Eating healthy and having a nutritious diet is important for people of all ages, especially since malnutrition leads to a weaker immune system and higher susceptibility to disease.
This is why every July is declared as Nutrition Month by the Department of Health to raise awareness on the importance of a balanced diet and adequate meal portions.
One group in particular at risk of malnutrition is the elderly because they lose their appetite or sense of taste or smell through old age or illness, in spite of the fact they need a nutritious diet the most.
Many senior citizens experienced aches, pains, and illnesses that can be prevented with a healthy diet. With that, here are some often overlooked but essential nutrients needed to live a happy and comfortable life in your golden years.
Benefits: Stronger immune system, stronger bones, helps with weight loss
Found in: Natural sunlight, egg yolks, seafood
Medical tests needed: Vitamin D test
Recently, Vitamin D has garnered a lot of attention for showing potential in helping patients fight off a severe COVID-19 infection. While researchers say it is too early to tell, Vitamin D is a proven immunity booster that has lowered the risk of respiratory tract infections similar to COVID. Other diseases Vitamin D can prevent include multiple sclerosis, bone deformities, heart disease, and cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries, esophagus, and lymphatic system. There is even research to suggest Vitamin D can help people struggling with depression.
Vitamin D also helps the body process calcium, which is essential for the body to build strong bones. Scientists recommend daily exposure of about 15-30 minutes, a bit longer for those with darker complexion. Foods rich in Vitamin D include egg yolk and seafood like shrimp, salmon, and sardines.
Benefits: Stronger bones, better blood circulation and muscle movement
Found in: Dairy, sardines, dark leafy vegetables
Medical tests needed: Bone density scan, Calcium test
We normally associate calcium with drinks like milk and the promise of getting taller. For seniors, calcium is essential to lessen the risk of bone fracture when falling down. It can also help improve blood circulation, which allows your heart, nerves, and muscles to function properly. Low calcium levels also lead to low bone mass, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis.
One good way to know if you have a healthy amount of calcium is by taking a bone density screening test, which also detects your risk of osteoporosis and broken bones. Milk and other dairy like cheese are familiar sources of calcium, but lactose-intolerant people can find good sources of calcium in sardines and dark leafy vegetables like malunggay leaves, saluyot, alugbati and mustasa. There are also plenty of bread and soy products in the market which are calcium-fortified.
Benefits: Prevents anemia, helps with carrying oxygen in the blood
Found in: Shellfish, Spinach, nuts, red meat, liver
Medical tests needed: Iron test, ferritin, total iron-binding capacity
Iron is found in all of the body’s cells with its primary task being to help transport oxygen throughout the body. When the body has too little iron, it is a sign of or can lead to anemia, a disease which causes fatigue or tiredness, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Many senior citizens take iron supplements to prevent this, but too much iron can lead to constipation, stomach pain, and in extreme cases, iron poisoning.
Iron deficiency is usually a sign of anemia or malnutrition, that is why there are numerous tests available to monitor one’s iron levels. While the standard iron test measures iron levels, the ferritin test measures the specific protein named ferritin which stores iron in your cells. A total iron-binding capacity (TIBC) test, on the other hand, gauges whether there is too much or too little iron in your bloodstream.
Benefits: Reduces high blood pressure and risk of kidney stones, maintains bone strength, helps with digestion
Found in: Fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains
Medical tests needed: Potassium test
Potassium is another nutrient that provides a variety of benefits to the human body. It helps moderate high blood pressure, prevents muscle contractions, helps with digestion and lessens the risk of kidney stones. Too little potassium will lead to joint pain, nausea, or muscle cramps while an excess in potassium may lead to heart attack.
One fruit that is commonly associated with potassium is bananas, but the truth is potassium is abundant in most fruits and vegetables. And given that the body naturally gets rid of excess potassium through urine, taking a potassium test is less about unhealthy dietary habits than it is to detect other diseases like diarrhea that may be triggering the potassium imbalance.
Benefits: Strengthens immune system and heart, improves sleep, helps in exercise
Found in: Dark leafy greens, nuts, whole grains
Medical tests needed: Magnesium test
Magnesium helps people move blood sugar into their muscles; as a result, it helps with overall movement. In fact, one study found that volleyball players with a daily intake of 250 mg experienced improvements in jumping and arm movements. On top of this, studies have also found potential in magnesium with sleep and in lessening depression.
Magnesium deficiency has been associated with higher levels of stress, anxiety, and difficulty relaxing, so one way to offset this is by eating lots of dark leafy vegetables like kangkong and malunggay, as well as nuts and fresh fruits. This is especially important with those who are taking diuretics, a specific kind of drug which lessens magnesium absorption.
You are what you eat
No matter our age or our lifestyle, there is power in the food we eat. While vitamins and supplements with the supervision of a doctor do help, it is best to obtain the right nutrients by eating real unprocessed foods. It is also important to note that medication may affect one’s appetite or ability to digest certain nutrients, so this must always be taken into consideration.
Having the right nutrients is vital for a healthy body and immune system, and Hi-Precision Diagnostics Cebu has all the tests you need to monitor your body. Regular and early testing for these minerals can be used to monitor your current health or to potentially detect diseases for early and effective treatment.
To know more, visit their Facebook page or contact them through the following channels: Landline- 888 2222, Cellphone/Viber- 0917 770 3638