Healthy eating for seniors

Diet modification is necessary for seniors to remain alert and energetic. (rawpixel.com pic)

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a common adage to encourage you to eat well for optimal health.

However, as you grow older, you will definitely need more than an apple to keep the doctor away.

A 2018 survey by the National Diabetes Institute (Nadi) indicates Malaysia has the highest rate of diabetes in Asia and one of the highest in the world.

Eating a well-balanced diet is essential in keeping you healthy as you age. It reduces the risk of chronic illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

Once you’re a senior, you have to be more cautious of your food intake and nutritional needs. You need to be more attentive in consuming food rich in minerals, vitamins, fibre and nutrients such as calcium and iron.

Fibre is imperative for healthy digestion. Constipation is preventable by consuming fibre-rich food at every meal.

Fibre can be extracted from fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, oats and bran, and whole grains.

You can also rely on healthy convenience food such as low-sodium canned vegetables, unsweetened frozen fruit, bagged salad or instant oatmeal.

Is it really acceptable to eat pre-packed food when you are aiming for a healthier diet? You should always check packaging labels. Go for options that contain less added sugar, saturated fat and salt.

Consult your doctor for recommended supplements that can supply more nutrients in your diet based on your health condition.

Get advice on taking vitamins or mineral supplements such as calcium, vitamin D, magnesium or vitamin B-12. These are common vitamins that the elderly do not consume enough of.

However, supplement intake should be moderate as you can always opt for greener and natural sources.

For a good source of calcium and vitamin D, consume low fat dairy food such as milk, yogurt or cheese.

You should also consume less salt daily. Too much salt in your diet can lead to high blood pressure which in turn can lead to more chronic illnesses.

You can reduce the amount of salt in your diet by using natural alternatives in your cooking. These include pepper, lemon juice or spices to flavour your meal.

You should also stay away from unhealthy snacks such as salted biscuits or crisps and seasoned nuts. As much as you need to reduce the intake of salt, you should also use less sugar.

Check food and ingredient labels to help you choose foods with a low amount of sugar and preservatives.

As typical as it may sound, always remember your mother’s advice to drink more water. Staying hydrated can prevent tiredness, constipation and dizziness.

Get plenty of fluids each day as nothing is better than an adequate amount of water to quench your thirst and keep you energised.

This article was written by Fariza Kasani, a Care Manager with Care Express, and reviewed by Andrew Mastrandonas, Co-founder and CEO of Care Express, a company that provides a range of elderly at-home caregiving services, sending trained and certified professional caregivers and nurses to clients’ homes. For more information go to Care Express.