Everyone gets old, and although society demonizes the very thought of a wrinkle, it is inevitably where we all end up, if we are so lucky. And believe me, it is much easier to die then to stay alive. You have to fight for your health. We fight the government who refuses to label GMO’s and sprays our crops with toxins, you have to fight the corporations who sell you processed fake food and toxic cleaning supplies, and you have to fight the pharmaceutics companies who push pills down your throat. And then you have to fight yourself, because being healthy is not easy. It is a daily job, pushing yourself to exercise, pushing yourself to not give in to the temptation that is all around us. It is much easier to go to McDonald’s then to healthy saute a plate of vegetables, or make yourself a smoothie. So if you manage to stay alive to 75, 80, 90 or who knows? 120? You are one of the lucky ones. But just the fact that you made it does not mean that the fight is over. Just like I tell my grandma, “you made it, now enjoy yourself with as little pain as you can manage and your brain in tact, nourish your body!” A healthy mind and body requires healthy fats, it keeps our thinking sharp and our joints limber. Avocados, nuts and seeds, and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil are all vital to keep us from getting dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Medications that our elders are prescribed, for blood pressure and cholesterol and whatever else they might deem necessary, rob our bodies of their nutrients. One of the most important to maintain is magnesium. You can read about magnesium in my article here. Here is a little excerpt in case you don’t feel like clicking: “Magnesium is known as a natural muscle relaxer. If you ever have twitchy muscles or suffer from “restless leg syndrome” it is most likely due to a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiencies are subtle and usually go undetected by doctors and are much more common than you would think. Besides the twitches, a sign that you are deficient is insomnia, cramps, migraines, anxiousness and irritability In very serious cases it can lead to irregular heart beats and kidney stones.”
Many older people are also stuck in nursing homes, and are the most at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Remember, we can manufacture this ourselves in our body but only if we are exposed to the sun with our arms, legs and top of the head exposed. (and how many grandmas have you seen at the beach in their bathing suits?) Plant based sources are minimal, but include mushrooms and pine nuts, and fortified milks. (remember, I recomend non-dairy milk) Taking a vitamin D supplement is advised.
Nutritional Guidelines for Seniors
Older Americans have increased steadily in number and proportion of the total U.S. population. The population age 65 and older numbered 35 million in 2000 and is expected to more than double by 2050. By 2030, there will be 71 million American older adults accounting for roughly 20% of the U.S. population. Moreover, the oldest segment of the older population, those age 85 and older, has been increasing more rapidly than any other age
group. According to the National Policy and Resource Center on Nutrition and Aging:
Diets of many older adults lack key nutrients. Some older adults are not getting enough calories and others are getting too many. Many don’t know about sensible portion sizes. Less than one-third of older adults meet the recommendation to eat five or more fruits and vegetables a day. Only 4% of women and 13% of men older than 60 reach the daily recommendation for calcium. Fiber intake is half or less the recommended 25 grams. As individuals age, their declining energy needs mean they must eat better while eating less. USDA food consumption survey data indicate that most older Americans are having trouble fitting the recommended number of daily food group servings into their decreased “calorie budgets.”
Because the amount of food they can eat while maintaining calorie balance is more limited than when they were younger, older individuals must choose wisely, selecting nutrient dense foods and limiting “extras.” Total calorie requirements decrease but the requirements for protein, vitamins, and minerals are unchanged, so nutrient dense foods are the best option.
A woman older than 50 should consume about:
- 1,600 calories a day if her level of physical activity is low.
- 1,800 calories daily if she is moderately active.
- 2,000-2,200 calories daily if she has an active lifestyle.
A man over age 50 should consume about:
- 2,000 calories a day if his level of physical activity is low.
- 2,200-2,400 calories daily if he is moderately active.
- 2,400-2,800 calories daily if he has an active lifestyle.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) suggest:
- 1½ -2½-cups of fruit
- 2-3½-cups of vegetables
- 5-7-oz or Grains
- 3-cups fat-free milk (I suggest non-dariy milk)
Many older people, including my grandmother, grab a slim fast or other meal replacement shake because it is fast and easy. However, nothing is faster then having some carrot sticks with hummus, or apple with almond butter. Meal replacements might be fast and easy but they are a far cry from a nutritious meal.
As we age, it is important to be kind to our digestive tract. Eating smaller portions of good-quality food in a relaxed environment helps support optimal digestion and absorption of our nutrients. The following are some tips for optimal digestion:
Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
Nutrient-dense foods are those without empty calories. Empty calories take energy to digest without giving anything back. They provide nutrient displacement—filling us up without providing any of the needed nutrients.
Common empty calories are alcohol and foods with added sugar, such as chips, cookies, and sodas.
Eat Small, Frequent Meals
Eating smaller meals more frequently allows for the digestive enzymes and GI tract to more completely process our meals.
Eat Less Salt
Recommended sodium intake is 1,500-mg, which is about 2/3 tsp of table salt. Keep in mind that most of the sodium the average American ingests is found in processed foods.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber helps to keep the bowels healthy and decreases constipation, and may also help to lower cholesterol. Ways to increase fiber include: Leaving the skins on fruits and vegetables, increasing beans in the diet, and eating fresh fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. Look at high fiber, low calorie foods. Do not be fooled by processed crap that says it has a ton of fiber in it. It is STILL CRAP. You want real fiber, from real food, vegetables, fruits, whole grains.
Plant enzymes, such as those from pineapple and papaya, can be taken with meals to help improve digestion. Ginger is also a great digestive aid.
I’ve spoken about the use of probiotics to promote healthy flora which are needed for good digestion, among many other things. Eating yogurt, tofu, kimchi, sauerkraut Tempeh ..or taking a probiotic supplement (especially for those who have recently been on antibiotics) may be very supportive for keeping the bowels regular.
These herbs are helpful with gas and bloating and include peppermint, chamomile, fennel. Use as a tea.
These herbs are soothing to the digestive tract and include licorice, marshmallow, (this is not the marshmellow you roast over a fire, this is an herb) and slippery elm (those with high blood pressure should not use licorice). Use as a tea.
Please keep in mind that we are constantly aging. We must ALWAYS take care of our bodies, no matter what stage we might be at. Like all times in our life, avoid all processed foods, all additives, all white sugars and flours. Another aspect of health, which we sometimes forget when talking about our elders, they need love and human contact just as much as anyone else. They should not be shut into an old age home where you can forget about them, where they will hardly see the sun. If they need a full time nurse, please pick the home carefully and make sure you go to visit! Health is not just about our food, so much of how we feel is based on interactions with others. This does not change just because we have a birthday. Respect your elders, their minds and bodies might not work as sharply as in their youth, but that doesn’t mean we should disregard their wisdom, or cut them off from human touch.