Healthy Food for Thought: How Nutrition Affects Seniors

Author: Peter McIndoe Peter McIndoe

Caregiver and Elderly woman

Never has there been a time when we are more conscious about what we eat, our overall health, and how food affects us. There is no question that aging can be significantly impacted by the foods we eat, and as older adults approach their senior years, it will become clear that food choices will impact BMI (body mass index) and the measurement of the waist. Both things can put as at risk for many diseases when not kept at healthy levels.

To get answers to how food choices impact waist circumference and BMI, a group of participants were grouped into certain categories: 

  • “Meat and Potatoes” eaters.
  • “White Bread” eaters, which would include things like regular bread, rolls, rice, and other starchy carbohydrates.
  • “Healthy” eaters, which includes eating bread that is whole-grain, beans and legumes, high-fiber cereals, low-fat dairy, and fruit and veggies, and very little processed meat or soda.

The people who ate mostly meat and potatoes had the greatest increase in BMI, while those who ate a lot of white bread and starches had a greater increase in waist size. Those who were in the “healthy eating” category clearly showed the most stable blood sugar, along with very little gain in waist circumference and BMI.

One of the greatest factors in these weight and body mass index changes is the glycemic index, which is your blood sugar. It can also be called the glycemic load. Foods that have low glycemic values are proven to decrease hunger without spiking blood sugar. This is ALWAYS a healthier option! The foods that do cause an unhealthy rise in blood sugar would be starches, bread, high-sugar fruits, and drinks like soda and tea which can be loaded with sugar. Even if you aren’t eating a lot of sugar, you should know which foods turn to sugar once ingested. This will have a huge impact on stable weight and decrease your risk for diseases like diabetes. Of course, all these rules apply to seniors as well.

Perhaps the greatest focus of the research for aging adults is the connection between vitamin deficiency and other micro-nutrients. Seniors are at greater risk for cognitive decline, memory loss, and conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia if they are not getting the proper nutrients in adequate amounts. The only way to correct this is with a healthy balanced diet, and possibly supplements to help out along the way.

Low carotenoid concentration is a problem in a diet that is not rich enough in fruits and vegetables. This problem can lead to the decline of skeletal muscle system in seniors. Physical function, particularly in older females, can be seriously decreased when there is a deficiency in vitamin E. Likewise, seniors who were known to have a deficiency in vitamin D were compared with seniors who did not have that problem, and were found to have poor physical performance. In women, it was associated with back pain.

The bottom-line message here is that no matter how old we are, we should be striving to get as much of our nutrition from healthy foods as possible. This becomes even more important for aging adults so that their organs and body systems are running at peak performance. So, food isn’t just about weight, it’s about overall health. There is no question that a diet of unhealthy foods over time will shorten the lifespan of seniors and cause heart disease and diabetes.

For more information on keeping seniors healthy with a balanced approach to nutrition, talk to their physician and contact us today! It’s never too late to eat well.

Home Helpers of Little Rock is a locally-owned, trusted home health care agency and offers quality, compassionate senior in-home care services including home care assistance, personal care, companion care, respite care, 24-hour care and live-in care, Alzheimer's & dementia care, Parkinson's care as well as homemaker services in Little Rock, Maumelle, Bryant, North Little Rock, South Little Rock, East Little Rock, West Little Rock, Sherwood, Jacksonville, Mabelvale, Alexander, and Benton, Arkansas.

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