8 nutritional tips to keep seniors mentally and physically fit

Excerpt: A balanced diet of nutrient-dense, whole foods nourishes and supports the mental, emotional, and physical health of older adults. The latest research shows that foods rich in vitamin K protect the heart, eating plenty of fruits helps prevent diabetes, and fermented foods are gut friendly. A Mediterranean-style diet improves mood, nuts and berries boost brain health, and anti-inflammatory foods lower cortisol and reduce stress.

Food is medicine that helps to nourish and support the mental, emotional, and physical health of older adults. Eating and enjoying a balanced diet of nutrient-dense, whole foods should be among your top New Year’s resolutions for healthy living.

Here is what the latest research shows about how specific foods and food groups offer wide-ranging health benefits for seniors:

  1. Vitamin K protects your heart. People who ate more foods containing vitamin K, such as green leafy vegetables and vegetable oils, had up to a 34% lower risk of atherosclerosis-related heart disease,* reported a 2021 Journal of the American Heart Association study. Vitamin K inhibits the formation of calcium deposits on the walls of blood vessels that cause narrowing and reduced blood flow.*

  2. Whole fruits help prevent diabetes. People who consumed two servings of solid whole fruit daily had a 36% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate less than half a serving,* according to a recent Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism study.

  3. Fermented foods are gut friendly. A diet rich in high-fermented foods -- such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha tea – enhances the diversity of gut microbes, which bolsters immunity,* reported a 2021 Stanford School of Medicine study.

  4. Mediterranean diet improves mood. People who followed a plant-rich, Mediterranean-style diet had a 33% lower risk of developing depression,* according to a University College London study. A BMC Medicine study also found that people experiencing depression, who shifted to a Mediterranean-style diet, improved their depressive symptoms even more than those who received social support and continued their regular eating habits.*

  5. Nuts and berries boost brainpower. Flavonoids, the natural plant pigments that give blueberries and strawberries their brilliant colours, help improve memory and brain health,* reported a Harvard University study. Health dietary patterns that include nuts, fruits, leafy greens, beans, fish, and healthy fats like olive oil have been shown to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 36%,* according to University of Toronto.

  6. Protein with each meal preserves strength. A McGill University study found eating small amounts of protein – nuts, beans, eggs, poultry, or lean meat – at all three meals helps seniors preserve muscle strength better than just once a day.*

  7. Anti-inflammatory foods reduce stress. When you’re feeling stressed, fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help to lower cortisol levels and relieve stress,* advises the Cleveland Clinic. Limit processed foods and simple carbs, like cakes and pastries, that raise cortisol levels.*

  8. Eating oily fish extends life. Older adults who ate oily fish—such as salmon, anchovies, and sardines—with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids increased life expectancy by almost five years, reported a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Walnuts, flax seeds, soybeans, and omega-3 enriched eggs are other good sources of these life-enhancing fatty acids, says Dietitians of Canada.

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