According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the elderly population in the United States will more than double to 88 million by 2050, while the more frail population over the age of 85 will quadruple to 19 million. Florida currently ranks first in the nation for the percentage of full-time and seasonal residents over the age of 65.
As the population continues to age, and as many of us enter retirement, healthy eating can go a long way toward helping us live longer, healthier lives.
Some of these foods (and some evidence-based supplement recommendations) can help us achieve this. Thanks to WebMD for most of the content that focuses on factors that potentially support a longer, healthier life.
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Antioxidants and Aging
Free radicals are molecules that can damage healthy cells. They can make you more likely to develop certain diseases, such as cancer, and accelerate aging. Antioxidant-rich foods can help fight these molecules. Colorful vegetables and fruits fill them, so eat five to nine servings a day.
These are a great source of antioxidants that may help prevent cancer and some brain diseases. Frozen berries are also available. Check out your grocery store freezer to enjoy year-round.
This delicious “good” fat may help boost memory and help fight inflammation. One study also showed that olive oil helped lower levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) without affecting “good” cholesterol (HDL).
It’s called a “brain food” because its fatty acids, DHA, and EPA help your brain and nervous system work the way it should. Eating fish once or twice a week can also reduce the likelihood of developing dementia. Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish, such as salmon or trout, can lower “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. It can also help relieve inflammation that leads to atherosclerosis when fatty deposits block arteries.
Add these nutritional powerhouses to your diet three to four times a week. Fiber may aid digestion and help reduce the chances of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. And because they keep you feeling full longer, high-fiber diets can also help you lose weight. Serve chickpeas on salads, or use beans instead of meat in soups.
Vegetables contain fiber, antioxidants, and lots of vitamins and minerals that can help protect you from chronic disease. Dark leafy green vegetables contain vitamin K, which builds bones. Sweet potatoes and carrots contain vitamin A, which helps keep your eyes and skin healthy and prevents infection. In one study, men who ate 10 or more servings of tomatoes per week lowered their odds of developing prostate cancer by 35 percent.
Nuts are rich in cholesterol-free plant protein and other nutrients. Almonds are rich in vitamin E, which helps reduce the risk of stroke in women, and pecans contain antioxidants. The unsaturated fats in walnuts can help lower LDL and raise HDL cholesterol. But nuts are not fat-free. One ounce of almonds — about 24 nuts — contains 160 calories. So enjoy them in moderation.
Beverages rich in vitamin D, such as milk, help your body absorb and use calcium. This is especially important if you may have osteoporosis or thin bones. Vitamin D may also help reduce the chances of colon, breast, and prostate cancer. Eating yogurt with live bacteria helps digestion.
Adding these to your diet may lower your chances of developing certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fiber can also help prevent digestive problems such as constipation and diverticulosis. Choose whole-wheat bread and pasta, and brown or wild rice instead of white. Add barley to soup, or add plain oatmeal to patties.
eat like a greek
People living near the Mediterranean often include olive oil, fish, vegetables, and whole grains in their meals, along with the occasional glass of red wine. Instead of salt, they use spices and herbs to flavor their food. This “Mediterranean diet” is good for heart health, and it may lower your chances of mild memory problems and some cancers.
maintain a healthy weight
Some people find it difficult to maintain their weight as they age, especially after an illness or injury. Some ideas are to eat small, frequent meals with healthy snacks in between, and switch to whole milk instead of skim milk. Don’t eat foods high in sugar or fat, or you won’t get the nutrients you need.
Lose weight for a healthier body
Losing excess pounds can reduce stress on your joints, reduce stress on your heart, and may reduce your chances of developing diabetes. However, this can become more difficult as you age because you are generally less active and lose muscle. Pair it with protein like lean meat, tuna, or beans, and eat more vegetables, whole grains, and fruits.
Please note that the information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a specification for specific operations. Please consult a qualified health professional and seriously consider the advice of a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) as they are the most qualified health professionals in the field of healthier eating.
Here are some additional resources to gain more in-depth knowledge about potentially beneficial foods:
• Read WebMD’s article “Foods for Strong Heart, Brain, and Bones” at webmd.com/healthy-aging.
• Review the article on eatwell.com titled “9 Foods Linked to Longevity, Based on Research.”
Dr. Mark A. Mahoney has been a registered dietitian/nutritionist for over 35 years and completed graduate studies in nutrition and public health at Columbia University. He can be reached at email@example.com.