The Importance of Maintaining a Healthful Diet

By Dr. Gerard Muraida

French author Anthelme Brillat-Savarinin wrote in his 1826 book Physiologie du Gout, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” Today, we tend to say, “You are what you eat.” In fact, the impact of food on health dates back to the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates. He and other ancient Roman and Greek physicians wrote about dietary interventions for health, including the importance of exercise and diet in relationship to obesity and diabetes.

Although nutritional science and medicine have evolved, one thing hasn’t changed: We are unable to generalize diets of any kind to large groups because so many of the scientific studies are of short duration, involve small groups of people, and rely on self-reported food intake.

Eating a healthful and balanced diet so your body gets the foods it needs is the basis of good nutrition. Within the food we consume are these nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water. The National Institute of Medicine says a nutritious diet may prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and some cancers.

Many factors may affect how one maintains a healthful diet. These include dining alone either due to loss of a partner or lack of family; inability to go food shopping; financial restrictions; inability to cook; loss of ability to chew due to poor dentition; and loss of smell/taste due to medications or disease.

Regardless of the hurdles a senior must overcome, the importance of appropriate nutritional intake cannot be ignored. Eating a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables is key. The more colorful the fruits and veggies, the better. Seasonal variation may dictate what is fresh, but frozen options are plentiful and beneficial as well. Healthy fats include avocados, peanut butter or nut butter, chia seeds, and dark chocolate. Other good sources of fat include tuna, salmon, trout, olives, and flaxseed.

While there is no “anti-cancer” diet, the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic suggest that eating a diet with less red meat and more vegetables and fruits may lower your risk of colon cancer. The American Heart Association’s journal Circulation has reported that plant-based diets such as the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes healthy fats, seafood, and vegetables,  and the DASH-style diet, which limits salt, are strongly aligned with heart-healthy dietary guidelines due to their focus on pescetarian and vegetarian eating patterns

If you are in need of financial assistance for food, or can’t shop or prepare your meals, please seek your nearest food bank or church group or contact local nonprofit Silver Horizons at 505-884-3881. Its Free Groceries for Seniors program helps keep nutritious foods available to low-income seniors who must make the choice between buying groceries, paying their utility bills, paying for necessary medications, or covering other life expenses. Your primary care provider is also a good resource.

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