Nutrition + Wellness

By on Aug 9, 2018 in News

When it comes to the discussion of seniors’ mental wellness, we are often directed to the latest medicines and advances in technology. To help many seniors prevent and mitigate illness, we need to look no farther than their plates. 

Mental Wellness Starts from Within

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky led a team of researchers on a quest to understand just how much of our happiness lies within our control. Based on their research, the team proposed the 50-10-40 formula: “approximately 50 percent of variance in happiness is determined by genes, and 10% of variance in happiness is determined by circumstances.”

That leaves the remaining 40 percent of our happiness to be determined by our actions. We may immediately think of how we handle stressors as a factor of joy, but one of our most important actions is how we nourish our bodies.

Feel-good hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine, are produced in the gut. When we consume inflammatory foods—which for many include dairy, sugars, processed grain, and alcohol–we interrupt the natural balance of the gut. The probiotics, or good bacteria and yeasts, cannot operate optimally. Bad bacteria, yeasts, and parasites thrive, adversely affecting the production of feel-good hormones.

The results can cause or aggravate several ailments that affect seniors including fatigue, anxiety, and depression, as well as digestive issues, respiratory problems, several autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and more.

In addition to a hormone imbalance, poor nutrition can weaken our immune system. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is responsible for antibody production. When the GI tract experiences inflammation and imbalance, protective antibodies are not produced adequately. We are more susceptible to infection and illness.

When we are sick, our social interactions suffer as well as our ability to exercise and maintain high spirits.

Food: Tried and True Medicine

When it comes to nutrition, we know the basics whether we abide by them or not: eat whole foods and drink plenty of water. Those basic guidelines alone are enough to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of millions of seniors.

Unfortunately, simple carbs, sugars, and other refined and processed foods make up 63 percent of America’s calorie intake. Only about 6 percent of our calorie intake comes from whole foods. This standard American diet (SAD) does not promote mental or physical wellbeing. We see the culmination of these poor food choices in seniors, manifesting in illness and dysfunction throughout the body.

But it’s not too late! Changes in diet can benefit seniors, promoting improved health throughout the golden years.

The following foods fight inflammation while promoting gut health. They are rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and minerals:

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Celery
  • Broccoli
  • Pineapple
  • Bone broth
  • Chia and Flax seeds
  • Turmeric
  • Ginger

Seniors’ diets should also be rich in foods that improve brain function. These foods fight inflammation and contain antioxidants, vitamins (especially B vitamins), minerals, and good fats that protect the brain from diseases.

The following foods are known to boost brain health:

  • Avocados
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Coconut and olive oils
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Eggs
  • Low-mercury, fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and trout
  • Walnuts

Improvements in seniors’ diets can prevent the onset of many illnesses by promoting stable hormone production and a stronger immune system. The improvements can also help treatments, such as physical therapy, work more effectively by reducing fatigue and inflammation.