Let’s start where we finished off yesterday – with a glass of wine! As we age our sense of taste and smell isn’t so great and a glass of wine with dinner may be just what we need to enjoy our meal. It also encourages us to sit down to a ‘proper’ meal – wine just doesn’t go well with tea and toast! We lose tastebuds as we age and food just doesn’t taste the same. To add some flavour, it’s tempting to add extra sugar or salt. Some people get into the habit of shaking the salt shaker for a certain time without even tasting the food. One nursing home was having trouble with the amount of salt their residents were lavishing on their food. So they covered some of the salt shaker holes with tape. For the same amount of shaking they got less salt! Too much salt speeds up calcium loss from the bones, sends up blood pressure and makes us more prone to dehydration. Try using more herbs and spices for both flavour and a few extra antioxidants.
Some medications, pain, depression, mild zinc deficiency, poor oral hygiene, gum disease and poorly fitting dentures can all make eating more of a chore than a pleasure. Try these ideas to help. Go for a pre-meal walk to stimulate appetite. Set the table attractively. Eat small, frequent meals. On your plate use lots of colour (from vegetables, not artificial colours) and try different textures – crispy roast veges and salad with a casserole rather than sloppy mashed potato. Stimulate your tastebuds by eating individual foods rather than piling them all on your fork in one uniform taste. Chew food well – just like your mother told you! It extracts more flavour.
About one-third of people over 65 suffer deterioration of their stomach lining which means it doesn’t make so much hydrochloric acid, pepsin (a digestive enzyme) and intrinsic factor. This reduces how much vitamin B12, folate, iron and calcium they can absorb. Vitamin B12 deficiency seriously affects the nervous system and can lead to dementia. B12 comes mostly from animal foods. To get the recommended 2-3mcg a day include some lean meat, salmon, tuna, oysters or liver.
Constipation is common in older people, especially those who are inactive. Some try to solve the problem with laxatives (not a good idea long term) and others by taking copious amounts of unprocessed bran. The odd bran muffin makes a yummy morning tea but too many will bind up vitally important minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc. One study found that eating two tablespoons of wheat bran three times a day halved the amount of calcium absorbed.
Our gut contains many ‘friendly’ bacteria that enhance the immune system and make us more resistant to food poisoning and tummy bugs. But as we head into our 70’s there are less of these ‘friendly’ bacteria around. Eating yoghurt or fermented dairy drinks will add a few ‘friendly’ bacteria back into your gut. Check the use-by date to buy the freshest yoghurt as the bugs die off over time. To help these bacteria survive the perilous journey through your stomach, eat foods with resistant starch such as rolled oats, nuts, seeds, lentils, baked beans or cold rice or pasta. You may find yourself sitting on the toilet a bit more often but straining will be a thing of the past!
These foods are great for keeping your gut in top working order:
- Banana or berry yoghurt smoothie
- Porridge or muesli topped with yoghurt
- Baked beans on grainy toast
- Pasta or rice salad
- Stir-fry beef with lots of vegetables on rice
- Fruit salad with yoghurt
- Lean mince cooked with red lentils, vegetables and a jar of pasta sauce.
Remember to add in a little exercise, plenty of water and lots of smiles! … more tommorrow (part 4)…