Nutrition and Aging was the topic of a recent gathering at Thornton Oaks Retirement Community in Brunswick, Maine as part of the Ounce of Prevention series. This article is shared from the blog of Deb Nelson from Be Well Consulting Group. The most recent session, titled Nutrition and Aging: How Your Needs Change as You Age, was presented by Alison Fernald, RD, LD, CDE. Aging was defined by Alison as the 50+ crowd. Here are some of the highlights from Deb’s blog on Alison’s talk.
“WATER WATER WATER
The message we received loud and clear was that if we took only one thing from this presentation, it should be: Water. Water. Water. Drink up, people! Don’t like water? Not in the habit of drinking water? Make that glass of water appealing by adding lemon slices, fresh mint and cucumber slices, strawberry slices. The water that we drink makes sure that the nutrients in our food make their way to our cells. Water also helps fight inflammation, flushing toxins out of our bodies.
Fiber (with an assist from water and exercise) keeps things moving through our digestive system, playing a key role in bowel health – moving waste through our 25-ish feet of intestines. Yes, it’s pretty much impossible to talk about nutrition without mentioning poop.
FRUITS AND VEGGIES
Allison recommends eating 5 – 9 servings (a serving = ½ cup) of fruits and vegetables a day. Alison suggested ½ of your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of the plate with grains, and ¼ of the plate with protein (and reminded us that beans are good source of protein – no need to stick with only animal products to get protein). Those fruits and veggies fight inflammation and help keep our joints healthy and provide us with some valuable nutrients.
FYI – I follow a plant-based diet (See Physicians for Responsible Medicine power plate booklet), and I was super happy to see Alison sharing one of my favorite cookbooks with the group.
Exercise continues to be important as we age: in addition to lending an assist with digestion, exercise also helps to keep our joints strong and helps to reduce inflammation. Weight-bearing exercise keeps our bones strong, so get out there and go for a walk or run.
WEIGHT LOSS/WEIGHT GAIN
We experience a natural loss of appetite as we age. Alison cautioned us to monitor our weight: if you find yourself losing 5 pounds or more in a month, check in with your health care team.
Watch for weight gain as well. If you’re living in a senior community, each meal averages 700 – 1000 calories (2100 – 3000 calories if you eat three meals in a day); yet, seniors daily caloric intake should be 1400 – 2000 calories. You’ll need to be an advocate for yourself: Alison suggests requesting more veggies on your plate along with a side salad and a small piece of meat (size of a deck of cards). Be persistent; servers and kitchen staff are glad to help you get the food that will fuel you best.
Drink water. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Exercise. Advocate for yourself. And, of course, check with your healthcare team before making any changes to diet and lifestyle.
You’ll notice that these suggestions from Alison apply to us at any age. As we age, however, it’s important to take our history into consideration and identify food and exercise that cause us discomfort. Alison focused on diverticulitis as an example of a common condition in seniors – this underscores the importance of being an advocate for ourselves. Aging doesn’t mean we have to feel lousy; check in with your healthcare team to get to the root of your discomfort and make adjustments.
This was a great discussion; make sure you take advantage of programs and resources available in your community. Jump into the conversation, listen, and learn.”
Deb Nelson at Be Well Consulting Group is an author, health coach and consultant in Yarouth, Maine. You can learn more about her focus and work at Be Well Consulting Group, or contact her at email@example.com