Monitoring our diet as we age is especially important because malnutrition can be associated with a weakened immune system and the inability to quickly heal from an ailment or sickness. There are many different conflicting opinions about nutrient supplements, vitamin products, and the need to consume such things. Another popular opinion is that we can get all of the vitamins and minerals our body needs with a well-regulated diet that includes a broad spectrum of nutrient packed foods.
According to the FDA, here are some tips to creating a balanced and healthy diet:
Use the Nutrition Facts Label as your tool for consuming a nutrient-dense diet rich in vitamins and minerals. The Nutrition Facts Label on food and beverage packages shows the Percent Daily Value (%DV) for vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron in one serving of the food.
Food manufacturers may voluntarily list the %DV of other naturally occurring vitamins and minerals per serving on the Nutrition Facts Label, but they are required to list any vitamins and minerals that are added to the food or if a statement is made on the package labeling about their health effects or the amount contained in the food (for example, “high” or “low”).
- When comparing foods, choose foods with a higher %DV of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. The goal is to get 100% of the Daily Value for these nutrients on most days. And remember:
- 5% DV or less of a vitamin or mineral per serving is low
- 20% DV or more of a vitamin or mineral per serving is high
- Consume at least half of your daily fruit choices as whole fruits (such as fresh, frozen, cooked, dried, and canned in 100% fruit juice). Choose 100% fruit juice instead of sugar-sweetened beverages (such as energy drinks, flavored waters, fruit drinks, soft drinks, and sports drinks). Try fruit as snacks, salads, side dishes, and desserts.
- Eat more colorful vegetables (such as fresh, frozen, canned, and dried) and 100% vegetable juices. Buy frozen (without butter or sauce) or low sodium or no-salt-added canned vegetables. Try vegetables as snacks, salads, and side dishes and incorporate vegetables into main dishes.
- Consume at least half of your total grain choices as whole grains (such as brown rice, whole oats, and whole wheat). Whole grains are a source of important vitamins and minerals and are typically high in fiber, too. Switch from refined to whole grain versions of commonly consumed foods (such as breads, cereals, pasta, and rice). Limit refined grains and products made with refined grains, especially those high in calories, saturated fat, added sugars, and/or sodium (such as cakes, chips, cookies, and crackers).
- Eat a variety of protein foods, such as beans and peas, fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) dairy products, eggs, lean meats and poultry, seafood (fish and shellfish), soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Choose seafood and plant sources of protein (such as soy products, beans and peas, and unsalted nuts and seeds) in place of some meats and poultry. Add beans or peas to salads, soups, and side dishes, or serve them as a main dish. Snack on a small handful of unsalted nuts or seeds rather than chips or salty snack foods.
- Substitute fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) dairy products (such as cheese, milk, and yogurt), or fortified soy beverages for regular/full-fat (whole) dairy products.
To align yourself with the FDA’s recommendations, try incorporating the following foods into your diet:
- Low-Fat Yogurt: a great source of Calcium
- Dry Roasted Sunflower Seeds: high in Vitamin E
- Salmon: healthy source of omega-3 fats
- Tofu: a versatile product, made from soybeans; good source of protein and calcium.
- Bananas: Potassium Power Houses
- Guavas: aids in digestion due to high amounts of insoluble fiber
- Lentils: Part of legume family, these beans contain soluble fiber; needed to help cholesterol circulate through the body and eventually leave as waste.
- Mushrooms: Vitamin D contributes to bone health and possibly reducing risks of other diseases.
Incorporating new, fresh, and healthy foods into your diet will increase your body’s nutrient level; therefore continuing to maintain a healthy immune system. Looks for new recipes to try that feature one of the foods listed above, or any other leafy green, fresh fruit, or vegetable. Expanding your nutrient palette is an easy self-preserving action you can take that will help you live longer.
Burlington Health Care is staffed with a team of professionals who care about your health and well-being. We understand that in order to be healthy, you have to be in balance; it’s a multifaceted situation that takes constant management. With mobility aids and healthy living tools, Burlington Health Care is here to help you live a longer and healthier life.