Seniors Fight Depression Naturally With Diet and Nutrition (Part 2)
Having discussed the importance of exercise and a good night’s sleep in the battle against depression among seniors, I’ll conclude this series by taking a look at the closely related matter of diet and nutrition.
The timeless wisdom, “We are what we eat,” is as valid as ever -- especially for seniors. The nutrients we take in when we eat are essential to our body’s functioning, with each playing a unique and critical role.
Lack of vitamin B linked to depression
A number of nutrients, such as Omega 3 fatty acids found often in fish and nuts, are essential for a healthy brain and stable, positive moods. Similarly, a lack of the B vitamins found in foods such as meat, fish, poultry, potatoes and whole grains has been linked to depression. And an overall balanced, healthful diet rich in colorful fruits, leafy green vegetables, meat, fish, carbohydrates and nuts goes a long way toward promoting both physical and mental well-being.
Yet physical changes related to the aging process can make some foods less palatable, which in turn can lead to a change in eating habits among seniors that doesn’t support proper nutritional balance. For example, aging taste buds become especially receptive to bitter flavors, causing seniors to perceive foods as having a strong bitter taste -- or little taste at all. In response, they unwittingly begin eating more sugary foods.
Many seniors also find it difficult to cook, due to either physical limitations, the lack of company to share meals with, or both. This makes them more inclined to seek frozen, processed meals poor in nutrients.
Luckily, there are many simple steps seniors and their caregivers can take to improve nutrition in a way that supports positive moods. These include:
- Share meals with others as often as possible and incorporate familiar rituals such as saying grace or using a favourite set of dishes to help make the meal experience more enjoyable despite the blander tastes of healthy foods.
- Make a point of including a rainbow of colors on the plate at every meal: Red tomatoes, pale yellow fish or chicken, dark green broccoli or kale, white potatoes and brown whole grains.
- Prepare hearty pots of soup or stew that can be readily available throughout the week, making it easy to reach for a serving of a nutritious dish.
- Stay hydrated with at least 8 glasses of water a day. Dehydration can cause discomfort and downbeat moods.
- Use extreme moderation when drinking beverages containing alcohol and caffeine. Both can deplete nutrients and negatively affect mental well-being.
Especially when taken hand-in-hand with social engagement, exercise and sleep, ensuring proper nutrition is an empowering way to help seniors overcome depression and rediscover a satisfying quality of life.
By Kelley Richard
Kelley Richard is a Care Manager for LivHOME in Houston. A Licensed Master Social Worker, she has also served as crisis counselor and program therapist at Houston’s Intra Care Hospital and as a clinical social worker at the Houston Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority. Richard holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Texas at Austin and earned her master’s degree in social work from the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work.
LivHOME (www.livhome.com) is one of the nation’s largest providers of professionally-led, in-home care for seniors.
* Third in a three-part series on steps seniors and their caregivers can take to combat depression
Have you discovered certain foods that help you fight downbeat moods? Share your experience and tips in the Comments section below.