Health Matters

Wellbeing: food and nutrition

We all need a nutritional diet whatever our age. We are what we eat and therefore it is important to eat for health. Food is essential to life as without food we perish. Yet, it is not enough to eat any food. We need food that will give our bodies the nutrition it needs for good health. Eating nutritional food will then give us the energy we need to live a good life.

Without proper nutrition in our food our bodies will not be able supply our energy needs or repair our body. If I want my body to operate well then I have to be mindful of what I am feeding my body. Food might look tantalising and taste wonderful but is it good for me? Too much sugar or salt will make food tasty but it might not be what the body needs.

Food and nutrition for life stages

Food and nutritional needs of the human body changes throughout our life stages. Baby food is good for babies. But for growing children and teenagers they need a different diet. The same goes for professional athlete’s. They have higher needs for energy and protein. Therefore their diet is central to success in their chosen sport. If nutritional needs are not well balanced then the body cannot perform at its peak. It is the same with any life stage. If we do not get adequate nutrition from our food then our body will suffer.

We need nutritious food for our wellbeing. More of this type of food with plenty of greens.

Food and nutrition as we age

It is just as important for older people to have a nutritional diet as it is for athlete’s, but for different reasons. Older people tend to eat less. If older people do not have a nutritional diet then they can become malnourished. That is what happened to my mother before she went into aged care. She was eating less, some of her favourite food, including mars bars, but it was not giving her a nutritional diet. It was a gradual decline before family noticed and by then she had lost around 6 kilos.

Nutrient dense vs energy dense foods

At my stage of life I am concentrating on consuming nutrient dense foods more so than energy dense foods. Nutrient dense foods include salmon, shellfish, lean meats and poultry, legumes, vegetables, eggs, nuts and low fat dairy. Nutrient dense foods keep us healthy as we age and helps us keep within a healthy weight range. If you are like me and want to include more nutrient dense foods in your diet, read more from Dr Josh Axe about nutrient dense foods and their benefits.

Energy dense foods are usually starchy and full of sugar. Such foods provide energy but little nutrition. Energy dense foods include thick sauces, French fries, biscuits, crackers, butter and cheese. If energy dense foods are over-consumed this can result in weigh gain. Therefore, to lose weight it pays to be mindful of consuming less energy dense foods. If you want more information on energy dense foods, click here.

Creating an appetite for life as we age

A National Congress on food, nutrition, and the dining experience in aged care was held in Sydney on 18, 19 February 2021. Local and international experts participated in discussions on food, nutrition and wellbeing outcomes for older Australians. Following this the Maggie Beer Foundation delivered a comprehensive report to the Australian Department of Health on the findings from the Congress.

I am still to get hold of a copy of the report. However, it highlights nine key topic areas, 56 findings and proposes 139 action points that align with the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety report.

Maggie Beer said ‘We know the role of food in aged care is currently undervalued. Focusing on food and appetite and, in doing so, good nutrition, stimulates the senses, supports health and wellbeing, provides pleasure, conveys respect and care and acts as a facilitator for social interaction.’ Further, highlighting the need for improved nutrition for older people in aged care Maggie said ‘It is at the heart of quality of life, and it is an urgent issue.’

To create an appetite for life as we age we must have an adequate diet. We need good nutritious food to feel well and to give us a sense of wellbeing.

Then even when we do not feel like it, if we exercise it will give us an appetite for life. There are countless benefits for us when we exercise. The first one is that exercise encourages an appetite. Exercise also keeps our weight under control. For exercise all we need to do is go for a walk. A few hills will get give us a cardio workout. Further, walking is a cost-free exercise. Walking gets us outside and into the fresh air and sunshine. I always feel good walking in autumn weather in the sunshine. The bonus is it boosts my vitamin D. Exercise combined with a nutritious diet gives me an appetite for life. I hope it does the same for you!

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