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The importance of Nutrition and it’s role in aging

BY PURNIMA SREENIVASAN

As humans transform over the course of their lifespan, a major change we, our families and communities notice is our health. Then what is health ? What are the factors that help us transform into an energetic youth and what really happens as we age ?

Along with physical activity, mindfulness and mental well-being, nutrition also plays a key role. Research shows us the benefits of anti-inflammatory, phytonutrient rich diet, devoid of chemicals, hormones, and other additives.

The very food we consume in our stages of life, play a vital role in the way we age. However as we age, nutrition and requirements change. Here below are some ways to think about nutrition in aging:

  1. Color matters, plates, platter and all.
  2. Taste matters, but taste differs widely like smell, and taste changes with aging.
  3. Medications do have an effect on taste and can indirectly affect nutrition.
  4. Surrounding, eating alone or in a gathering does affect nutritional needs.
  5. Ability to swallow/cognitive abilities can hamper nutrition and can cause further decline in the elderly if not addressed.
  6. Temperatures of both cooked food and raw foods do matter !
  7. Water is essential to nutrition, however understanding one’s health conditions is crucial to prevention of deterioration in health due to excess or poor water consumption.
  8. Coffee, soda, tea are not part of nutrition.
  9. Antioxidants in plant products, vegetables and fruits, do help with anti-aging.
  10. Portions must be right for stages of aging, hospitalization, activity levels, and more.
  11. Lack of appropriate nutrition can lead to deconditioning of an aging body.
  12. Freshness is superior to canned, frozen foods.
  13. Watch the sodium in your diet. Ask your provider about this.
  14. Healthy fats are essential, like proteins.
  15. Proteins are the building blocks of a human body…  It’s intake portions must be justified.
  16. All nutrients are essential to life, even carbohydrates or micronutrients, like calcium and iron.
  17. A diet rich in some and deficient in some can cause deterioration in health.
  18. Sleep does affect appetite. Consult a provider to understand more.
  19. Weight changes can affect nutrition as some debilitating chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and others can cause sudden changes.  
  20. Vision can be affected by nutrition.

Yes, brain does play a vital role in nutrition. Inclusion of nutrition in meal planning and shopping to actually savoring the food is a journey. This journey began millions of years ago, as we humans began our lives as cave men and continues to evolve with time. The fascination of culinary skills is beyond the feast. What we must remember is in this journey we must not forget our elderly. Well, the next time we order or prepare a meal, let us take a moment to think how this may play when we age.

About Purnima Sreenivasan

Purnima Sreenivasan is a Tribune contributor who is a specialist on aging and the founder of mihygge ( mi-hu-ga, meaning "my life’s simple pleasures" ), an aging health tech startup based in the Bay Area, a company working on making senior living and care accessible, affordable and attainable. She can be reached directly at: contact@mihygge.com.

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