Health news is full of strategies for optimum health during our golden years. Word puzzles and other “brain exercises” keep gray matter sharp, improve memory, and ward off age-related dementia. Nutrients like lutein maintain eye health, preventing macular degeneration and cataracts. Omega-3 fatty acids keep the cardiovascular system operating as it should and help blood sugar levels stay regular. Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass and thus averting drops in energy levels and balance problems (reducing the likelihood of falls and their often devastating consequences). The list goes on.
The Unsung Hero of Healthy Aging
However, there is one staple that is often overlooked as a necessary part of a baby boomer’s diet: fiber. There are two kinds. Soluble fiber soaks up water, forming a gel. It reduces the rate of digestion and keeps hearts healthy by maintaining low cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber, in contrast, revs up the movement of food through the digestive system and makes stools firmer. The importance of both types of this component is recognized in the general population for its digestive, cardiovascular, blood sugar regulation, and weight-loss benefits. Yet, for the elderly, maintaining normal bodily function is even more vital for warding off disease.
As people grow older, their digestive tracts do not perform as well. The intestines are less efficient at absorbing nutrients and become more sluggish. Dietary fiber, because it both adds bulk to the stool and makes it softer, keeps things regular. Loose bowel movements are firmed up because soluble fiber soaks up excess water. A diet rich in fiber also has the potential to ward off hemorrhoid development and prevent and provide relief from disorders of the colon, including diverticulitis and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
Metabolism slows as people age; fewer calories are needed to maintain weight. As a result, seniors tend to put on pounds. Unfortunately, much of this body fat is the dangerous “belly fat” that increases the risk of cardiovascular problems. Studies show that high-fiber diets result in significant reductions in the likelihood of both heart disease and stroke. One research project discovered that the more fiber a person consumes, the greater the protection from the latter malady.
Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Soluble fiber, in particular, reduces the rate of sugar’s absorption into the bloodstream. There is an added benefit to proper blood glucose levels: gallstones and kidney stones are less likely to develop. And, since more fiber in the diet increases a feeling of fullness, there is less of a tendency to overeat and indulge in sweets that can send blood sugar through the ceiling.
There are many fiber supplements on the market, but the best way to add this vital substance to the diet is through food.
Sources of soluble fiber include:
• Beans, seeds, and lentils
• oat bran and barley
• nuts and seeds
• fruits including raspberries, mangoes, guava, persimmons, bananas, strawberries, apples, and oranges
• vegetables like potatoes and those with a dark hue
Foods high in insoluble fiber include:
• sweet potatoes
• green peas
• Brussels sprouts
• whole grains
• wheat bran
Elderly folks and those who care for them, whether family members or professional caregivers from a company like Salus Homecare, should make sure that these delicious and nutritious foodstuffs are a part of the daily diet. The benefits of enjoying this wide variety of eats go beyond culinary pleasure. A high-fiber diet is a guarantee of greater health, vitality, and energy as people enter their golden years.