Food As Medicine: A Doctor’s Healthy Diet Tips for Seniors

The use of food as medicine is empowering and satisfying

Healthy eating is critical for seniors. Good diet habits can help the elderly better manage chronic diseases and improve health. Learn about Dr. Cheryl’s tips.

En Español | As a primary care physician for over 20 years I have always believed that how we nourish our physical bodies impacts our greater sense of well-being and overall health. That said, it wasn’t until four years ago, when I was motivated by my father’s recent diagnosis of acute leukemia, that I decided to drastically change the way that my family was eating. I became more passionate about cooking than ever before as I experimented and strove to make delicious, satisfying food that my family enjoyed. I began to see and feel the impact and was blown away. While we had not been feeling poorly on our previous, better than average diet, the shifts in how we felt on our new eating plan were quick and undeniable. Aches and pains started disappearing, skin became clear and glowing, bowel function improved, weight came off effortlessly, energy levels, mood and sleep all improved; it became clearer to me than ever that we really are what we eat.

With great enthusiasm I took this new found knowledge to the rooms in my clinic– sharing information with my senior patients in an effort to encourage them to embrace mindful eating over pills and procedures to manage arthritis discomfort, diabetes, high blood pressure and bowel complaints. I explained that there is no need to completely overhaul your diet overnight like we did. Rather, experiment with the following 5 ideas to kick-start your own transformation to better health by using the power of food:

  1. Drink 8-10 8 oz. glasses of water daily: Start your day by drinking 2 glasses of water first thing in the morning before you eat. Your system will more readily absorb the water. Adequate hydration to our cells makes them function optimally. Water combats fatigue, hunger and brain fog and improves the functioning of all of our organs, including our kidneys, colon and skin.
    Add citrus fruit slices or cucumbers to water for flavor or enjoy herbal, caffeine-free teas.
    Avoid sodas – they are loaded with chemicals that your body is unsure of how to process, provide no nutritional value and stimulate your appetite by causing fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
  2. Eat Breakfast: It really IS the most important meal of the day! Breakfast allows your body to start burning calories after fasting all night and will improve your metabolic rate. Here are some easy-to-make meal options for older adults:
    Green smoothies made from fruits and vegetables
    Oats or whole grain cereal with fruit and nuts
    Tofu or egg scramble with vegetables
    Beans, brown rice and vegetables in a bowl or a burrito
    Fish and vegetables
  3. Pay attention to the profile of your plate: No need for calorie counting!
    Fill 2/3 of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
    Fill 1/3 of your plate with a combination of whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa) and protein (beans, chicken).
  4. Stop eating when you are 80% full: Eat mindfully – really focus on your food fully and savor its taste, texture and smell…
    Put your fork down between bites.
    Eat at the table with friends and family.
    Avoid eating in front of a book, the TV or computer.
  5. Add foods that decrease inflammation: Inflammation can increase your risk for heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and joint discomfort.
    Limit your portions of animal proteins; the saturated fat increases inflammation.
    Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to decrease inflammation.
    Try adding more plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh, beans, lentils and nuts.
    Choose fresh whole foods that are nutrient dense over processed foods. Processed foods have added chemicals that generate inflammation because they are difficult for your body to process.

I continue to learn and understand that the use of food as medicine is empowering and satisfying. Small changes integrated into your life over time create new and lasting habits that can alter your current health trajectory. Ultimately, this path has the power to move one toward optimum health and away from the degeneration of our bodies that our culture has come to accept as the legacy of aging.

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