In 2014 people over 65 numbered 46.2 million.
They represented 14.5% of the U.S. population, about one in every seven Americans.
In just 2008, one in eight people was classified as a senior and about 2.7 million Americans celebrated their 65th birthday.
It is projected by the year 2060 there will be 98 million seniors.
To help keep the growing number of seniors healthy and living the best quality of life possible, there is a great deal of research being done to learn more about the foods they eat and how they impact their health and disease prevention.
Knowing which foods can be beneficial to our seniors’ health is important for caregivers and seniors to make the best choices they can when selecting meals and snacks every day.
Popular Foods And Their Effect On Aging And Health
The media tells us daily about the latest food that should be eaten by our senior loved ones to prevent signs of aging and to feel younger.
However, experts agree that more research is needed to determine direct cause and effect with eating certain foods publicized to prevent chronic disease.
This is what we know now about improving our health by including specific foods in our seniors’ daily meals but all still need more investigation.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The unsaturated fat found in some foods has been linked to lowering cholesterol, reducing heart arrhythmia, reducing inflammation in joints, and may reduce the risk of developing cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
This fatty acid is thought to help joints and relieve pain from rheumatoid arthritis. It has been studied in the treatment of depression as well.
Known as “free radical scavengers”, these substances seek out free radicals in our cells preventing and repairing cell damage. Antioxidants have also been thought to help the immune system.
Vitamin C and E in foods have an added benefit by keeping your skin healthy, firm by preserving collagen and thought to make you look younger.
Phytochemicals such as flavonoids, lucein, lycopene and lignins contain antioxidants which can also protect your body’s cells from free radical damage.
Phytochemicals are best ingested from natural foods instead of supplements. Polyphenols also contribute to healthy skin.
Blueberries and other brightly colored foods for best nutrition and antioxidants.
Blueberries may also improve your senior’s memory, balance and coordination.
Garlic is touted to have anti-inflammatory and pro-immunity effects and may prevent cancer and heart disease.
Eating a clove of garlic each week may lower cholesterol and thin blood naturally to prevent disease.
Garlic has antioxidant, antifungal, and tumor suppression properties according to researchers. It may help by reducing the amount of fat plaques depositing in the blood vessels (300 mg of garlic powder a day).
Some believe ginger helps prevent or reduce nausea, gastric disorders and diarrhea. It has also been used to treat arthritis pain, joint stiffness and muscle pain due to anti-inflammatory and antioxidants properties.
Ginger contains as many as 50 antioxidant compounds.
Drinking adequate amounts of water is very beneficial to your body function and skin.
Drink 6-8 glasses a day to stay well hydrated.
There are specific foods that are related to reducing the consequence of our bodies’ immune response specifically inflammation. Chronic diseases are linked to inflammation in our cells.
Sources of the Foods Seniors Need
To get enough of the nutrients that will help the body fight aging, many seniors (and other adults) look to supplements to meet the needs for these beneficial compounds.
However, the foods we eat are better sources of helpful nutrients. It doesn’t take much of a specific food added to meals each day to gain their benefits.
Here are the foods your senior can begin adding to their diet to be sure they are getting the necessary nutrients (these are not a complete list but the main sources are listed).
Omega 3 fatty acids
EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, and tuna and should be included at least 2 times a week.
ALA is found in plant sources such as nuts and seeds.
Vitamin A, C, E, and selenium containing foods contain natural antioxidants.
Vitamin E: vegetables, vegetable oils like wheat germ oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and seeds, corn, soy, peanut butter and some sorts of meat.
Vitamin C: citrus, red and green peppers, broccoli, strawberries and tomatoes.
Vitamin A: colorful produce like carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, mangos and papaya.
Food sources include: flavonoids-soy, red wine, pomegranate, and cranberries; lucein-dark green leafy vegetables; and lignins-flaxseed, oatmeal and barley.
Lycopene: a bright red carotene and carotenoid pigment found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables such as red carrots, watermelons, pink grapefruit and papayas (but not strawberries or cherries).
Polyphenols: fruits and plant-derived beverages such as fruit juices, tea, coffee, and red wine; vegetables, cereals, chocolate and dry legumes are also sources.
Fresh or frozen varieties have anthocyanins (antioxidants).
Fresh cloves or powdered forms
Caution should be exercised if your senior is taking anticoagulants!
Fresh root, tincture/oil or dried powder added to foods; foods such as ginger snaps, or gingerbread; or as a beverage in ginger tea or ale.
Not just in the form of a glass of water but foods that contain water such as soup, gelatin, fresh fruits and vegetables can also give our bodies some additional fluid.
Tomatoes, olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, leafy green vegetables, berries (strawberries, blueberries), cherries.
Food to Defy Aging or Make Aging Healthier?
Are there really age defying foods or should we focus on eating a little of everything in its freshest form to maximize all the nutritional benefits innately in the food?
Do we really need to pop supplements by the handful to age gracefully or is our wallet the only thing affected?
More research would be of value to prove that the foods we read about in the media really can slow aging or prevent disease. However, many of the foods listed above are easy to add to our diets and eat regularly if we make a plan.
It isn’t too late for our seniors to adopt new eating habits to help them manage chronic disease, reduce pain and inflammation and feel better every day.