The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates there are 3.7 million malnourished seniors in the U.S. today due to a wide range of issues. As we age, our bodies require fewer calories, but require more protein, calcium, B vitamins and other nutrients — which they often don’t get.
Read about some superfoods for seniors that help them meet their specific dietary needs by providing important nutrients to their aging brains and bodies.
Superfoods are all-natural foods that contain astonishing levels of vitamins and minerals that help to nourish bodies and fight disease and illness. Seniors have specific nutrient needs as human physiology changes as we age; which means some foods can be especially beneficial to aging bodies. In fact, by including these superfoods that contain senior-deficient nutrients in daily diets, caregivers can help elderly loved ones stay healthy. Naturopathic physician and A Place for Mom expert Dr. Lindsay Jones-Born provides insight:
“Eating well is important at any age, but even more necessary for seniors because nutritional needs change as we age. Adequate nutrition is necessary for health, vitality and quality of life. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons many seniors are not eating as well as they should, which can lead to poor nutrition or malnutrition, easily being mistaken as a disease or illness. There are some foods packed with nutrients [that] seniors need that can help them stay healthy.”
Since superfoods are nutrient-packed, if people establish good health and eating habits — which includes eating superfoods regularly — they tend to be healthier than others. Jones-Born says, “There are many reasons our bodies change as we get older, including physiological, perceptual and and general age-related conditions — such as gastrointestinal or dental conditions. These changes all influence the performance of our body as a whole, which in turn, influences our eating, nutritional intake and overall health. Common nutrient deficiencies of dietary origin for seniors include inadequate intake of vitamin A, B, C, D, E, folic acid and niacin, so including foods in a seniors diet that contains these important nutrients can help them maintain optimal health.”
By incorporating some of these foods into your diet every day, your senior loved one may feel healthier, stronger (and maybe even younger!):
Sweet potatos are packed with both nutrients and a sweet flavor, and are one of the most versatile and healthful vegetables available for good senior nutrition. They naturally contain disease-preventing, cancer-fighting and immune-boosting benefits. They are good sources of the anti-inflammatory nutrients, vitamins A and C, making them an excellent food choice for those suffering from arthritis or asthma. This root vegetable may also help people who suffer from diabetes because it ranks low on the glycemic index and has less of an effect on blood glucose levels.
Steamed clams are nutrient dense, containing many vitamins and minerals. They are considered a lean protein choice because they are low in fat but still pack a lot of protein and iron, which is great for seniors. A single protein serving, about 3 ounces, of fresh clams provides 2/3 of the amount of iron you need in a day, plus the vitamin C in the clams helps you better absorb the iron — which can help with senior fatigue and anemia.
High levels of B12 are also present in clams. B12 is another vitamin that is needed for making DNA and maintaining nerve function. Since many seniors have a B12 deficiency, steamed clams are an excellent choice to help then feel less tired and/or weak.
Along with a sweet crunch and appealing color, sweet bell peppers are low in calories and a full cup of them contain a senior’s daily allowance of Vitamin A and C. Since Vitamin C helps keep the immune system healthy, in addition to keeping skin youthful, sweet bell peppers are an excellent choice to add to any meal.The red variety contains the most nutrients, including several phytochemicals and carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which are chock-full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Bell peppers also contain vitamin B6, which is essential for the health of the nervous system and helps renew cells.
Pink salmon is an excellent source of Vitamin D, and one of the healthiest sources of protein for seniors. This heart-healthy food provides 270 milligrams of eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and 495 milligrams of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. These omega-3 fats have been known to lower seniors risk for heart disease if they eat at least eight ounces of pink salmon a week. In addition to helping keep a healthy ticker, pink salmon also contains Vitamin D which helps with bone health as it helps the body absorb calcium more efficiently.
Firm tofu, made from soybean curds, is naturally gluten-free and low calorie, contains no cholesterol and is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium. It is an important source of protein especially for vegans and vegetarians. Tofu is a good source of Vitamin E for seniors, which helps prevent damage to the body’s cells, and also helps seniors meet their calcium, magnesium and iron needs.
Recent studies have shown that due to its large quantities of isoflavones, tofu consumption is also associated with lower risk of several specific age and lifestyle-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, breast and prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, liver damage and age-related brain diseases.
Many seniors have a folic acid deficiency and fortified whole-gran cereal is an excellent, easy source of this very important nutrient. Eating whole grains instead of refined grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases, including stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The variety of options and flavors available make it easier to find a fortified cereal for every taste and diet preference.
Crimini mushrooms are a nutrition powerhouse with the potential to ward off disease. They are a good source of B vitamins (vitamin B1, vitamin B2, B3 and B5), pantothenic acid and niacin. Foods that have niacin can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease as there has been an association between niacin intake and age-related cognitive decline prevention. They’ve found that the niacin in vitamin pills do not measure up to the same protective power that is found in niacin-rich foods. Another finding is that niacin-rich foods like crimini mushrooms can interrupt the work of an amino acid, homocysteine, which is thought to trigger heart attacks and strokes.
What are your favorite superfoods for a senior loved one? Share your favorites with us in the comments below.