Are you what you eat?
Everyone has heard the old idiom, “you are what you eat,” but just how literal is this saying? According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrition is one of the most important aspects of one’s health and overall wellbeing. In fact, about half of all American adults have one or more preventable disease that is linked to poor eating habits and/or lack of physical activity.
The majority of Americans have diets that fall below the suggested daily amounts of essential food groups such as vegetables, fruits, and dairy. And while nutrition is often overshadowed by the busy lives of so many Americans, implementing healthy dietary patterns can dramatically decrease disease risk and improve quality of life.
Engaging in healthy eating habits is beneficial to all age groups; however, older adults may see a unique advantage to emphasizing nutrition. As many already know, “compared to younger adults, older adults are at a greater risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as health conditions related to changes in bone and muscle mass.” With a larger risk of adverse health effects, it is important that adults over the age of 60 emphasize their nutrition and physical health. Doing this can help to reverse any present ailments and prevent the onset of new diseases or disabilities.
Even with the knowledge that eating healthy is good for you, many people struggle with knowing what foods are actually beneficial. One way that seniors can be sure to get their nutrients in is by focusing on superfoods that specifically target older adults. What are superfoods? These are specific foods that provide exceptional nutritional benefits and are very nutrient dense. Superfoods are a great way to get in essential vitamins and minerals without also consuming extra sugars or harmful fats. Superfoods are beneficial to all people, however, specific superfoods work to effectively target conditions that tend to impact older adults.
There are hundreds of superfoods available, but let’s take a look at 5 that can be particularly helpful for aging adults:
Blueberries provide an excellent source of important antioxidants, which help to protect your body’s cells. On top of that, blueberries are relatively low in calories but very high in overall nutrients (like potassium, fiber, and vitamin C), making them one of the most nutrient dense foods. With these components, blueberries are impressively effective at lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer. Older adults can especially benefit from eating blueberries as they reduce oxidative damage to cells. This damage increases with age and is an unavoidable part of life that oftentimes contributes to the onset of disease; blueberries work to reduce this damage, which can help to delay disease and keep you healthier for longer.
- Dark-green leafy vegetables
With their high vitamin K content, dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, or arugula have been proven to reduce bone fragility. Additionally, this superfood is known to contain carotenoids which help to protect cells and block early stages of some cancers. While not everyone likes the taste of dark-green leafy vegetables, these veggies are super easy to sneak into a smoothie or a sauce and can provide extra protection against environmental factors.
- Beans and Legumes
Much like the above two superfoods, beans and legumes are extremely nutrient dense foods. As you age, your body needs less energy and therefore burns less calories. Because of this, you require less daily calorie intake, but still need to make sure you are meeting your daily nutrient goals. Beans and legumes contain different nutrients like protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, and more, and also are relatively low-calorie. Incorporating this superfood into your diet is a sure way to include your nutrients while staying on track calorically.
Salmon provides a number of health benefits that are especially helpful to older adults. One major plus of including salmon in your diet is that this seafood contains high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have been linked to improved heart health and can also help to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. While Omega-3 fatty acids are very important to include in a diet, they are relatively rare to find in foods. Including salmon – or another low-mercury fish – in your diet can be a quick and tasty way to get the recommended amount of this nutrient.
- Dark Chocolate
Last but not least, dark chocolate has become known as one of most delicious superfoods on the market. Dark chocolate has certain nutrients that are beneficial to both heart health as well as the immune system. Dark chocolate above 70% cacao contains antioxidants known as flavanols that work to enhance blood circulation and lower blood pressure, which in turn lowers the risk of a heart attack or stroke. So next time you’re looking for a sweet treat, make sure to check out heart healthy dark chocolate!
Whether you are new to the idea of superfoods or a long-time follower, these nutrient dense foods can provide an abundance of health benefits for everyone. Including these as part of a well-balanced diet can help you to avoid disease and disability and ultimately live a longer, healthier life.