No matter how old we get the importance of good nutrition will never diminish. Just because we grow beyond the age of having parents to encourage us to eat right does not mean we can leave fruits and vegetables out of our diets. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), many diseases that older people suffer are the result of dietary factors. WHO has stated that certain degenerative diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis are all affected by diet. For example fat is related to cancer of the colon, pancreas and prostate as well as cardiovascular disease. That’s why incorporating more plant-based foods in their diets is vital for older people.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 2 cups of vegetables daily for women age 51 and older and 2 ½ cups for men over the age of 51. Ideally, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables followed by healthy grains and lean sources of protein such as poultry, fish, beans or peas. More fruits and vegetables on your plate will help you become full faster and they are full of vitamins and minerals that are important for seniors as they age.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and Vitamin D work together to keep bones strong. Bone loss can happen to both men and women and may lead to fractures in older adults. There are several vegetables that are rich in calcium including dark green leafy vegetables like collard greens, kale, okra, spinach, and Swiss chard. Vitamin D is found in foods like Portobello mushrooms and vitamin D-fortified orange juice.
This essential mineral also helps to strengthen bones. Potassium is important for cell function and has also been shown to help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of kidney stones. Potassium-rich foods include prunes, bananas, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli.
Vitamin A is important for vision and supporting the immune system. This vitamin also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs perform. It is found in bright orange vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Dark green leafy vegetables such as collard greens and kale also are rich in Vitamin A.
Vitamin B6 performs a wide variety of functions in the body, including involvement with enzyme reactions and forming red blood cells. Vitamin B6 can be found in foods such as: bananas, and spinach, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and avocados.
Vitamin C helps in breaking down protein, absorbing iron, and producing collagen. This vitamin also supports the immune system. Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes are rich in Vitamin C. Kiwi, strawberries, guava, papaya, and cantaloupe are also good sources. Vegetables like broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, turnip greens, romaine lettuce and spinach also contain Vitamin C.