There is a long list of illnesses that can be affected by the food we eat. As we age and become more vulnerable to illness, good nutrition becomes even more important. Whether it is heart disease, vascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, memory loss, or osteoporosis, all of these can be positively affected by a healthy diet.
A healthy body needs a large variety of nutrients to maintain optimum health. A well balanced diet should consist of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and of course, water. Ideally these nutrients should be obtained from whole foods to the extent possible, including fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber, although not technically a nutrient, helps to keep the digestive system running smoothly, aiding absorption of essential nutrients. Vitamin supplements should be considered if eating a large variety of foods in sufficient quantities is an issue.
Other components of food that have become more prevalent in modern times should be minimized. Saturated fats (often found in red meat), hydrogenated fats (found in processed foods), and salt (found in processed foods) can be harmful if eaten regularly and/or in large quantities. Caloric intake should also be monitored with the amount of calories in a healthy diet averaging somewhere between 1500 and 2000. To maintain optimum weight and maximum nutrition, “empty calorie” foods should be avoided. Items such as soda, chips, cookies, donuts and alcohol are all highly caloric but without the concomitant nutritional value.
Special care needs to be taken by people suffering from certain illnesses or conditions. Salt needs to be highly restricted in people with heart failure or kidney disease. Liquid intake also needs to be monitored. People with diabetes need to be careful to limit carbohydrates in their diets.
The old saying, “You are what you eat,” has never been more true than when people grow older. With a little careful planning and understanding, eating well and staying well can be achieved.