Thanksgiving dinner is typically full of rich, high-fat foods that can be unhealthy if eaten frequently in large quantities. So, while it’s okay to eat traditional Thanksgiving foods such as mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and pumpkin pie in moderation, it’s also a great time to try incorporating some “superfoods” into your holiday dinner, and throughout the rest of the year.
Superfoods are foods that are primarily plant-based, but also include some fish and dairy. Because they are nutritionally dense, with high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and healthy fats, they have been shown to be beneficial for one’s health, helping fuel the body so that it can fight against chronic diseases and other nutrient deficiencies.
Recent long-term research studies have shown that there are several nutrients that should be regularly included in the diet of older adults who are at risk for heart disease, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease. These superfoods for seniors are nutritional powerhouses that provide a variety of long-term benefits, and include:
- Salmon and other fatty fish. Cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel, are high in protein and low in saturated fat and calories. With high levels of omega-3 essential fatty acid (DHA), which optimizes triglyceride levels that carry fat in a person’s blood stream, salmon (and other fatty fish) helps to reduce the low density LDL (bad) cholesterol, while improving the high HDL (good) cholesterol that fights deposits in the arteries. An additional benefit: there is strong evidence linking DHA to helping prevent memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.
- Walnuts, almonds and other nuts. Research has shown that eating one ounce daily of nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, peanuts, or hazelnuts may reduce the risk of heart disease. Just one handful of almonds each day provides the recommended dose of omega-3 fatty acids and 35% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E. A study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that vitamin E may help protect people from Alzheimer’s disease. The only downside to nuts is that they are high in calories and oftentimes, salt. To help ensure a proper proportion, purchase nuts in their shells, as cracking open the nuts takes time, and slows down the eating process.
- Carrots. According to researchers, people who have diets rich in vitamin A and other anti-oxidants over several years have reduced incidents of Alzheimer’s disease. Another study links diets rich in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc to a reduction of diminished eyesight in older adults. The human body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, making carrots a healthy choice that provides many benefits. In fact, just one 7.5-inch carrot provides 230% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. To make carrots softer and easier to chew without losing valuable nutrients, try microwaving or lightly steaming them.
This Thanksgiving, why not try a new recipe such as this salmon and carrot dinner that uses superfoods as the primary ingredients. Or, try searching online for recipes that incorporate other superfoods for seniors such as: dark leafy greens, berries, green tea, legumes, olive oil and a variety of others. Including these as part of a senior’s diet can provide long-term health benefits, especially when combined with a regular program of physician-approved exercise.
At Nightingale Home Care, our caregivers love working with seniors to keep them healthy, active and engaged. We can help plan and prepare nutritious meals and snacks that incorporate superfoods for seniors, provide companionship and motivation for regular exercise, as well as a variety of other tasks to ensure the senior you love is living life to the fullest.