Dietary Advice for Getting Older

As you get into your later years, your digestion seems to slow down and some foods become hard to digest. Meat, for example, can seem too rich and alternative sources of protein like fish or seaweed should be tried as they are easier to digest. For the very weak, food supplements like slippery elm foods are nutritious, fortified, easily digestible powders usually taken as a porridge, in yoghurt or as a milk shake. 

Some older people have a poor appetite. Herbal bitters taken half an hour before a meal can stimulate the flow of gastric juices and bile and perk the appetite up. Aperitif bitters usually contain bitter gentian root, often combined with other herbs that aid digestion. 

The basics: Plenty of
1. fruit (especially berries) and vegetables (especially raw)
2. seeds, nuts and grains
3. fish and chicken as proteins
4. wholegrain carbs (brown rice)
5. healthy fats e.g. olive oil. 

Keep your food colourful. If, as well as green, there are a lot of red, orange, blue, or purple colours on your plate (ketchup doesn't count!) then you are getting a good balance of nutrients like antioxidants and proanthrocyanins which help to protect your cells against the effects fo ageing. Also try to eat a lot of your vegetables raw or just very lightly cooked. Raw broccoli spears, for example, release a protective enzyme when chewed that you don't get once it has been boiled. You can also make vegetable or fruit smoothies to get a lot of raw nutrients into you and spice them up with ginger and lemon or honey to taste.

What you avoid is also a major consideration. The obvious are smoking and alcohol. By the time we have lived through a few decades, food intolerances have often developed. Giving up wheat, for example, can revolutionise how you feel, especially if you have been feeling bloated, sluggish and constipated. Giving up dairy and red wine (it’s the sulphites) can eliminate catarrh and blocked sinuses. 

Our bodies were designed for the diet of our Stone Age ancestors and have not really adapted to modern supermarkets! A Stone Age relative would have eaten mainly green leaves, fruit, seeds, nuts. They would have been constantly on the move, gently active throughout the day and their diet would have changed frequently with location and season. So no one food was eaten constantly everyday in the way we consume bread or milk daily. Occasionally we would have foraged for shellfish, river fish, bird or small mammals – a red meat feast was a rarity. We never stayed in one place long enough to farm potatoes, wheat, pasta, or process cheeses and alcohol. So basically if you have a predominantly vegetarian diet and treat everything that was not naturally available as an occasional treat, you’re on the right track. 

Food as medicine is also a really important subject. A lot of the ailments that start to afflict us can be dealt with through diet in the early stages, before (and often preventing them) from developing into illnesses where we need medication.

Milk and low blood pressure

Interestingly, although the consumption of too much milk can trigger catarrh and allergies in some people, nevertheless, low-fat milk has an important role in preventing high blood pressure. Milk protein contains antihypertensive peptides. A nine years’ follow-up study of 6,912 white, nonhypertensive men and women showed that people who consumed three or more servings of low-fat milk per day had lower increase of blood pressure, compared to those consuming less than one serving per week. (Jakala and Vapaatalo, 2010)

Click here for more foods to lower high blood pressure. 

Foods that aggravate arthritis

Avoid eating oranges, grapefruit, plums, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb, coffee and shellfish. These foods are acid forming and can make arthritic problems worse. However, non-acidic fruit such as cherries are good. Cherries (or cherry juice) taken regularly reduce gout attacks.

Also tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and other members of the Solanceae family can aggravate arthritis in some people. Click here for more about diet and arthritis.