While most people associate dietary fiber with bowel function and digestive health, this plant-derived carbohydrate can actually do much more for the human body, in particular the elderly. Besides robust gut health, fiber can be a tremendous boost for the elderly who have concerns with cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, constipation, and weight.
Our metabolism slows down as we age, combined with reduced physical activity and muscle mass, our appetite tends to be smaller later in life. Thus, despite eating less, it is important that the elderly’s diet is protein-rich, low in calories, and contains enough fibers.
What Is Fiber?
Fiber, otherwise known as roughage, is the fibrous part of plant-based foods that cannot be entirely broken down by the human digestive enzymes. It traverses the body undigested, flushing harmful carcinogens and cholesterol along the way and easing bowel movements.
Fiber is classified into two important varieties. Insoluble fiber is the bulk that does not dissolve in water and helps to combat constipation. On the other hand, soluble fiber is water-dissolvable. It helps to control cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
While many aliments contain both insoluble and soluble fiber, highly processed foods such as white bread, white rice, and white sugar have their original fiber content stripped off. This is why natural and fresh produce are the best ingredients in the elderly’s diet.
Some good sources of insoluble fibers are wheat bran, nuts, whole-wheat flour, green beans, potatoes, and cauliflower. Lentils, peas, barley, apples, and oatmeal are some soluble fiber-rich foods.
Why Is a Fiber-Rich Diet Beneficial?
A high nutritional diet is vital for you or your loved one’s health and a quality retirement life. Fiber can make a difference in the following ways:
- Helps Maintain Healthy Bowel Function
Oftentimes, the elderly develop hemorrhoids from constipation due to age-related body changes or side effects from prescription medications. Instead of laxatives, dietary fiber helps to soften stool and keeps your intestinal system running well.
- Lowers Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol is a prevalent condition in aging adults. Soluble fiber found in oats, beans, and flaxseed may help in secreting bad cholesterol, keeping your overall cholesterol level healthy.
- Keeps Weight Under Control
Fiber-rich foods tend to be more filling, so you would need less to feel satisfied. Furthermore, food that is high in fiber is generally less energy-dense, which means they are less caloric and kinder on the weighing scale.
- Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
For the elderly with diabetes, soluble fiber can slow down the digestive process. This in turn allows glucose to be released at a slower pace into the bloodstream.
- Promotes Longevity
There have been multiple studies suggesting that fiber is associated with longevity and helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases through cholesterol and sugar level controls.
How to Boost Fiber Consumption?
The ideal daily fiber intake for adults of all ages should be 25 to 30 grams a day, however, the average American consumes only half of the recommended amount. A good way to start is to slowly build up fiber consumption. Introducing too much fiber outright can lead to excessive gas, bloating, and other adverse effects. For example, jump starts your day with a high-fiber cereal with bran, whole-grain, or fiber in its name and gradually adds more dietary fiber to other meals over the next few days. It is also important to drink plenty of water as fiber works best with liquid. Here are some high fiber value sources:
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, pears, mango, orange, strawberries, and raspberries.
- Vegetables: Carrots, beets, broccoli, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and collard greens.
- Legumes and beans: Lentils, lima beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and chickpeas.
- Others: Sweet potatoes, oats, quinoa, almonds, popcorn, and dark chocolate.
At the Park Oak Grove, we know the importance of a well-balanced diet for you or your loved ones. Our exclusive Sensations Dining program is specially designed to ensure your dietary needs are taken care of while making certain to offer an exceptional dining experience.