As we age, healthy eating can be key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced. Increased mental awareness, resistance to illness and disease, higher energy levels, faster recuperation times, and better management of chronic health problems are some of the ways you can benefit from a healthy diet.
No matter your age or your current eating habits, it’s never too late to improve the way you think and feel. Because March is National Nutrition Month, let’s take a look at why and how you should try eating better.
Benefits of Good Nutrition:
- Live longer and stronger. Good nutrition keeps muscles, bones, organs, and other body parts strong. A balanced diet reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, cancer, and anemia. Also, eating sensibly means consuming fewer calories, which helps keep weight in check.
- Sharpen your mind. People who eat fruit, veggies, fish, and nuts packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve focus and may decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Regular consumption of antioxidant-rich green tea may also enhance memory and mental alertness as you age.
- Feel better. Wholesome meals give you more energy and help you look better, resulting in a boost to your mood and self-esteem.
Key Food Groups to Focus On:
- Fruit. Focus on whole fruits rather than juices for more fiber and vitamins and aim for at least two to three servings each day. Break the apple and banana rut and go for color-rich pickings, such as berries or melons.
- Veggies. Choose antioxidant-rich dark, leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, as well as orange and yellow vegetables, such as carrots, squash, and yams. Try for two to three cups or more of veggies every day.
- Calcium. Maintaining bone health as you age depends on adequate calcium intake. Older adults need 1,200 mg of calcium a day through servings of milk, yogurt, or cheese. Non-dairy sources include tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale.
- Grains. Choose whole grains over processed white flour for more nutrients and fiber. Look for pasta, breads, and cereals that list “whole” in the ingredient list. Older adults need six to seven ounces of grains each day (one ounce is about one slice of whole grain bread).
- Protein. Try to divide your protein intake equally among meals. It’s important to vary your sources of protein, such as fish, beans, peas, eggs, and nuts.
Combined with physical activity, a balanced, healthy diet can contribute to a higher quality of life and enhanced independence as you age.
For more information, please visit www.nutrition.gov/life-stages/seniors.