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More reasons than ever to eat right

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June 5th, 2015

Nutrition is one area of healthy living that creates wonderful possibilities. Our understanding of food has grown substantially, and dietary recommendations have evolved from the grain-based food pyramid to a healthy plate emphasizing fruits and vegetables. While miracle foods are promoted every day, the reality is that there are many ways to achieve the right balance and good eating habits.

The basics of good nutrition include consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables now commonly available—remember when there were only two or three types of lettuce on the shelves? Today you can enjoy dozens of green leafy vegetables and colorful fruits like blueberries, raspberries, and pomegranates that are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Even if you don’t have easy access to fresh produce, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables have been shown to contain as much or even more nutrition as fresh. Other elements of a good diet include whole grains, unsaturated fats as found in nuts and olive and canola oils, and lean protein sources such as fish and chicken.

A number of studies have shown that these dietary recommendations result in better health. In March, this kind of diet was found to lower the risk of colon cancer, and in 2013, the Mediterranean diet, which includes olive oil and plant-based foods (nuts, grains, vegetables, and beans), was shown to reduce risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular mortality by 30%. 

Keep an eye on the pounds

While the types of foods you eat are of high importance, it is also fundamental to consider quantity. While most seniors achieve the proper caloric intake, about 10% eat too little each day and approximately 30% of seniors eat too much. Obesity among seniors increased over 30% from 1990 to 2000. Healthful choices in food shopping and careful preparation can help you control your weight, and every weight-loss program should include increasing physical activity within the limits of your condition. If you’re not sure how to get started, please consult your physician for recommendations.

Finally, nutrition is not just about food. Beverages are an equally important part of your diet. As we age, the thirst center in the brain often becomes less active—putting us at risk for dehydration. Staying hydrated through the day with water and unsweetened beverages like coffee or tea (regular or decaf) is the best approach. One fun option is adding a splash of your favorite juice to water. 

Food and drink can and should be a source of great enjoyment as well as a means to healthful living. More information is available at nutrition.gov, but if you are unsure about your individual nutrition needs, please talk to a dietitian or your physician. 

 

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