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Are seniors eating right?

Posted Wednesday, January 31, 2007

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Six simple ways for seniors to improve their nutritional health

Older adults have all heard what they should be eating each day. Three servings of fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese or yogurt. Three or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products. And abundant amounts of fruits and vegetables, striving for variety across all five vegetable subgroups. But how many people 50 years or older, are actually meeting those daily nutrition requirements?

The American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians have estimated that 20 to 60 percent of older adults in home care, and 40 to 85 percent of those in nursing homes, are at risk of malnutrition. Similarly, the Institute of Medicine estimates that approximately 40 percent of community-residing persons 65 years and older have inadequate nutrient intakes.

In 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture released its innovative MyPyramid food guidance system and updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005, advocating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables; whole grains; lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. In addition to good eating, the Dietary Guidelines recommend supplementation of vitamin D and B12 for older consumers through fortified food or supplements.

Even with these new recommendations, however, many Americans are still failing to meet their average daily nutritional requirements, due to confusion about what to eat, difficulty in creating well-balanced meals, and budgetary restrictions. To address this concern, the U.S. Congress stated, in their recently passed Older Americans Act, that “when the nutritional needs of older Americans are not fully met by diet, a single, daily multivitamin-mineral supplement may help prevent nutrition deficiencies common in many older Americans.”

“For years, people have intuitively known that taking a daily multivitamin made good nutrition sense,” says Dr. Richard Cotter, assistant vice president of Global Nutritional Sciences for Wyeth Consumer Healthcare, one of the world’s leaders in the development, manufacturing and marketing of nonprescription medicines, vitamins and nutritional products. “Now they have the affirmation of the U.S. government to reinforce their behavior, which will hopefully also inspire other seniors to adopt similarly positive habits.”

Here are six ideas for what you can do to improve your nutrition:

* Take a multivitamin formulated for seniors. One multivitamin for those over 50 to consider is Centrum Silver. It provides folic acid, vitamin D and higher levels of calcium and vitamins B6, B12 and E to help maintain heart health and strong bones. It also helps our bodies convert food into energy and has key antioxidants to help promote eye health and to help protect against cell damage that naturally occurs as we age.

* Eat plenty of fresh, frozen, dried and/or canned fruits and vegetables. Indulge in seasonal varieties, whenever available, to add interest to your menus and save money. During the colder months, frozen and canned varieties pack similar nutritional punches.

* Choose fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, including lactose free or lactose reduced milks, yogurts, and natural cheeses.

* Lighten up on meats, alternating lean cuts with protein-packed poultry, beans, fish, and nuts and seeds. Since the latter three contain healthy oils, try to consume these foods more frequently than meat or poultry.

* Speaking of oils, they’re not all created equal. Polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, found in fish, nuts and vegetable oils, offer essential fatty acids and vitamin E and do not raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. The same cannot be said of solid fats containing saturated fats and/or trans fats.

* In colder climates, when it’s challenging to get 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure, two to three times per week, make sure to include Vitamin D-fortified dairy products, egg yolks, saltwater fish and liver to maximize calcium absorption and bone health in addition to supplemental vitamin D through a multivitamin.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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