The Importance of What We Put in Our Body Increases as We Age
People’s nutritional requirements change as they age, making healthy eating challenging. Furthermore, older adults have an increased risk of developing chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, meaning it becomes more important to eat well and avoid foods that contribute to these conditions. It is also necessary to consider how certain foods interact with medication, altering how it works in the body.
Here are ten foods for seniors to avoid and why they may not be the healthiest choices. We will also explain how to cut them out of your diet while enjoying your meals and getting all the nutrition you need.
1. Raw Foods
Raw foods can cause problems for seniors for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, older people can be prone to dental problems and may have missing teeth; this makes it more difficult to chew hard foods like raw fruit and vegetables and increases the risk of choking.
Another potential issue with raw foods is that they can harbor bacteria, increasing the risk of food poisoning, which is especially dangerous for seniors, as the immune system works less effectively with age. Raw sprouts are a prime example; this vegetable should always be cooked well before consumption.
It is generally best to eat soups or soft-cooked vegetables. Canned fruit is another good option, but make sure it is in natural juice rather than sugary syrup.
2. Unpasteurized Foods
Like raw foods, unpasteurized foods can increase the risk of food poisoning. Listeria is a common cause of food poisoning and can be lethal in older people. Therefore, seniors should avoid products like unpasteurized milk and yogurt, soft cheese, and some fermented foods.
Other foods that carry a high risk of food poisoning include pate, cold smoked fish, and unrefrigerated melon.
Alcohol can be healthy in moderation, but it affects people differently as they age; this means that seniors may not be able to drink as much as they used to when they were younger.
Moreover, alcohol can impair your judgment and coordination, increasing the risk of falls and fractures. It can also impair sleep, increase blood pressure, and interact with certain medications.
Like alcohol, caffeine affects seniors differently from younger people; they may be more prone to side effects like anxiety and jitters after consuming large amounts. Caffeine can also interfere with sleep, especially if consumed in the afternoon or evening.
Try switching high-caffeine tea and coffee for decaffeinated versions or herbal tea. Caffeine is also found in chocolate and some painkillers and cold remedies, so keep chocolate to a minimum and read the labels of medicines before taking them.
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5. High-Sodium Foods
Sodium is a mineral that makes the body hang on to water and can increase blood pressure significantly. It is primarily found in salty foods, such as chips, cheese, processed meat, and pre-cooked meals.
The maximum recommended daily intake for most people is 2400mg of sodium, which is equivalent to 6g of salt. However, this figure falls to 1500mg for high-risk individuals, such as those with high blood pressure.
Seniors can reduce their sodium intake by cooking at home rather than eating ready meals and using herbs and spices to season food instead of salt.
Eating high-potassium foods such as bananas, avocados, and apricots can help to counteract the effects of sodium, so try to include more of these in your diet.
6. Unhealthy Fats
Unhealthy fats, such as trans fats, saturated fats, and hydrogenated oils, can increase cholesterol and raise the risk of heart disease. They have also been linked with other conditions, including diabetes and cancer.
Seniors should avoid fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, commercial baked goods, and vegetable shortening or margarine. Ensure you get enough fat in your diet by using healthy alternatives such as olive oil to drizzle over food and eating more oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel.
7. High-Sugar Foods
Consuming too much sugar increases the risk of diabetes. Therefore, seniors should avoid high-sugar foods such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, and candy, and snack on healthier options instead.
Try replacing unhealthy desserts with canned fruit and low-fat yogurt, and avoid sugary drinks like soda and sweetened coffee or tea.
Grapefruit and grapefruit juice contains a chemical that can alter how the body processes certain drugs. These include medications for anxiety, insomnia, and blood pressure, but there are many more. If you take any prescribed or over-the-counter remedies, check with a physician to know whether it is safe to eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice.
It is fine to eat other citrus fruit, such as oranges and tangerines. They do not interact with any medications and are a great source of vitamin C.
9. Empty Calories
People can gain weight easily as they age, so it’s essential to make your calories count. Avoid foods like chips, candy, and baked goods and drinks like soda and alcohol, which are high in calories but low in nutrition.
Try to eat enough at mealtimes so you won’t be tempted by unhealthy snacks. If it is difficult to eat a lot at once, try snacking on fruit with nut butter or low-fat yogurt, which is rich in vitamins and protein, rather than empty calories.
10. Choking Hazards
Seniors may be more prone to choking, especially if they have dental problems. Avoid foods that are difficult to chew, like hot dogs, sandwiches, burgers, steak, nuts, and large pieces of fruit. It is also best to avoid chicken and fish with bones.
Cut food into smaller pieces before eating to reduce the risk of choking, and take your time with meals.
Are you struggling to make healthy food choices affordable? Help is available from the National Council on Aging. Visit their benefits check-up page to learn more.
Consider looking into Monthly Food Subscription Boxes to add more healthy choices into your lifestyle.