Many studies have proven that our food choices play a big part in our overall health. It’s important to eat nutritious foods from all the food groups, from a young age, and train our children to enjoy fresh nutrient-filled foods. But our food choices become even more important as we age.
Older people concerned about weight gain should aim for food dense in nutrients instead of dense in calories.
That means staying away from processed foods, sweets, and convenience foods. Those are all high in calories and low in nutrients. Instead, choose more nutrient rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
There are three main nutrients seniors need to be aware of: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. These three nutrients are crucial for body function, and we all need a healthy balance of the three to maintain optimal function.
Here’s what you need to know about the three:
Proteins are basically the building blocks of the body. Here are just some of the things protein does for you:
- Builds and repairs tissue
- Helps you fight infection
- Boosts your energy
- Increases muscle mass
- Reduces your risk of osteoporosis
- Lowers your blood pressure
Most people get enough protein from the standard diet, since it’s found in large amounts in meat and poultry, seafood, and eggs. Other good—and especially healthy—sources of protein are beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
Choosing plant-based proteins over animal-based proteins will also help your cholesterol levels, as well as give you extra fiber and other nutrients.
One note of caution: people with kidney disease will often benefit from restricting protein intake. If you have kidney disease, speak with your doctor about what level of protein is good for you.
If proteins are your building blocks, carbohydrates are your fuel. They’re the main source of your body’s energy. There are two kinds of carbs; simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates are the carbs that our bodies break down very quickly, often causing a “sugar rush” when you consume them. These carbohydrates are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Processed and refined sugars, such as those found in candy, soft drinks, etc. are also simple carbohydrates. Save these for once-in-a-while special occasions, and get your simple carbs from fruits and vegetables.
Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down in your body, contributing to longer-lasting, more balanced energy. They are found in whole grain breads and cereals, rice, beans, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn.
Most carbs are also a good source of fiber, and many contain significant amounts of protein as well.
Fats round out the list of the big three nutrients you need. They also provide energy, and they help us feel satisfied after meals. Foods that contain high levels of fat are:
- Seeds and nuts
- Meat and poultry
Conventional wisdom for the last few decades declared fat as the worst of all food-related evils. The truth is much more complex than that. While some fats are very bad for us, others are actually good—and essential for human functioning.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may lower your chance of heart disease. They are found in avocados; peanut butter; canola, olive, peanut, safflower, corn, soybean and flaxseed oils; salmon and other fatty fish; and some nuts and seeds. Eat them in moderation, unless you have a health condition that contraindicates fats.
Saturated fats are those found in red meat, palm and coconut oils, and butter. Consume these fats sparingly, as they are associated with higher risk of heart disease.
Trans fats are usually found in processed foods, such as margarine and shortening. You’ll often find these fats in fried fast food and store-bought baked goods. These are fats to avoid as much as possible.
Have you noticed a pattern among these three nutrients?
The best way to incorporate all three of these food groups is by choosing fresh, plant-based foods and avoiding the processed and sugary ones. Round it out with a regular exercise regimen approved by your doctor, and you’re set for vibrant and healthy old age.
At Park Crescent, we take great pains to make sure our food is both delicious and nutritious. We prepare healthy and varied meals three times a day to our residents, to help them heal and be well.
But don’t just take our word for it. Schedule a tour today to see it for yourself!