Nutrition For The Elderly: Healthy Fats
When growing older, it is very common to start to lose our natural cravings for food. Of course, there are situations when this can be caused by an illness, serious or otherwise, and if a change in appetite appears to be very sudden and severe, then medical attention should be sought. However, most of the time, it’s just something that comes with age.
There’s plenty of reasons for this. First and foremost, we simply aren’t likely to move around as much as we used to. Naturally, you’ll be a little hungrier come dinner time if you’ve been running around all day compared to if you live a fairly sedentary lifestyle.
There’s also the fact that our metabolism simply slows down with age. Many of us could eat whatever we wanted when we were younger and never seem to gain a pound. Unfortunately for everyone but perhaps a very lucky few, this stops being the case as we get older. Other factors also include a decreasing sense of taste and smell, meaning that food can just not seem as appealing as it once did for purely sensory reasons.
However, none of these things need to be a cause for concern. After all, if you’re exercising less and have a slower metabolism, eating the same way as you did in your 20s would probably leave you overweight. Nonetheless, this does mean that we have less calories in order to get all the nutritional value we need to live happy and healthy lives.
This is where healthy fats come in. But first off, let’s explain exactly what we mean by healthy fats.
Fat in general used to be a very dirty word when it came to nutrition. Dietary advice has changed a lot over the last 50 years though, and it's now believed that the right amount of the right types of fats can improve a person’s overall health. However, this doesn’t mean we can tuck into that chocolate cake just yet because not all fats are created equal.
Healthy Vs Unhealthy Fats
The healthiest types of fats are mono-unsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and Omega 3 fatty acids. The health benefits of these fats include reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and help with inflammation and building cell membranes. The latter type of fat (omega 3) even has research which suggests it may aid in the prevention of dementia. Basically, they’re the good stuff.
On top of the benefits of these healthy fats provide, they also have distinct benefits for elderly people suffering from a loss of appetite. This is because they are high calorie and high nutrient. This means that a person with a lower appetite will find it easier to get the calories and nutrition that they need by incorporating more of these fats into their diet.
Unhealthy fats, on the other hand, have none of these health benefits. Trans fats are considered the worst of all the fats, with them even being banned in many parts of the world. Less dangerous but still good to consume in moderation are saturated fats.
What Food as Considered a Healthy Fat?
Nuts: Walnuts, pistachios and almonds are all great examples of nuts with high levels of healthy fat, as well as vitamin E. You can also get your healthy daily nut dosage through nut butters, with seed butters being a great replacement too.
Avocados: They might be a bit of a culinary fad at the moment but avocados pack a big healthy punch. They are high in fibre and monounsaturated fat.
Olive oil: An easy way to get more healthy fats in your life is through cooking with olive oil as opposed to less healthy alternatives, with a mere teaspoon filled to the brim with the good stuff.
Ground flaxseed: You may be a little taken aback when you learn that this little seed has an eye-watering 48 grams of fat per cup. But don’t worry, it’s all unsaturated and is a terrific way of getting healthy fats into your diet with just a sprinkle or two.
Oily fish: Salmon, mackerel, trout: all these oily fishes are great sources of that all important dose of Omega 3. In fact, they’re so healthy that the American Heart Association recommend we all have two portion of oily fish a week.
Other examples include dark chocolate, edamame, sunflower seeds and more.
Healthy Fats: Quick Recipe Idea
So, we’ve taken a look at which foods contain healthy fats, but how about a recipe to get us started? Here’s a great example that shows just how easy it is to get more healthy fats into your diet.
Pan Fried Salmon with New Potatoes and Vegetables
Image source: Ján Sokoly
2 x 120g salmon fillets
300g new potatoes
100g green beans
Clean the vegetables and the potatoes, and trim the veggies if necessary.
Fill a pan with water and bring to the boil. Add a pinch of salt and put the potatoes on for 15 minutes. Add the vegetables after 10 minutes, giving them 5 minutes to boil.
Heat a non-stick pan at a medium temperature.
Rub the salmon with olive oil, then salt and pepper. Use the olive oil first so the other ingredients stick.
Cook the salmon skin side down for four minutes and turn over for another 3 minutes approximately, depending on the thickness of the fillet.
Once boiled for the appropriate amount of time, take the pan with the vegetables and potatoes off the boil and drain. Plate immediately.
Once cooked, take the salmon off the heat. Use a spatula to move the salmon onto a plate and squeeze half a lemon over each fillet.
This recipe has two sources of health fats, as well as plenty of vitamins and some carbs for good measure. It’s a robust meal, which is healthy while providing ample calories without being heavy.
Hint: It also goes great with pesto, either jarred or homemade. Not only that, but pesto also utilises olive oil and pine nuts: both of which are great sources of healthy fats.