As we all know nutrition plays a pivotal role in our lives – adequate nutrition is important for proper functioning of the brain, heart, muscles, bones, skin, immune system and digestive system. Consuming a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water is very important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A balanced diet includes fruit, vegetables, whole grains and protein to get the most nutritional benefit. We also want to make sure that food is our primary source of nutrients whenever possible since this tends to be a good source for multiple nutrients.
When it comes to drinking water, something important to realize is that by the time we feel thirsty we are already dehydrated so we want to be sipping on water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Water should be our drink of choice and we should reduce the consumption of sugary/caffeinated beverages. In addition to sipping on water throughout the day, we can consume fruits and vegetables with a higher water content such as melons, strawberries, peaches, cucumbers, lettuce, etc. A good rule of thumb is to have 1 cup of water for every 20 pounds you weigh each day. For example, someone who weighs 100 pounds should consume 5 cups, whereas someone who weighs 200 pounds should consume 10 cups each day.
As we age it can be more difficult to get proper nutrition. So much so that approximately 30 percent of older adults living at home suffer from malnutrition. This could be because our food appeal changes as we age, it may be too time-consuming or costly to grocery shop or cook, or cooking for one may be challenging. As such, we may be more likely to go with convenient meals that take less time but the caveat is that they can often be less nutritious. This, along with the fact that poor nutrition and dehydration can also lead to symptoms that can increase our fall risk, is why it is so important to maintain proper nutrition at any age. Poor nutrition can lead to dizziness, fatigue, and reduced physical activity which can all increase the chances of a fall.
In order to help ensure we are getting enough vitamins and nutrients from our diets, here are a few things to remember when it comes to grocery shopping. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season and locally grown. We also want to be choosing whole grain or whole wheat options when it comes to crackers, pitas, bread and pasta as these contain healthier fats, vitamins, minerals and fiber than white bread. If purchasing red meat, opt for the leanest cuts with very little marbling and try to substitute ground beef for ground turkey or chicken. Consuming seafood is also beneficial.
Lastly, we want to make sure we are reading food labels! We want to be checking how much sodium and sugar these foods contain. An important thing to remember is that ingredients are listed in descending order in terms of weight so if something is listed towards the top of the ingredients list that means it contains a lot of it. We also want to look at the serving size and compare it with how much we plan on eating. For example, the product may have 280 milligrams of sodium in one serving, but if you plan on having 2 servings worth, you will also be consuming double the amount of sodium – which ends up being almost 25 percent of our maximum daily requirement of sodium!
Nutrition plays a vital role when it comes to our health – and our risk of falling is no exception. In order to reduce this risk, sip on water throughout the day – don’t wait until you feel thirsty, opt for whole foods (and whole grain foods) rather than reaching for the supplements first, and speak to your healthcare provider prior to starting any new supplements as it can be dangerous to over-consume vitamins and minerals. Lastly be aware of what is in the foods we eat, especially sugar and sodium. Fruits and vegetables offer fiber that slows the digestion of sugar as opposed to processed sweets which can have a larger affect our blood sugar levels. When it comes to processed foods in general, the majority of the sodium we consume is coming from these, not from the salt shaker so be careful not to over-consume these foods.