10 Foods to Help Seniors Fight Depression
In addition to contributing factors like social isolation, a loss of independence, or a lack of mobility, did you know diet can play an important role in senior depression? While medicine can be beneficial to depression sufferers, so can pharma-free actions like meditating, spending time outdoors or modifying daily diets to incorporate more foods that give your body (and mind) a boost. Don’t miss these 10 smart suggestions:
Starting out your morning with fiber is like handing your digestive system a mop and letting it clean your insides out. As a result, you will feel much less sluggish and ready to face the day. Try a bowl of oatmeal, or some whole grain cereals if you prefer.
Known as the gut-brain axis, studies have shown a correlation between gastrointestinal flora and the central nervous system, ultimately proving that probiotics fight against depression. With that in mind, there is no food richer in these healthy bacteria than full-fat Greek yogurt, boasting more calcium and protein than your low-fat standard yogurt alternatives.
Both melatonin (the sleep hormone) and serotonin (the “happy” neurotransmitter) are synthesized from the essential amino acid called tryptophan. This means that the quality of your slumber and your mood are dependent on it. Many foods feature decent levels of tryptophan (including eggs and asparagus) but none of them rival pumpkin seeds which are also a fantastic source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Along with B12, a folic acid deficiency has been linked to depression.. Unfortunately, folate can be rather difficult to locate using your diet alone, hence why many smart seniors prefer to rely on multivitamins to get all of their nutrients.. In the meantime, you can consume a decent dose of this elusive nourishment via spinach and other general leafy greens, as well as asparagus and citrus fruits.
The connection between brain inflammation and depression is well-documented, and this is where the antioxidant called lycopene comes in. Tomato products are packed full with this anti-inflammatory substance, to the point that various studies have proven this diet choice to relieve many of the depressive symptoms.. Other lycopene-rich foods include guava and watermelon.
Vitamin D is famously the sunshine vitamin, which has been increasingly connected to seasonal affective disorder. Thankfully, one can absorb a little bit of this nutrient from their food too, fittingly from the sunshine yolk center of the egg. The white of an egg is also loaded with protein, so crack them open and enjoy their happiness along with other vitamin D products such as mushrooms.
An intake of magnesium is consistently shown to be highly valuable for those who suffer from depression, and yet nobody fully understands why. However, when looking at its health properties in regards to a greater muscle flexibility, calcium absorption, and blood pressure regulation, these overall improvements do make some sense. To get more magnesium from your diet, snack on assorted nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, and Brazil) as well as tofu and avocados.
Vitamin C may be the popular choice for those looking for an immune boost, but there have been studies which connect this vitamin deficiency with depressive-like behaviors in mice. Luckily, sources of vitamin C are easy to find, from kale to oranges to broccoli, but chili peppers also come with the added advantage of a burning your mouth, which is an ideal depression distraction if there ever was one!
Instead of feeding your anxiety with stimulants like coffee or soda, swap them out for healthier tea alternatives. Green tea is often appreciated as a soothing, relaxing drink filled with antioxidants and nutrients, while chamomile has been linked to an easier night’s sleep. If you suffer from a sweet tooth, replace all sugars with moderate amounts of honey to avoid the blood sugar crash.
Finally, here is some great news: cocoa polyphenols have been linked to stress reduction, along with various mental, cardiovascular, and energy-related improvements. What’s more, it’s a friendly message to your taste buds that you love them after all. With this in mind, always stick to the darker variations of chocolate for a more powerful cocoa bite, and do not overdo it! If you are worried about your lack of self-control, you can get a similar antioxidant fix from berries (such as blueberries and strawberries), nuts (such as pecan and walnuts), or artichokes.
10 Tips: Make Better Beverage Choices
What you drink is as important as what you eat. Many beverages contain added sugars and offer little or no nutrients, while others may provide nutrients but too much fat and too many calories. Here are some tips to help you make better beverage choices.
Why Nutrition Matters For You
Good nutrition is important throughout your life!
It can help you feel your best and stay strong. It can help reduce the risk of some diseases that are common among older adults. And, if you already have certain health issues, good nutrition can help you manage the symptoms.
Nutrition can sometimes seem complicated. But the good news is that the Food and Drug Administration has a simple tool to help you know exactly what you’re eating.
It’s called the Nutrition Facts Label. You will find it on all packaged foods and beverages. It serves as your guide for making choices that can affect your long-term health.
This booklet will give you the information you need to start using the Nutrition Facts Label today!
Good Nutrition Can Help You Avoid or Manage These Common Diseases:
At-A-Glance: The Nutrition Facts Label
Understanding what the Nutrition Facts Label includes can help you make food choices that are best for your health
3 Key Areas of Importance
As you use the Nutrition Facts Label, pay particular attention to Serving Size, Percent Daily Value, and Nutrients.
The top of the Nutrition Facts Label shows the serving size and the servings per container. Serving size is the key to the rest of the information on the Nutrition Facts Label.
That is why knowing the serving size is important. It’s how you know for sure how many calories and nutrients you are getting.
Check Serving Size!
It is very common for a food package to contain more than one serving. One bottled soft drink or a small bag of chips can actually contain two or more serving.
Percent Daily Value (%DV)
The %DV is a general guide to help you link nutrients in one serving of food to their contribution to your total daily diet. It can help you determine if a food is high or low in a nutrient: 5% or less is low, 20% or more is high.
You can also use the %DV to make dietary trade-offs with other foods throughout the day.
%DV: Quick Tips
You can tell if a food is high or low in a particular nutrient by taking
a quick look at the %DV.
A nutrient is an ingredient in a food that provides nourishment. Nutrients are essential for life and to keep your body functioning properly.
Nutrients To Get more of:
There are some nutrients that are especially important for your health. You should try to get adequate amounts of these each day. They are:
* Note: The listing of potassium is optional on the Nutrition Facts Label.
Nutrients To Get Less of:
There are other nutrients that are important, but that you should eat in moderate amounts. They can increase your risk of certain diseases.
Your Guide to a Healthy Diet
The Nutrition Facts Label can help you make choices for overall health. But some nutrients can also affect certain health conditions and diseases.
Use this chapter as a guide for those nutrients that could impact your own health. Each nutrient section discusses:
Watch for “nutrients to get less of” (the ones that you should try to limit), and “nutrients to get more of” (the ones that are very important to be sure to get enough of). You also might want to talk to your healthcare provider about which nutrients you should track closely for your continued health. And remember – the Nutrition Facts Label is a tool that is available to you on every packaged food and beverage!
Nutrients and your needs
On the following pages, you’ll find specific information about certain nutrients.
Some are nutrients to get less of;
others are nutrients to get more of.
All of them can have an impact on your long-term health.
In addition, here is an example of how the Nutrition Facts Label can guide you in making good decisions for long-term health and nutrition.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. today. You can use the Nutrition Facts Label to compare foods and decide which ones fit with a diet that may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Choose foods that have fewer calories per serving and a lower %DV of these “nutrients to get less of”
To lower your risk of heart disease, it is also recommended that you eat more fiber.
Dietary Salt/Sodium: Get less of
What It Is:
Salt is a crystal-like compound that is used to flavor and preserve food. The words “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably. Salt is listed as “sodium” on the Nutrition Facts Label.
What You Should Know:
A small amount of sodium is needed to help certain organs and fluids work properly. But most people eat too much of it – and they may not even know it! That’s because many packaged foods have a high amount of sodium, even when they don’t taste “salty.” Plus, when you add salt to food, you’re adding more sodium.
Sodium has been linked to high blood pressure. In fact, eating less sodium can often help lower blood pressure . . . which in turn can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
And since blood pressure normally rises with age, limiting your sodium intake becomes even more important each year.
Label Reading Tips: Salt/Sodium
Fiber: Get more of
What It Is:
Fiber, or “dietary fiber,” is sometimes called “roughage.” It’s the part of food that can’t be broken down during digestion. So because it moves through your digestive system “undigested,” it plays an important role in keeping your system moving and “in working order.”
What You Should Know:
Fiber is a “nutrient to get more of.” In addition to aiding in digestion, fiber has a number of other health-related benefits. These benefits are especially effective when you have a high fiber diet that is also low in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat, added sugars, salt, and alcohol.
Soluble v. Insoluble Fiber: Where To Get It, and What It Does
Fiber comes in two forms — insoluble and soluble. Most plant foods contain some of each kind.
Check the Nutrition Facts Label to see which foods have a higher %DV of fiber.
Label Reading Tips: Fiber
When comparing the amount of fiber in food, remember:
The label won’t indicate whether fiber is “insoluble” or “soluble,” so it’s best to try to get some of both. (See information on previous page)
Total Fat: Get less of
What It Is:
Fat, or “dietary fat,” is a nutrient that is a major source of energy for the body. It also helps you absorb certain important vitamins. As a food ingredient, fat provides taste, consistency, and helps you feel full.
What You Should Know:
Eating too much fat can lead to a wide range of health challenges. The total amount and type of fat can contribute to and/or increase the risk of:
It is important to know that there are different types of dietary fat.Some have health benefits when eaten in small quantities, but others do not.
“Good” Fat: unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated)
“Undesirable” Fat: saturated and trans fats. These can raise cholesterol levels in the blood – which in turn can contribute to heart disease.
Understanding Trans Fat
Trans fat is one of the newest additions to the Nutrition Facts Label, so you may be hearing more about it. Here’s what you need to know:
Trans Fat On the Label
There is no recommended total daily value for trans fat, so you won’t find the %DV of trans fat on a food’s Nutrition Facts Label. However, you can still use the label to see if a food contains trans fat and to compare two foods by checking to see if grams of trans fat are listed. If there is anything other than 0 grams listed, then the food contains trans fat. Because it is extremely difficult to eat a diet that is completely trans fat-free without decreasing other nutrient intakes, just aim to keep your intake of trans fat as low as possible.
Label Reading Tips: Total Fat
Cholesterol: Get less of
What It Is:
Cholesterol is a crystal-like substance carried through the bloodstream by lipoproteins – the “transporters” of fat. Cholesterol is required for certain important body functions, like digesting dietary fats, making hormones, and building cell walls.
Cholesterol is found in animal-based foods, like meats and dairy products.
What You Should Know:
Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can damage arteries, especially the ones that supply blood to the heart. It can build up in blood vessel linings. This is called atherosclerosis, and it can lead to heart attacks and stroke.
However, it’s important to know that not all cholesterol is bad. There are two kinds of cholesterol found in the bloodstream. How much you have of each is what determines your risk of heart disease.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL): This “good” cholesterol is the form in which cholesterol travels back to the liver, where it can be eliminated.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): This “bad” cholesterol is carried into the blood. It is the main cause of harmful fatty buildup in arteries.
Label Reading Tips: Cholesterol
Calcium: Get more of
What It Is:
Calcium is a mineral that has a lot of uses in the body, but it is best known for its role in building healthy bones and teeth.
What You Should Know:
Lack of calcium causes osteoporosis, which is the primary cause of hip fractures. In fact, the word “osteoporosis” means “porous bones.” It causes progressive bone loss as you age, and makes bones fragile – so that they can break easily. It’s extremely important (especially for women) to get enough calcium throughout your life, especially after menopause. Women are at much higher risk for osteoporosis, but men can get it too.
A Note About Vitamin D
For calcium to be properly absorbed by the body, you also need to get enough vitamin D. Many milk products and cereals are fortified with vitamin D; also, vitamin D is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight.
If you aren’t exposed to outdoor sunlight on a regular basis, ask your healthcare provider whether you should take vitamin D supplements.
It’s true that many dairy products, which contain high levels of calcium, are relatively high in fat and calories. But keep in mind that fat-free or low-fat types of milk products are excellent calcium sources. Nutritionists recommend that you try to get most of your calcium from calcium-rich foods, rather than from calcium supplements. The Nutrition Facts Label can help you make good high-calcium choices.
Other good sources of calcium are:
Label Reading : Tips Calcium
Glossary of Key Nutrition Label Terms
Calcium: a mineral that builds and maintains strong bones. Calcium helps prevent osteoporosis.
Calories: the energy provided by food/nutrients. On the label, calories shown are for one serving.
Calories from Fat: Fat calories shown on the label are for one serving.
Cholesterol: a necessary nutrient from animal-based foods that is carried in the bloodstream. LDL cholesterol is “bad” and HDL cholesterol is “good.”
Daily Value: the amount of certain nutrients that most people need each day.
Nutrient: an ingredient in a food that provides nourishment or nutritional benefit.
Nutrition Facts Label: the black-and-white box found on food and beverage packages.
Percent Daily Value (%DV): the percentage of a nutrient found in one serving of food, based on the established standard of 2000 calories per day.
Saturated Fat: a type of fat that is solid at room temperature. It is usually animal-based. This type of fat is associated with certain health risks.
Sodium: dietary salt that is important in the diet. However, too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure and risk of heart disease.
Total Fat: the combined fats that provide energy to the body. Some types of fat are healthier than others.
Trans Fat: a type of fat that is created when liquid fat is turned into solid fat during manufacturing. Trans fat has no daily value, and should be replaced with unsaturated fat in your diet whenever possible.
Unsaturated Fat: a type of fat that is liquid at room temperature; can be plant-based or animal-based. These are usually “good fats.” The web links provided in this booklet were current at time of publication. In the event that they change, please visit www.fda.gov and search by topic, such as “Seniors” or “Labelman.”