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The big 5 super foods for seniors

Created date

June 25th, 2014

The term “super food” is nonspecific because anything with a high nutritional value could be considered “super” for your health. Some foods, however, contain compounds that make them stand out as particularly good for seniors. Research shows that the following five foods can give a special boost to your health when they are incorporated into a well-balanced nutrition plan.

Beans. “These little beauties are loaded with fiber, protein, iron, and other vitamins,” says Amber Ketchum, M.D.S., R.D., a registered dietitian with Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts, an adult weight loss resort program located in San Antonio, Tex., and the Catskill Mountains of N.Y. “Their fiber content in particular is beneficial for your digestive health.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, research shows that eating beans on a regular basis may help lower your LDL (so-called “bad”) cholesterol. But watch out for the salt 

“Canned beans can be high in sodium, so look for the ‘low sodium’ label and rinse well before using them,” Ketchum advises.

Tomatoes. “Tomatoes contain lycopene—a natural chemical compound that gives some fruits and vegetables their color,” Ketchum says. “Lycopene is thought to play an important role in preventing heart disease, and some research shows that eating foods high in this compound may help to prevent certain cancers such as prostate, breast, and lung. 

“The cooking process makes lycopene easier for your body to use,” she adds, “so canned tomatoes and tomato sauces are excellent sources.”

Other foods high in lycopene include apricots, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit.

Salmon. “The key ingredients in salmon are omega-3 fatty acids,” Ketchum says. “A diet high in omega-3s has been associated with a lower risk of cognitive problems.” 

Research shows that eating foods high in omega-3s might also decrease your risk of heart disease and age-related macular degeneration.  “If you don’t eat fish, some good vegetable sources include walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and ground flaxseeds,” Ketchum adds.

Deeply colored fruits. “Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, kiwi, and strawberries have powerful antioxidant compounds that may be helpful in the prevention of many health conditions,” Ketchum says. 

Studies suggest that these antioxidants, called flavonoids, might help reduce the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. One study showed that women who ate one serving of blueberries and two servings of strawberries each week had a slower rate of age-related cognitive decline. Berries, like all fruits, are also a great source of fiber and vitamins.

Dark green vegetables. “Spinach, kale, broccoli, collard and mustard greens, and dark lettuces are great sources of vitamins A, C, and K,” says Ketchum. “They also have significant amounts of calcium and iron, both of which are often lacking in the diets of older adults. In addition, the fiber and potassium in greens can promote heart health and lower blood pressure.”

Vegetables of all colors have health benefits. For example, yellow, red, and orange veggies contain pigments that may help lessen arthritis symptoms.

What to watch out for

“Although many of these foods are very healthful, some can cause problems for people on certain medications,” Ketchum says.  

“Omega-3 fatty acids have a slight blood-thinning effect and could therefore potentiate the effect of a prescription anticoagulant,” says Dimitri Cefalu, M.D., medical director at



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