As we age, our bodies can readjust their nutritional needs. Digestion, systemic assimilation, cognitive function and more sometimes react differently to various foods. When the chapter of ‘senior’ emerges, a diet one has become accustomed to may no longer be acceptable.
It May Not Agree Anymore
For a senior eater, there may be an additional need for various amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes from food sources not regularly consumed. In addition, certain dietary choices could even be harmful. Lactose, for instance, has been shown to be more difficult to digest after a certain age.
According to Dr. Dennis O’Neil of Palomar College,
“Lactase production begins to slow down by age 2. Without enough lactase enzymes, undigested lactose passes into your large intestine, where bacterial fermentation produces gas, bloating and stomach cramps.”
Processed sugar and other packaged foods may also be taking their toll on elderly eaters, particularly when it comes to brain function.
A combined Australian study showing the effect of dietary patterns associated with the cognition of older people, published in the journal Nutrients (10/25/12) concluded that,
“In summary, in the group of older people with mild cognitive impairment, a higher intake of processed foods was associated with reduced memory and impaired executive function.”
Have a Support System
It is important, as a senior, to keep a watchful eye on food choices. It is also important to receive guidance from a trained professional or educated family member on assisting in essential, often new, dietary selections.
Senior superfoods for optimal health may be an easy way to raise a senior’s quality of life simply through diet. Always check with a doctor before adding or removing food choices from a senior’s daily intake.
Kale and Friends
Dark green leafy vegetables are similar to high octane fuel for your car. Kale, as well other dark cruciferous vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, broccoli, Swiss chard and arugula are all loaded with essential nutrients.
For seniors, a salad, soup or meal made with dark greens becomes a great nutritional booster shot that should be consumed at least three times per week. These greens are high in vitamin C, iron and immune boosting phytonutrients.
Bolt of B12
Salmon, eggs, and yogurt are a few of the many foods that contain vitamin B12, an essential nutrient for cognitive function, especially when challenged by dementia.
A study by Indian researchers at the Department of Neurochemistry, Institute of Human Behavior & Allied Sciences and published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research (Vol 134-4 10/11) stated that,
“Several studies have found high incidence of vitamin B12 and folate deficiency in the elderly in western population…In the absence of curative treatment for dementia, vitamin B12 and folate [B vitamin] may be relevant to the clinical course of dementia and should be considered for therapeutic intervention.”
Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to the prevention of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and Alzheimer’s as well as improving cholesterol, bone strength and psychological struggle.
An Italian study by the Department of Applied Health Sciences, Section of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Pavia and published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging (1/15/11) concluded that,
“The supplementation of n-3 LCPUFA [long chain omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids] in elderly female patients reduces the occurrence of depressive symptoms, improves phospholipids fatty acids profile and health-related quality of life.”
Some Omega-3 sources include avocado, salmon, sardines, flaxseed, walnuts, winter squash and olive oil.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
“Lady Bird” Johnson (Claudia Alta Taylor) First Lady wife of 36th President Lyndon B. Johnson famously said, “Growing old is not for the faint of heart.” Sure, becoming a senior can have its challenges so why not sprinkle some happiness whenever possible. This is where cocoa comes in.
Cocoa is the raw form of chocolate that can be consumed in powder form mixed in shakes, cereals, or yogurt for some brain enhancing effects. It is also found in high percentage dark chocolate candy.
In a study posted by the American Heart Association, consuming cocoa was linked to improving cardiovascular health.
The study concluded that,
“For many centuries, cocoa has been known for its good taste and its beneficial effects on health. Recent research revealed that cocoa does indeed exert beneficial cardiovascular effects,”
In addition, cocoa has also been linked to improving mood by releasing endorphins and enhancing serotonin, two feel-good chemicals in the brain.
Do consume cocoa minimally and avoid ingredients with high sugar content.
These senior superfoods for optimal health are excellent replacement choices for an otherwise subpar diet. Check with the family doctor to make sure these changes are acceptable.
Thank you to Presidio Home Care for contributing the Senior Superfoods Infographic.
Updated: February 11, 2015