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Five foods for healthy aging

Mar 29, 2022 | Food & Nutrition

Most older adults are not consuming enough key nutrients to stay healthy. The best way to get the nutrients our bodies need is through the foods that we eat, that’s why it’s important to choose foods that are nutrient-dense or rich in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

“As you age, your body changes, and so do the nutrient requirements you need to stay healthy,” says Heather Keller, Schlegel Research Chair in Nutrition and Aging at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging and University of Waterloo, and Nutrition in Disguise (NiD) project lead. “With the Nutrition in Disguise project, we focus on innovative strategies to increase the nutrient content of various recipes.”

For a variety of reasons, many older adults don’t get enough key nutrients in their diets to support their health and well-being. The NiD team creates nutrient-dense recipes by adding healthy ingredients to popular recipes, such as lentils in brownies. The result is a tasty product containing the nutrients older adults are often lacking. Below are some nutrient-dense foods that can be added to recipes or enjoyed on their own.

Almonds

Add them sliced to salads, granola, trail mix, or as a topping for desserts; add them ground to sauces, bread, or as a topping for yogurt or cereal. They are a great source of vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant that is also important for the health of your brain and eyes. Other vitamin E-dense foods: sunflower seeds, peanut butter, wheat germ (or wheat germ oil) and avocado.

Dark chocolate

Need an excuse to have dark chocolate in your life? Dark chocolate (at least 70%) is loaded with magnesium and iron. Magnesium is important for your muscles, keeps your heart beating daily and your immune system strong. Iron helps to preserve many vital functions in the body, including energy and focus, and carries oxygen to all of the body.

Wheat Germ

There are countless ways to add wheat germ to your diet – in yogurt, oatmeal, meatballs or meatloaf, smoothies, muffins, granola, or toppings for parfaits. Wheat germ is a great source of omega-3, an essential nutrient for immune function, and bone, muscle, and heart health. Omega-3 has been shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, and may play protective roles in cancer and other conditions. Wheat germ is also loaded with fibre and vitamin E.

Flax seeds

Similar to wheat germ, these seeds can easily be added to baked goods such as muffins, breads or loaves; or as a topping on yogurt, salads or cereal. Flax seeds contain a lot of fibre – a nutrient crucial for our digestive health and regular bowel movements. It also helps us feel fuller for longer, and can improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Omega-3 is also found in flax seeds.

Lentils and beans

Salads, rice dishes, chilli, tacos, pureed to make a dip are some of our favourite ways to add lentils and beans into meals. They are rich in protein, fibre and iron. Protein intake in older adults is often inadequate to keep and build new muscle. Protein is crucial to maintain muscle mass and strength, brain health, helps repair your body after an injury, and much more.

Eating a nutrient-dense diet helps older adults stay healthy and independent. For healthy aging recipes developed by the RIA research team, please visit this webpage: the-ria.ca/resources/nid/.

The Nutrition in Disguise resources are made available through the Ontario Centres for Learning, Research and Innovation in Long-Term Care at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA). These resources are based on research completed by the RIA, the University of Waterloo and the University of Guelph, in partnership with Schlegel Villages. This research was made possible with the generosity of George Weston Limited and Loblaw Companies Limited. To learn more, please visit this webpage: clri-ltc.ca/nutrition/.

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