As we age it’s important to keep a check on our diets, as what you eat directly affects how you feel. As adults we should be able to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle independently, but with so much temptation around it can be hard to stick to a plan. The Office for National Statistics has stated that they believe between 1984 (15%) and 2009 (16%) there has been a 1% increase in the number of people living within the UK who’re 65 or over, an increase of nearly 1.7 million people. Although seeing people live longer is a positive change it can also increase the pressure on our health care system, especially if large groups of these people don’t take care of themselves. With that in mind, CareCo have put together a simple nutrition tips guide to explain what you should be including in your diet and how certain nutrients help your body.
Nutrients: The Facts
No matter how old you are, your diet should be largely made up of three main food groups:
- Protein – from meat, fish, pulses and eggs
- Carbohydrates – from wholewheat/wholemeal bread, cereals, pasta, brown rice and potatoes
- Five portions of different fruits and vegetables a day
But what do these foods contain that’s so good for us? Read on to find out the facts about nutrients.
- Fibre is the main nutrient that helps keep your bowel healthy, in turn helping you go to the toilet. As our bodies age bowel problems can occur, which can cause constipation and pain. To absorb the full benefits of fibre it’s recommended we ingest 18g a day, but with the average UK adult only managing 14g it seems we’re all lagging behind. Adding certain foods into your daily diet can help boost your fibre levels, while drinking lots of fluids can also help your bowel.
- Found in: wholegrain bread/pasta, fruits, vegetables, pulses.
- Calcium is essential for keeping your bones strong and supple, but as we age calcium can be absorbed back into the body causing osteoporosis, making your bone tissue weak, brittle and susceptible to breakages. While it’s important to keep your intake of calcium steady, many dairy products include saturated fats and can be heavy in calories. Instead of choosing your old favourites when out shopping why not try semi, skimmed or 1% milk and reduced fat cheese, both ideal for increasing your calcium levels while avoiding unnecessary fats.
- Found in: cheese, milk, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals.
- Although regular intake of trans and saturated fats are bad for your health, small portions of healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats) can keep your body healthy and in tune. To improve heart health and reduce your cholesterol levels you need to aim to minimize saturated fats in your meals (found in high-fat meats, whole-fat dairy products, butter, cheese and ice-cream).
However, if you are particularly frail or underweight, reducing fats can have a negative affect on your body, so you may have to increase your calorie intake through certain ‘good fat’ foods. Speak to your doctor or a nutritionist to find out the best advice for you.
- Found in: nuts, peanut butter, avocados, olive oil, sunflower/sesame/pumpkin seeds, salmon, tuna, sardines, tofu.
Vitamins & Minerals
- Zinc is an important mineral in helping to keep your immune system healthy, as well as helping to clot your blood and is essential in keeping your senses of taste and smell working. Although classed as a ‘trace mineral’ it plays a major role in many vital biological processes.
- Found in: meat, shellfish, wholemeal bread, pulses.
- Although associated with boosting your immune system, vitamin C is also used to form collagen, skin cells, ligaments, blood vessels and tendons. This vital vitamin is also used to heal wounds and repair bones and teeth. Vitamin C also helps you absorb iron.
- Found in: fresh fruits and vegetables, dietary supplements.
- Your body gets its main source of vitamin D from sunlight, but with our temperamental weather it can be hard to get what you need. However, your levels of vitamin D can be boosted through certain foods and supplements, with the over-65s advised to take 10mg a day to keep them up. Essential in helping your body to absorb calcium, you would be stuck without it.
- Found in: oily fish, eggs, fortified cereals and spreads.
- Essential in forming haemoglobin (helps your body store and carry oxygen in red blood cells), a lack of iron in your system can lead to your organs and tissues receiving less oxygen than they need, leading to a feeling of tiredness and lethargy. Your doctor may recommend you take an iron supplement if you have a constant feeling of tiredness or sleepiness.
- Found in: meat, certain vegetables, dried fruit.
- As we age our sense of ‘thirstiness’ dissipates and our bodies find it more difficult to conserve water, which can result in dehydration and the symptoms that come with it (headaches, lethargy, muscle ache, drowsiness, confusion). To prevent this, medical professionals recommend that you drink even when you feel you don’t need to. However, ‘fluids’ doesn’t necessarily mean water, as doctors have said you can include hot drinks, fruit juice and diluted squash as part of your day-to-day intake.
While it’s important to understand what makes for a balanced diet it’s equally important to know how to carry it out. While being underweight can prevent you from fending off illnesses and can increase your chances of breaking bones, being overweight – especially around your waist – can increase your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Below are our best tips for leading a healthy and fulfilling diet.
- What’s that saying? ‘Variety is the spice of life?’ They’re not wrong! Aiming to include as much variation in your meals creates a healthy balance and prevents your tastebuds from getting bored.
- The more colour the better! Trying to create a rainbow of colour with your meals, especially with fruits and vegetables, is a fun way of trying to include as many of the vital nutrients needed as possible.
- If you don’t feel up to eating three large meals a day then it’s recommended that you attempt to frequently eat (3-4 hours) small meals and snacks instead. However, don’t reach for biscuits and cakes – opt for fruits, vegetable sticks and wholegrain toast/crackers.
- Why not take advantage of your freezer? Make up large portions of casseroles, stews, pies and lasagne, split the dish into portions and store in the freezer, ideal for defrosting and warming up when you feel up to eating a larger meal.
- A healthy diet doesn’t necessarily mean spending lots of money on fresh food every day. We understand that if you suffer from mobility issues then getting to your local shops on a regular basis can be difficult, so stock up on long-life foods. Tinned, jarred and frozen options of fruits and vegetables retain just as many nutrients and will keep for a lot longer than fresh.
Of course, consuming a healthy diet coincides with regular exercise – carrying out both can dramatically improve your life!
If you’d like to know more please visit: