Despite the wrinkle cream, hair dye, and make up — aging happens. But it doesn’t have to get the best of us.
The proper nutrition and diet can keep older people feeling younger and healthier, inside and out. Not only can the proper foods strengthen bones and muscles, but they can sharpen the mind.
Chef Ryan Miller, executive chef and director of culinary services for Colonial in Southwest Ohio, shared what foods are best for seniors and why.
Leafy veggies: Vegetables like spinach, chard and especially kale have a variety of benefits. They are rich in antioxidants, Vitamins A and C and Folate, which among other things, can help fight heart disease and keep the mind sharp. Another benefit is that leafy vegetables are a good non-dairy source of calcium, which helps prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Kale and spinach can even improve your eyesight.
Chef’s recipe: Wilted Spinach Salad (makes 1 serving)
4 ounces fresh spinach leaves washed and patted dry
5 thin slices of red onion
3 large mushrooms, sliced thin
½ ounce raw walnut or pecan
Three grape or cherry tomato cut in halves
2 tbsp. olive oil
5 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar or honey
In small pot or pan over low heat, slowly caramelize the onions in the oil until they are brown and sweet. Add vinegar and sugar or honey and simmer while stirring for twenty seconds. Take off heat and assemble salad with all other ingredients in bowl. Drizzle warm dressing and onions over salad to wilt the spinach.
Quinoa or brown rice: When choosing a side, the grainier the better. Whole grains contain more nutrients, add fiber and keep you fuller for longer. Using whole grain pasta or brown rice or quinoa can take your usual starchy side-dish to a super side dish.
Chef’s recipe: Steamed quinoa pilaf (makes 1 serving)
2/3 cup quinoa grains
¼ cup diced bell pepper
¼ cup diced onion
2 tbsp. chopped olives (any type will do)
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup boiling water
In heat safe bowl, combine all ingredients except the oil and water. Pour boiling water over quinoa and veggies and immediately cover with plastic wrap. Let sit and steam for seven minutes. Uncover, fluff, and stir in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Fish: Older adults need about 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of bodyweight. It’s important to mix up sources of protein, and fish is among the best because of its many benefits. Not only is fish generally a lean option, but it can ease depression, improve skin and hair and slow cognitive decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Because it is high in Omega-3s, it can reduce blood fat levels, which lowers the risk of heart disease. In addition, some fatty fishes can be a sunless source of Vitamin-D, which is essential to the absorption of Calcium.
Chef’s recipe: Almond braised cod (makes 1 serving)
One 4 ounce piece of cod or other lean white fish
2 tbsp. milk or half and half
½ cup almonds or almond flour
4 ounces of clam juice or fish stock
1 oz red bell pepper
1 oz white onion
Dice the onion and bell pepper finely and place in small baking dish; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Rinse and dry fish filet, then brush with milk and let sit for five minutes. In a food processor or in a bag with a hammer, pulverize almonds until they are a fine dust (almond flour). Coat fish filet with almond flour. Sear in pan with olive oil until golden on each side. Pour clam juice or fish stock over pepper and onion. Place fish on top of peppers and onions in baking dish (it will touch the liquid). Cover with foil and bake for ten minutes at 400 degrees.
Berries: While all fruits are especially important for older adults, color-rich fruits like berries or melons are good sources of fiber, help manage Diabetes, lower blood pressure, are low in sodium and more. Whole fruits are generally better than juice because they contain less hidden sugar.
Chef Miller’s Berry Napoleon (makes 1 serving)
4 ounces of any type of berries you like or mixed berries (should be fresh)
½ cup of your favorite custard or pudding (preferably a vanilla flavor custard)
2 graham cracker halves
In bowl, mix berries and custard together. On plate, place one third of berry mixture on plate, then put graham cracker on top of that, then another scoop of berries, then the other graham cracker, then the last of the berries. Top with minced mint for a burst of freshness.
Chef Miller also added some general tips:
• Raw fruit and vegetables are always a good addition no matter the season.
• Turkey is extremely lean and has more protein than chicken.
• Pickled items aid in digestion of vegetables and fibers because of the vinegar.
Emily Glaser writes about the diverse wellness needs of older adults for Your Time, a Community First Solutions publication for people age 50 and older.