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Nutrition And Aging

Usha Vakil

A grant from Community Health Network Area (CHNA) 15 supported this fifth series of FISCO event.

The Friends of Indian Senior Citizens Organization (FISCO) of Burlington MA held its fifth seminar “Nutrition and Aging” on February 15 at the Burlington Council of Aging. This presentation was designed to make seniors better understand the importance of Nutrition to promote healthy Aging.

Catherine York, MPH, RD, LDN, from Minuteman presented information on general nutrition while Stuti Purohit, MS, RD, LDN, CNSC, spoke about nutrition in the Indian diet. Both speakers were engaging followed by stimulating interaction with the 42 seniors present in person and via zoom.

The presentation opened with the ‘big 3” macronutrients which are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. They explained that carbohydrates provide food for the body and especially the brain. Our daily calorie intake of 45-65% comes from carbohydrates. Healthy food sources in Indian diet are whole grain which includes whole wheat flour, rice, bajra, Jowar, Ragi, Quinoa etc. Fruits and starchy vegetable are comprised of  potatoes, yams , pumpkins etc. are also part of the carbohydrate. The speakers cautioned that we should use a few carbohydrates sparingly like fruit juices, dried fruits (especially for diabetics),  and desserts.

Proteins, another important ingredient of the diet, provides structure to organ muscles, hair, skin, and nails and helps regulate metabolism. Beans and lentils  provide protein in Indian diet, as do dairy products which include milk, dahl and paneer, and  cashew, walnuts, almonds, and peanuts. Other protein sources include tofu, soy milk, eggs, and meat. Stuti especially talked about how to eat complete protein with explicit examples to combine rice/dal, khichadi,  dosa/ idle with sambhar, and roti/ with beans. Other recommendations were to mix flours like soy/ chana flour (besan) to wheat flour/ rice flour, incorporate nuts to breakfast items like peanuts to poha, cashews  to upma,  peanut butter and nut butter on bread.

Under macronutrients, fats provide an energy reserve for the body and insulation for organs. The speakers identified the list of healthy fats. They recommended that for cooking oils we can use olive , peanut, canola, sesame, and safflower but cautioned against frying in olive oil. Healthy fats include nuts, seeds,  avocado and nut butter. Stuti also laid out the list of fats that should be used sparingly  like saturated fats, butter, ghee  and tropical oils (coconuts and palm oil) along with commercially baked pastries, cookies, donuts, muffins, cakes.

Catherine and Stuti explained that sodium helps regulate the water balance and stimulates the nerves in the body. However, sodium intake must be monitored to avoid high blood pressure. Iron is another important nutrient to form blood cells and transport oxygen throughout the body. Iron can be found in whole grains, lentils nuts ,dried fruits, and animal sources. The  water makes up 60% of the human adult  body and present in our blood, tissues, and organs. Water intake per day depend on the person and their activity level. It is important to aim for 8-8oz glasses of water a day.

Stuti outlined a daily balanced diet of  whole grains,  cooked rice, dahl, eggs, fruits, vegetables, dairy, fish, chicken  and red meat in moderation. Catherine and Stuti talked about Aging health challenges. As we age, the calorie needs decrease and protein intake becomes important to preserve muscle. However, needs of vitamins and minerals  stay the same or increase.

To control the impaired blood glucose due to aging,  we must eat small and frequent meals, avoid food high in simple sugar like desserts, juices, and dry fruits (cranberries , apricot , figs, and raisins). Stuti recommended that a personalized diet plan can beneficial.

Another age-related concern is the digestive tract  with problems of constipation and can be improved with fiber in diet and eight cups of fluids per day, use of whole grain, increase intake of green leafy vegetables, fruits, and vegetables with skin.

Bone related and joints is a common ailment of aging. To prevent osteoporosis, intake of calcium and Vitamin D along with milk, milk products and green leafy vegetable, is helpful.

One interesting take away for quick food measurements tip: fist = 1 cup, palm or deck of cards = 3 oz, thumb tip =  1tsp, handful = 1-2 oz snack  food, thumb = 1 oz.

The ‘balanced meal and what and what not to eat’ struck a chord with the seniors who found it informative. Good nutrition is about having a well-rounded diet, and it is much easier to do than you may think. Living a nutritious lifestyle can be both easy and fun during aging.

After the seminar, Minuteman Senior Services and Zaika Restaurant of Woburn supplied hot vegetarian balanced meal.

Friends of Indian Senior Citizens is actively engaged in improving the mental health, nutrition, and good physical health of Asian Indian seniors. We invite you to visit thefisco.org for information about our programs. The next seminar, “Caregiver: Support, Challenges and Resources ’  is scheduled for Tuesday March 8th from 10:30 – 11:30 AM at the Burlington Senior Center on Zoom. Nava Vin-Vogel from Belmont Council of Aging and Hilary Viola and Melissa Pucci from Minuteman will present it. A free hot Indian vegetarian lunch will be served.

Please also join the seniors vegetarian lunch program held on Wednesday and make new friends and re-connect with old ones. Write to Raman Gandhi, President of FISCO for more information and to join FISCO: ram2005gandhi@yahoo.com or thefisco@gmail.com.

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