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Top 10 foods for older people

Posted on : 07-08-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Older-age

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yoghurt

1. Yoghurt – ideally plain, reduced fat and as fresh as possible

‘Friendly’ bugs to help digestion, and calcium to keep bones strong and blood pressure down.

2. Fish, especially salmon and tuna

Vitamin B12 and Omega-3 fats for healthy blood, joints and eyes. People who eat fish at least once a week have a much lower risk of age-related macular degeneration. Omega-3 fats from canola oil, flaxseed and walnuts, as well as monounsaturated fats from avocado and olive oil also seem to reduce the risk (Arch Opthalmol, 2006).

3. Nuts

Fibre, unsaturated fat and vitamin E for a healthy heart, digestive system and eyes (walnuts)

4. Avocado

Monounsaturated fat, vitamin E, folate and vitamin B6 for a healthy heart, brain, immune system and eyes

5. Rolled oats

Soluble fibre & resistant starch for a healthy bowel and to reduce cholesterol, plus zinc, iron, potassium, vitamin E

6. Green tea

Less caffeine and lots of antioxidants

7. Legumes – dried beans, baked beans, split peas, lentils

Soluble fibre and resistant starch for a healthy bowel, lower cholesterol and weight control

8. The ‘Greens’ – spinach, silverbeet, Asian greens, broccoli

Vitamin A, C, K, folate and antioxidants

9. Berries

Vitamin C and antioxidants

10. Oranges, lemons and grapefruit (marmalade doesn’t count!)

Vitamin C and antioxidants

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People who eat a Mediterranean-style diet with lots of vegetables, legumes, fruit, fish, wholegrains and monounsaturated fat (mostly olive oil) with some yoghurt, cheese and wine seem to live longer (BMJ, 2005)

Healthy aging {part 5} – talk to five people a day!

Posted on : 25-07-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Older-age

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oldchat… continued from part 4 “Talk to five people a day!” The former head of Neurology at Auckland Hospital and my good friend, Sharon, were chatting over dinner as he described how social contact was just as important for healthy aging as eating at least five fruit and vegetables a day.

Food and exercise are just part of healthy aging. Our interaction with others and how we feel about life also affects health. As the proverb goes: ‘A heart at peace gives life to the body.’ Fruit and vegetables may boost your immune system but so does being happily married. On the other hand, if your wife or husband has just died, all the fruit and veges in the world won’t stop the grief, loneliness and resulting stress on the body. A British study of people over 65 found that those who were single, divorced or widowed had lower antibodies than those who were happily married. The UCLA School of Medicine found that people had a stronger immune system when they had more social contacts.

So get out of the house, talk to the mail-man, the garbage man, the shop assistant. Be interested in their lives. Join a club, get involved with your marae, volunteer to help in the community or invite friends and neighbours for dinner. If you can’t cook, eat out (and bring the leftovers home), buy takeaways or make it ‘pot-luck’ where the guests bring food. If you are young and have elderly friends or neighbours invite them for a meal – not just for the food but for the social contact. And try to have a laugh – it boosts the immune system. One elderly author, himself in his eighties, told some nursing home residents, “If you can’t find anything to laugh about, take all your clothes off and look in the mirror. That should keep you laughing all day!”

Like a good wine or cheese, in many ways we improve with age. Youth may bring vim and vigour but with maturity comes depth and wisdom. Healthy aging is all about feeding and exercising our body, mind and spirit with the nutrients it needs from food, social contact, learning new things, prayer, laughter and thinking outwards. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “It’s not the years in your life that counts. It’s the life in your years.”  ..c

Related posts:

Healthy aging {part 3} – keeping your gut moving and your food tasting good!

Posted on : 22-07-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Older-age

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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.

Digestion

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
  • Sushi
  • 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)

hamock

Healthy aging {part 2} – think like a pot plant!

Posted on : 21-07-2009 | By : Cindy | In : Older-age, Super-healthy...er...stuff

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… continued from part 1

beach oldiesThink like a pot plant! That’s the message a dietitian colleague of mine tells older people – water yourself well and get out into the sunlight.

Getting some sun

Just half an hour of activity outside each day is enough not only to keep reasonably fit and toned but also to allow our skin to make its own vitamin D. Older people have about one-quarter the ability to produce vitamin D compared to younger people so it is important to get some sun exposure each day. It’s the sun that causes the skin to make vitamin D. Vitamin D helps carry calcium into the bones to keep them strong. It’s also important for your immune system. Sitting in a sunroom behind glass won’t do it. If at all possible, get up and take a walk around the garden for 30 minutes. Older people who can’t get outside each day may need a low dose (10ug a day) vitamin D supplement. But too much can be toxic so check with your doctor before taking a supplement.

Well watered

As we age we lose our sensitivity to thirst. On top of not feeling thirsty some older people deliberately drink less to avoid embarrassing moments of incontinence. This drying out of the body can lead to headaches, constipation and more concentrated (even toxic) medication levels. It’s important to drink fluids even when you don’t feel thirsty, especially in hot weather. With some medication, the doctor may tell you to restrict fluids but for everyone else it’s good to drink enough to keep your urine clear – about eight glasses of water a day. If that much water sounds too daunting fill a two litre jug with water, add sliced lemon and ice, and drink slowly over the day. Or have a few cups of herbal or green tea. Green tea has more antioxidants and less caffeine than black tea.

Fruit juice also counts as fluid and is good for people who need to gain weight or have no appetite. A glass of unsweetened juice has about three teaspoons of sugar (mostly from the fruit) along with vitamins and antioxidants, depending on the variety. Too much coffee and alcohol causes dehydration. However a study of almost 6000 people aged over 65 found that those who had 7-10 alcoholic drinks a week (not all in one session!) had a third less risk of heart failure compared with abstainers. Maybe it’s due to the relaxing effect of a glass of wine with a meal each night!

Part 3 tommorrow…

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