Benefits of healthy eating
Age-related chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, can contribute to poor nutrition. In turn, poor nutrition can lead to loss of muscle mass and bone density and broken bones, as well as put older adults at risk of losing their independence. Eating healthfully has many benefits, including reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly improving brain health.
Joaquina Celorio’s lifestyle changed after her husband died three years ago. She moved from Puerto Rico to live with her daughter and her family in Frisco. She stopped working, and she walked less and ate fewer fresh fruits, vegetables and fish than she did back home. She developed digestion issues, numbness in her feet and severe leg cramps at night.
After consulting doctors and a physical therapist, Celorio, 92, went to a dietitian a few months ago because some prescription medicine upset her stomach. Registered dietitian nutritionist Araceli Vazquez, who is bilingual, diagnosed high levels of cholesterol, blood sugar and triglycerides.
Together, they devised a new diet, eliminating salt and sugar, reducing red meat and adding more fruits and vegetables. Instead of eating Texas barbecue for dinner, Celorio has fish with broccoli and beans. Vazquez also showed Celorio that a smaller portion of food is the size of her palm and suggested that she order from the children’s menu at restaurants.
“I stopped having cramps in my legs, I started having better balance walking, and my digestion system improved,” Celorio says in Spanish, translated by her daughter Francis Placeres. She also lost weight and no longer needs to take gastroenteritis or anti-inflammatory medication.
Combating malnourishment can be as simple as teaching people basic nutrition, experts say. They also suggest enhancing the flavor of food by adding herbs and spices and urgeto seniors eat with others to make meals more social.
People age 50-plus should watch their calories based on their age, gender and level of physical activity. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends consuming a certain number of calories to maintain weight.
Two recommended diets, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and Mediterranean diets, are lower in saturated fats and high in fresh produce and fish. Several programs, such as VNA/Meals on Wheels, offer free or low-cost healthy meals to seniors in North Texas.