Senior Care: Scientists Find Foods that May Slow the Signs of Aging

foods that may stop signs of aging

Back in the day, when your mother told you to eat your broccoli, you might have hidden it in your napkin or fed it to the family dog, but it turns out Mom was right. Of course, vegetables are always a healthy choice, but a new study shows that broccoli and other greens do even more than we thought when it comes to nutrition and longevity in seniors.

While many joke about finding the fountain of youth, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine may have found some evidence that it has been right in front of us all along.

As we get older, many of us deal with the same health issues. In addition to the wrinkles and graying hair, metabolism slows down, causing weight issues to creep up. Almost all older adults wear corrective lenses to correct eyesight, and many suffer from glaucoma or cataracts. Others develop problems with blood sugar levels, which can lead to a number of related health issues.

Researchers think they may have found a substance that helps prevent some of these aging issues. After infusing laboratory mice with a substance found in broccoli, cucumbers, edamame, cabbage, and avocados, they noticed a difference on a cellular level. While the mice continued to age over time, their cells still behaved as if they were younger, when compared to mice that weren’t given the ingredient found in green vegetables.

The common denominator in these foods is a substance called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN). The mice who received a regular infusion of this substance showed improvements in metabolism, blood sugar levels, and eyesight. Healthier cells that behave like younger cells may also have the ability to fight off diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s and, in the end, help people to live longer.

The benefits from NMN are not just for seniors though. All generations can boost cell health and stop part of the aging process by finding creative ways to eat more green vegetables. For those who don’t enjoy them or can’t eat them raw, including them in soups and smoothies is a great way to get more broccoli, avocado, cabbage, and edamame into the diet.

Obtaining senior care assistance from a home health aide from a homecare provider like David York Agency can be a great first step toward improving the nutrition of your elderly loved one. Whether you simply need someone to help with grocery shopping and preparing healthy meals, or you need a full-time home healthcare aide, DYA can provide the personalized care your family needs.

For more information about our qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance you need.

If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.

Good Nutrition In The Elderly: Keep It Real, Fresh & Simple

nutrition in the elderly

Woody Allen once quipped, “You can live to be a hundred if you give up all things that make you want to live to be a hundred.”

Eating is sometimes challenging for the elderly — feeding the elderly even more so. Pre-programmed by evolution to prefer soft, sweet, high-energy foods, and trained over years by the food industry to choose them, we’ll opt for a Twinkie over chopped kale every time. Add to that failing taste buds, digestive issues, and deteriorating teeth, and the joy of eating just isn’t what it used to be.

The increasing number of us who suffer from various versions of metabolic disorder — that is, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer — signals that we may have missed some good nutrition class a few years back. If we haven’t managed to give up the foods we love earlier in our lives, how likely are we to give them up now?

Furthermore, so many homes for the elderly offer a bland, tasteless menu laden with white-flour breads and cakes. It’s no wonder waistlines continue to spread and obesity-related disease grows more prevalent as real nutritional content in the diet declines.

Truly good nutrition is the exact opposite of what many elderly individuals want or get. Dr. Joel Fuhrman diagrams that healthy diet concept in his Nutritarian Pyramid and Plate. The idea of the Nutritarian Diet is to get maximum nutrition with minimum calories.

The diet “includes anti-cancer superfoods, which also facilitate weight loss. These foods supply both the right amount of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and the vital micronutrients (vitamins, phytochemicals, and minerals) that unleash the body’s incredible power to heal itself and slow the aging process, giving the body renewed vitality.”

Dr. Fuhrman’s ANDI Food Scores rate foods according to a simple formula: H=N/C (Health=Nutrition/Calories). Greens appear at the top of the list as providing the greatest nutrient density in the fewest calories, and cola and white bread are, of course, at the bottom. According to Dr. Fuhrman, “The nutrient density in your body’s tissues is proportional to the nutrient density of your diet.”

The plan is simple: 90% of the daily diet comes from nutrient-rich plant foods loaded with health-promoting phytochemicals. These plant foods include green and other non-starchy vegetables; fresh fruits; beans and legumes; raw nuts, seeds, and avocados; starchy vegetables; and whole grains. No calorie counting, no hunger between meals.

But, how can you get your elderly loved one to prioritize these life- and health-giving foods over Twinkies for those sugar cravings?

Now is the time to get creative! Use that evolutionary preference for soft, sweet foods to your advantage. Simple homemade soups and smoothies offer a nutritional wallop, and you don’t even need added sugars to stimulate sluggish appetites. You can rely on fruits and even sweet veggies like carrots in your smoothies.

Consider, for example, green smoothies. Use all light-colored sweet fruits, like pineapple, grapes, apple, peach, and banana. Add a little raw carrot. Add as many mixed greens as you can fit into a high-powered blender, along with some avocado for added richness and creaminess, 8-10 ice cubes, and a bit of light-colored juice or coconut milk or oil to get things underway. You can even add chia, flax, or hemp seeds. Whiz in the blender until smooth, and voila! A nutritious and delicious meal. Maybe you can even get your elderly charge to share a little with you.

Another great way to prepare a simple and simply wonderful meal is with blended soups. Add a little coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil to a pot, chunks of onion and/or peeled fresh ginger root, saute briefly, and add a variety of single veggies to the pot. Veggies that work well for this are tomatoes, zucchini, beets, or sweet potatoes (wash and chunk all, and peel the beets and sweet potatoes). Add water to the pot, depending on the water content of the veggies: none for tomatoes, a little for zucchini, more for beets or sweet potatoes. Puree in the blender and return to the pot for seasoning. Salt and pepper are fine, or you can get fancier with chopped fresh basil or other herbs of your choice. Leftovers of any of the soups boiled down and thickened work as tasty and nutritious sauces for other parts of a meal.

A varied plant-based diet provides plenty of protein, B-vitamins, calcium, loads of fiber, and a healthy dose of antioxidants like CoQ10. Heart-healthy fatty acids and vitamin D are most easily available in animal foods, especially dairy products, although plant-based alternatives like soy milk also provide them. Full-fat yogurt, in particular, aids digestion, supplying important probiotics along with fatty acids.

It’s always a good idea to provide a daily vitamin and mineral capsule as insurance. If swallowing is an issue, just blend it along with those beautiful greens in a smoothie.

And remember: while “middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toy,” you can make that fiber fun to eat—soft and sweet!

At David York Agency, we offer a number of home healthcare services to help ensure your elderly loved one gets the care and nutrition they need. Whether you just need someone to come over a few days a week to help prepare healthy meals or you need a full-time home healthcare aide, we can help.

For more information about our qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance you need.

If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.

Make Elderly Taste Buds Tingle with Good Nutrition

Eating is a sensory experience on so many levels. Not only does a good meal nurture our bodies, but it also awakens all of our senses. Beautiful food has amazing visual appeal. The aroma of home cooking literally makes the mouth water. The texture and crunch of food make our taste buds tingle. When mealtime is fun, it also feeds our souls.

Healthy eating keeps our bodies in better working order, lessens the effects and duration of illness, and increases energy. Leafy green vegetables, nuts and fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can increase mental acuity and may even stave off memory loss. The fact is, when we eat better, we feel better.

Nutrition in the elderlyOur appetites naturally decrease with age as does our sense of thirst.  Thus, many of the elderly do not get the nutrition their bodies need.  Sometimes this is simply because eating has ceased to be an enjoyable experience. The elderly actually experience a decreased sense of taste and smell and the side-effects of certain medications can intensify this. Older adults are also prone to digestive issues that make them cautious and less adventurous about what they will eat. Slower metabolism, poor dentition and depression can also contribute to seniors not getting the recommended daily vitamins and minerals for their age.

The United States Department of Agriculture lists 10 tips for older adults who would like to improve their nutrition.

1. Drink plenty of fluids especially since some medications can dehydrate you.  It’s best to stay away from sugary drinks likes juices and stick to water or even add more soups into the mix.

2. Turn mealtime into a fun social event! Make eating a pleasant experience by sharing the time with others either in your home at a senior center. You can even listen to music as you eat.

3. Plan healthy meals in advance and the National Institute on Aging has a handy tool ChooseMyPlate.gov for building a balanced plate that includes fruits, vegetables, grains and protein.

4. Have an idea of how much to eat – both too much and too little.  There is so much emphasis on how obesity carries health risks that we can sometimes forget that deficiencies in the frail elderly can be just as dangerous. 

5. Vary your vegetables using the old rule of thumb. Follow your mother’s advice and make sure different colored vegetables are amply included in your diet as each is composed of different and important nutrients.

6. Keep your teeth and gums healthy both in terms of what you eat to strengthen them and proper hygiene and maintenance.  Losing teeth can also affect your taste buds, so it is best to take care even in your choice of hard to chew versus softer foods. 

7. Use herbs and spices to counteract any new sense of blandness to your food. A bonus is the newly included spices can bring with them added nutrition such as turmeric with its anti-inflammatory effects and mental acuity. 

8. Keep food safety top of mind.  Often seniors forget how old something is or are hesitant to throw out food due to financial constraints.  Better to be safe than sorry – don’t eat anything that can jeopardize your health.

9. Read those nutrition and ingredient labels.  In addition to calorie, carbohydrate and fat content, they will clue you into the important nutrients contained. 

10. Ask your doctor about personal nutritional requirements and deficiencies and speak to him/her about vitamins and supplements. Many necessary prescription drugs have side effects that deplete your body of important nutrients which are important to replace.  For example, it is important to beware of anemia which can actually contribute to dementia or to take CoQ10 while on cholesterol reducing statin drugs which can zap your strength. 

Healthy eating is a lifestyle choice that promotes good nutrition in the elderly. For additional tips on helping our senior family members stay active and productive, contact us.  David York Agency could provide direction as to how to manage the total care of your senior loved one. Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit us on our website DavidYorkAgency.com to become acquainted with all we offer. Please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.