Nourishing the golden years
Thursday, January 11th, 2024
Nourishing the golden years: A guide to Pacific Asian foods for older adults
As the old saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Maintaining a healthy diet is important at any age, but as you get older, it becomes even more essential to take nutrition seriously. It should come as no surprise that older adults are more susceptible to health issues – mentally and physically. While your diet can’t eliminate the risk of those issues, it can certainly help.
Dietary needs change with age. It’s not uncommon for aging adults to lead more sedentary lives, and your body’s ability to absorb nutrients becomes less efficient. So, adopting a diet that meets your needs and tastes good should be a top priority to stay in good health.
A Pacific Asian diet can fit the bill. It’s full of flavourful and nutrient-rich foods that combat common health issues among ageing adults. While you don’t need to completely change your diet, introducing more foods associated with island culture can improve your well-being and ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need while still being able to enjoy what you eat.
What is a Pacific Asian diet?
Pacific Asian islanders tend to eat what is locally available to them. That includes plenty of fresh fruits, nuts, juices, and greens. Unlike a traditional American diet, Asian Pacific foods are typically low in saturated fats. They’re rarely processed, and they don’t focus on sweets.
When it comes to protein, this diet includes a lot of fish, which can benefit ageing adults in a multitude of ways. Some of the benefits of eating fish include:
- Better heart health;
- Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease;
- Reduced symptoms of depression;
- Improved vision health;
- Improved arthritis symptoms.
If you’ve ever heard of fish referred to as brain food, it’s because of the omega-3’s found in many varieties, including salmon. These healthy fats improve brain function and can help to support cell strength within the brain.
Long-lasting gut health
Your gut health is linked to a variety of other mental and physical health issues within the body. Gut issues can weaken your immune system, make you more susceptible to mental health struggles, and exacerbate the symptoms of autoimmune diseases.
Thankfully, many Pacific Asian foods are fermented, like radishes, bamboo shoots, and mustard greens. The fermentation process causes healthy bacteria to form that will improve your microbiome when ingested. You’ve probably heard of prebiotics and probiotics, and while you can certainly take supplements to help with gut health as you age, impacting your microbiome naturally through the foods you consume is the best way to maintain it.
Fighting back against common issues
Understanding some of the common health issues older adults face can help you determine how you should adjust your diet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some of the common conditions associated with ageing include:
- Hearing loss;
Obviously, your diet can’t completely prevent some of these issues. However, a diet low in processed foods and sugars can reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Eating foods for brain health can slow the progression of dementia. Foods rich in calcium can slow the severity of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease, in which the tissues in the joint break down over time.
It’s also not uncommon for older adults to struggle with iron deficiency and anemia. Some of the symptoms include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, cognitive decline, and even brittle nails or hair loss. Thankfully, many Pacific Asian foods have plenty of iron, including sesame seeds and fish.
Cooking and storing foods properly
Whether you want to completely transform your diet or simply introduce more Pacific Asian foods into your daily routine, it’s important to know how to prepare and store them the right way. Cooking can impact the nutrient content of certain foods. Many key vitamins are reduced during the cooking process, including vitamins C and B. It’s best to leave foods whole and raw whenever possible. Fresh fruits and nuts make quick and easy snacks you can enjoy just about anywhere without having to cook them.
How you prepare your dishes also has a direct impact on the nutritional value. Obviously, cooking foods in fat will not only make them less nutrient-dense but can defeat the purpose of a lean diet that’s low in saturated fats. Opt for grilling or broiling. If you have to saute or pan-fry something, consider using a healthy fat, such as olive oil.
Pacific Asian foods are known for their freshness. Creating a food storage shed and storing your food properly will help to ensure freshness as long as possible, so you can enjoy delicious ingredients and preserve nutritional value for days at a time. Make sure to label things properly, including the dates when they were prepared or purchased. For shelf-stable items like rice, store them in a dark and cool place. Canned goods are great for convenience, but make sure you’re organising them so the ones that expire first are in front.
If you haven’t given much thought to your diet in the past, it’s time to start focusing on it as you get older. No one knows what’s ahead when it comes to their physical or mental health, but it also can’t be denied that aging adults are more susceptible to certain issues. Not only can your diet improve your health and reduce your risk of certain ailments, but it can help you to feel better. Pacific Asian foods can give you a boost of energy, motivate you to be more active, and improve your cognitive health so you can enjoy your golden years while feeling your best.
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