide 25 grams of protein by itself. One large hard-boiled egg contains 6 grams of protein. If you get too much protein it will be stored as fat… not muscle. You do need an adequate amount of protein to keep your muscles strong. This is the reason many drink Boost or Ensure but it is a mistake to think that these supplements will take the place of real food. They are lacking in the phytonutrients and enzymes that we all need on a daily basis.
- Are you getting enough fiber in your diet? Adequate amounts of fiber in your food can do wonders for your health. It can help with problems of… heart, diabetes, stroke, immune system, body weight, skin, and the digestion system. It is suggested that men over 50 get 30 grams of fiber per day, and women to have 21 grams of fiber a day.
- Are you eating Healthy fats? Just a few short years ago many people made the mistake of trying to remove fat from their diets. Because studies at that time did not separate saturated fat from the trans fats… fat got a bad name. So many people tried to remove all fat from their diets. Food companies happily obliged by making all kinds of fat-free goodies. Some of us may remember those fat-free Devil’s Food Cookies. Do you? They were indeed fat-free but oh… they were loaded with sugar. Now, newer studies have separated the trans fats from the healthier natural fats and the picture looks much clearer. Even though you still should not overindulge in anything, healthy fats are now something that we know should be part of a healthy diet.
- Are you aware that fat is an essential nutrient? If you want to keep your brain mentally sharp, then you need to make sure that you do get a sufficient amount of healthy fat in your diet. Avocados, olive oil, coconut oil and organic butter, all in moderation, are all part of a healthy diet.
- Are you being careful not to overload your body with added sugar each day? Too much sugar can cause everything from obesity to cardiovascular disease, and to a host of other problems.
All this is simply to remind you that we all, and especially the elderly, need good and balanced nutrition from all the food groups in order to have and maintain good physical health.
Other Diet Essentials
Eating organic is important but many people find that they either cannot afford the organic foods or else they are not readily available in their area. We suggest to simply do the best you can. When you cannot buy organic, be sure to wash your vegetables and fruits quite thoroughly to remove as much residue from pesticides as possible. Sometimes, you can find organic items at your local farmer’s market or grocery store. Also, you might consider planting a patio garden where you have tomatoes, peppers, squash and other veggies growing from pots. If you grow it yourself, then you know what kind of soil it was grown in.
If you are over 50, then you must have realized that you are often not as thirsty as you should be. Why? The answer lies in the fact that as we get older we have a tendency to dehydrate and not be aware of it. This is due to the lack of ability of the elderly to control the fluid levels in their bodies. Therefore, it is very important that the elderly drink some water each hour and most definitely with your food. In fact, the norm for all adults is 8-10 glasses of water per day. This good habit will ensure against constipation and problems in your urinary tract.
However, if you find that you are constantly thirsty and always going to the bathroom, you may want to check with your doctor to be sure that you are not in the beginning stages of diabetes.
Proper Nutrition For The Elderly
Proper nutrition for many elderly people is growing more and more difficult. Even though they may not need as many calories, they still do need protein, different vitamins, and minerals from whole foods. They also need some healthy fats to protect their brain health. Some just do not have the appetite to be able to take in all the nutrients that they need for good health. Others have problems with chewing because of dental problems. We may have just the solution for some of these people…
We have found that it is much easier to get in larger amounts of raw leafy greens, some veggies, and fruits into our diet by means of blending them into green smoothies. This may not sound so attractive to you, but we assure you that there are some great recipes that blend fruits and veggies together and they are very tasty. Add a little protein powder and some healthy fat, and you have a meal replacement with lots of phytonutrients. This is something that you might want to consider as well. Recently, we were doing some testing and research to determine affordable alternatives to the Vitamix blender and we made smoothies every day. We were surprised to find the amount of good healthy natural energy that you could get from these drinks.
We also used a high-powered blender to blend a combination of many types of fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables as well. Surprisingly, the frozen tasted just as good, if not better, than the fresh variety. You see, we learned that frozen foods are picked at the peak of ripeness and have more nutrients whereas the fresh foods at the supermarket were picked before they had a chance to get ripe and have been subjected to UV light to artificially ripen them and a lot of other harmful things before they reach our tables. Some stores do try to get locally grown food which will be fresher and with more nutrients.
In the freezing process of fruits and vegetables, the initial step involves blanching them in hot water or steam to kill bacteria and stop the action of food-degrading enzymes, which may force some water-soluble nutrients, such as the B vitamins and vitamin C to break down or seep out. But, the subsequent flash-freeze actually preserves the fruits and vegetables in a reasonably nutrient-rich condition.
Rule of thumb: Always buy seasonal fresh vegetables… and buy frozen vegetables when they are out of season. Frozen vegetables can provide you with a lot of nutrients that are stored in them. You should look for the USDA markings on the frozen vegetable packages which will give you a lot of important information about the quality of the contents. For example, “U.S. Fancy” grade means it has the best color, shape and size… they have more nutrients than the ones graded lower… such as “U.S. No. 1” and “U.S. No. 2.” Frozen vegetables should be consumed soon after purchase because the nutrients in them tend to weaken or be lost as they sit in your home freezer or refrigerator. This is not to say that fresh vegetables do not behave the same way because their nutrients will also degrade the longer they sit in the refrigerator. You can minimize the loss of nutrients in your fresh or frozen vegetables by preparing them either in a microwave or steaming them, as opposed to boiling them which causes the loss of water-soluble vitamins.
Jay says: “I always used to get fresh fruits (mainly berries) and vegetables for my friend who I take care of. Unfortunately, many a time and more than I could afford, I found myself throwing them away because they had spoiled in the refrigerator. This was because I bought them in large amounts in order to save on my shopping trips to the grocery store. I eventually decided to buy and try the frozen fruits and vegetables about a year ago… I have not stopped buying them since! I can buy the frozen fruits I need – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, etc. – as well as the frozen vegetables – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Italian green beans, yellow squash, yams, corn, asparagus spears, etc. I am also saving a lot of money because the frozen fruits and vegetables I use are less expensive than the fresh ones and so much more convenient to store and prepare.”
Another thing you might consider is blending up cooked meats and veggies (fresh or cooked) into a good healthy stew or soup. Once they are well blended you have all the nutrients needed for a good healthy meal. This will solve any problem of not being able to chew the food properly as chewing would not be necessary. This would definitely taste much better than simply pureed into a baby food-like consistency as is often done for those with dental or oral problems. Jay did this one time with some leftover stew simply for the purpose of turning it into something a little different since he was tired of the unattractive leftovers sitting in his refrigerator. He says that it was really very tasty. Of course, this would call for the use of a good high-powered blender but we think it would be worth it.
With the abundance of new recipes for tasty, healthy blended foods, there is now no reason for those with dental problems to have to go without good wholesome fruits and vegetables. Glenda’s Mom stayed reasonably healthy until she got to the point where she could no longer get in her fresh fruits and vegetables. Dental problems caused her to stop them completely and her health rapidly went downhill. She thought she was being protected through drinking a protein supplement but she was not. So we are not talking theory here. We have seen the sad results. Getting in these whole foods by way of blending them can improve nutrition in the elderly and protect their health in ways that no supplement can.
Lifetime Health Through Nutrition
Today, we have been looking at nutrition and how that plays a part in your overall health as we age. In particular, we wanted to look at raw foods. You may not think about raw foods much but there are some good reasons to try to get more of them into your diet. There are a lot of phytochemicals in the fruits and vegetables that are no longer present in cooked foods. These foods are nutrient dense and they do contribute to our good health. We are not talking about becoming vegan or only eating raw foods. To us, that is an extreme. If that is what you want to do, that is your decision but we firmly believe that the human body was meant to take in a wide variety of nutrients. That is what is commonly known as a balanced diet. A balanced diet will have lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and fat from all the food groups.
Another component of good health is to watch your sugar intake. At the present time, there are more obese people in the world than there are underweight people. A lot of that is because people take a good thing like grains, fruits, and starchy foods to an extreme. Half of the population in the US right now is either Diabetic or pre-diabetic. That is epidemic proportions.
Dr. Mercola, a great authority on health and nutrition, recommends limiting your sugar intake to about 25 grams a day. If you are insulin resistant that should be 15 grams a day until you get past that stage. You can determine the grams of sugar in foods with almost any good calorie counter. Removing processed foods from your diet will go a long way towards your being able to consume only those things that promote good health and longevity. You would be surprised at how much sugar is added to processed foods. Become a label reader.
Good Nutrition Habits Improve Health
Maybe we should start looking at the foods themselves and the nutrients in them and determine just why that food should or should not be a part of our regular diets. If we consume a wide variety of foods that give us good nutrition and make them a habit, won’t that improve our health for the long term?
There is a problem with the typical American Diet. People are in a rush to get to work. They are in a hurry when they come home. They have to be someplace else very soon. There is no time to pay that much attention to what they eat. They stop by a fast food place to get their favorite foods that simply fill an empty spot. Or, they go to the grocery store and stock up on frozen dinners and pizza. At the end of the week, you may look back and realize that what you have eaten has been a lot of over-processed foods with a lot of unhealthy fats, white flour, meat from who knows where and very few vegetables.
People are getting old at an earlier age and we personally think that a lot of that has to do with their lifestyles. Aging is a personal thing as we all seem to age at different rates. There is genetics, of course, that seems to bless some people more than others. Most of the aging process though has to do with lifestyles. Whether you smoke or not, whether you get in good nutrition versus junk food, whether you stay active or become a couch potato, whether you abuse your body with alcohol or drugs, all play a part in how fast you age.
Let us get real here! No one does everything perfect all the time. We all could use some improvement in one area or another. The key to a healthy life is to try to remember to do those healthy things at least 80% of the time. Ice cream, pizza, or your particular favorite food is not likely to ruin your health as long as it is just now and then. Just make sure that your habits are usually good ones and the occasional lapses should not hurt you.
There is a lot more about nutrition than what we could cover in this one article. But we do hope to help you conquer your health issues (now and in the future) by encouraging you to develop those good nutrition habits that will place you on a more solid foundation and give you a better chance at a longer, stronger, and happier life.
Thank you for reading our article. And, remember… your comments are always quite welcome and appreciated.