September is National Healthy Aging Month, a designation to raise awareness of our changing health needs as we age as well as giving attention to the positive aspects of growing older. This month, we’ll look at the roles nutrition and exercise can play in helping us age healthfully.
The Best Foods to Eat as You Age
One of the best things you can do to stay healthy as you get older is to eat a healthy diet. As you age, your body changes, not just in the way you look, but also in how it works.
For instance, your digestion may slow down as you get older, or you may not feel as thirsty as you used to, which can lead to dehydration. These changes are some that most everyone will experience as they get older, but you may also experience other issues– especially if you have any chronic health conditions or other problems. It’s always best to check with your doctor about what type of diet you should follow, but for most people, there are several foods (and drinks) that can help with the changes that aging brings.
Drink Enough Water
As mentioned, as you age, you may feel less thirsty than you used to. But it’s still really important to make sure you are drinking enough water so that you don’t get dehydrated. Dehydration in older adults can lead to all sorts of other problems including fatigue, urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation, and even confusion. Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization in people over 65.
Older adults need to drink at least seven to eight (eight-ounce) glasses of water per day to stay properly hydrated. You don’t have to drink just plain water to stay hydrated. Other non-caffeinated beverages such as tea, fruit juice, and no-sugar-added seltzers are also good choices as well as eating plenty of fruits and vegetables since they also contain water.
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants like Vitamin C and E that help to keep your cells healthy. Plus, they’re delicious and easy to digest. Eat them whole or incorporate them into other meals such as a topping for low-fat yogurt, cereal or pancakes, or baked into muffins or desserts.
This superfood can help prevent bone loss by giving your body the calcium it needs as well as aiding digestion. Yogurt is also a good source of protein and Vitamin D. Choose low-fat or non-fat options or Greek yogurt and top it with fruit to get the most health benefits.
Aim for at least two servings of fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines each week. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep your brain sharp and healthy as you age.
Getting enough fiber in your diet is especially important as you get older. Fiber helps prevent or ease constipation, and can also lower your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure, which can help keep your heart healthy and help prevent Type 2 diabetes. It’s best to get fiber from foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, but if you eat a well-balanced diet and still have problems with constipation, you may want to consult your doctor about taking fiber supplements.
Nutrients found in almonds may help prevent the development or progression of cataracts, which are common as you age. Almonds are a source of healthy fat that provides protein, magnesium, and Vitamin E. Almonds make a great anytime snack or can be used to top other foods such as yogurt or cereal.
Switch to olive oil for cooking instead of vegetable oil or butter. This healthy fat is good for heart health and can help reduce inflammation, which can lead to diseases such as cancer, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis.