Many changes take place in our bodies, as we age. Nutritionally speaking, we need to be more conscientious of what we put in our bodies as our nutritional demands also change. Fortunately, most changes are subtle and will not require special attention, however, there are some key nutrients that we should be sure to ingest to make sure our bodies are functioning as well as they can and ensure a long, happy, healthy life.
With age, you may notice that you have a smaller appetite. For this reason, it is more important to focus on consuming high quality nutrients with the foods you do eat. Among the elderly, fiber and protein are two of the most under-consumed nutrients. Fiber supports healthy digestion and bowel movements, both of which are common problems with older populations. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables (think “eat the rainbow”) with every meal, as well as whole grains, will ensure you are getting enough fiber in your diet. Consuming an array of colorful fruits and vegetables will also provide the necessary vitamins and minerals aging bodies need. Stomach and digestive problems are common occurrences among older populations, partly due to their often-lower fiber consumption. Staying on top of your fiber consumption, can help you to avoid or lessen these issues and live more comfortably.
Protein builds and repairs your body, and creates many necessary chemicals, enzymes, and hormones.
Protein can often be left off plates as well. As recent research has shown, plant based protein sources, and even fish, have been linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol (both more common as you age). High quality protein sources like the above-mentioned lower your risk to many dangerous chronic diseases and you will live a longer, more comfortable life.
Protein and fiber are both very important, but they are not the only star players in a healthy older adult’s diet. The Dietary Guidelines of America recommends at least 3 oz. of whole grain products a day. For reference, 1 oz. is about a slice of bread, a cup of cereal, or ½ a cup of cooked pasta or rice. Check the label for “100% whole grain” when choosing products. Additionally, have at least 3 servings of low fat or fat free dairy (or fortified non-dairy) products each day. This will give you the necessary calcium and vitamin D your bones need to stay strong. Osteoporosis, osteopenia, and bone fractures can be serious and life threatening with age, so bone strength is especially important.
Tips for the healthy, happy, older adult:
- If chopping and food prep is an issue, choose pre-cut and/or frozen vegetables and fruits as a healthier alternative to processed microwaveable meals
- Discuss with your doctor if a vitamin is an appropriate option
- If you have trouble chewing, don’t give up on fruits and vegetables- gently cook them for a more digestible option or opt for a low salt/sugar canned version (soup, fruits, vegetables, meat)
- Be mindful of raw/undercooked animal products and unpasteurized dairy. As an older adult, you are more at risk for developing food related illnesses
- Before seasoning your dish with salt, use other salt free spices and herbs
As you all know, fall is fast approaching. This means there will be many autumn themed treats available to make and buy. I have included a recipe for healthy apple muffins that are full of fiber and whole grains. Use this recipe as an opportunity to get together with friends and family to pick some apples and prepare this dish together. Eating healthy as you age is not just about the food, it’s mental too. Make sure to dine with others at least a couple times a week to stay connected and avoid loneliness. Eating alone may also lead to choosing convenience over nutrition which increases your risk for chronic diseases.
Now, enjoy this recipe for some delicious (and nutritious) apple muffins perfect for this Fall!
Healthy Apple Muffins (Makes 12 muffins)
- 1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup grated apple
- 1 cup apple diced into ¼” cubes
- 1/3 cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 2 room temperature eggs
- ½ plain Greek yogurt (any variety)
- ½ cup applesauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon raw sugar for sprinkling on top
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease your muffin tin with butter or cooking spray, or line it with cupcake liners.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Add the grated apple (gently squeeze it over the sink if it is too wet) and chopped apple. Stir to combine.
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup together with a whisk. Add the eggs and beat well. Add the apple sauce and vanilla and mix well. (If the coconut oil solidifies, heat the mixture in the microwave in 30 second intervals.)
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a spatula or large spoon. This should result in a thick, slightly lumpy batter. Pour evenly into the muffin cups and sprinkle the tops with the sugar.
- Bake muffins for 13-16 minutes or until they are golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean.
- Place the muffin tin on a cooling rack to cool. Store leftover muffins covered at room temperature for up to 2 days, and the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Freeze any leftover muffins for up to 3 months.
(Adapted from cookieandkate.com)