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Food as Medicine for Chronic Disease Management

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Feb 24, 2016 10:00:00 AM

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chronic_disease_management.jpgMany older adults, especially those who are homebound, do not receive adequate balanced meals, which are important for managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and are vital for disease prevention. Unfortunately, proper nutrition and diet sometimes takes a backseat to other steps in disease management, but it should never be overlooked. The body needs to receive the right balance of calories, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fats, and proteins from food in order to function well. Food as medicine is not a new concept, but a good diet should be taken seriously and be a top goal to help ensure better quality of life.

Good Nutrition can Reduce Medical Costs

It is well known that diets too high in sugar, salt and saturated fats lead to poorer health. In addition, most of these diets also lack the fiber, vitamins and minerals essential for healthy physiological functions. Nutritional deficiencies can cause many types of health problems such as a weakened immune system, bone loss, muscle weakness, anemia, balance issues, fatigue and confusion. All of these health issues can influence, directly or indirectly, the number of times you end up in your doctor’s office or even the hospital.

A better food plan can prevent problems before they begin in addition to reducing symptoms of chronic ailments. Better nutrition can improve cholesterol, improve blood pressure, bone strength and joint health, and diminish other problems you might experience with age. When you eat a better, balanced diet, your physician may be able to lower your dosage of certain medications, which can save money.

Whether or not balanced meals are used as part of chronic disease management or disease prevention, there is a lot of evidence that using food as medicine in this way can reduce your healthcare costs.

Healthy home delivered meals are one convenient option for ensuring better nutrition. This takes the guesswork out of meal planning and eliminates the stress of searching for healthy, easy meals at the grocery store.

Finding Meals to Meet Special Dietary Needs

Food plays a very strong role in controlling certain diseases, such as diabetes. Eating the right foods, and the right amount of foods, helps keep blood glucose levels as stable as possible. In addition, a diet rich in nutrients and low in sugar and bad fats promotes a healthy weight and helps prevent or treat other diseases common to diabetics, such as heart disease.

For anyone who has mobility problems or difficulty cooking, having diabetic meals delivered is easier than trying to maintain a balanced diet on your own. You will be more likely to stick to the meal plan prescribed by your doctor and resist reaching for supermarket convenience foods, which are often loaded with hidden sugars.

Packaged dinners and similar foods, including canned soups, are also typically high in sodium. Restaurant food usually scores no better. If your doctor has prescribed a low sodium diet, it is very important to avoid excess salt. Sodium increases blood pressure and this affects many organs, including the heart. It makes the heart work much harder. Reducing sodium not only helps relieve some symptoms but can also help you live longer. Those who need a sodium-restricted diet should consider having low sodium meals delivered, which makes it easier to stay on track.

The Importance of Nutrition Post-Surgery

The concept of food as medicine is especially clear in light of healing after an operation. The body needs extra calories, vitamins and minerals after surgery to promote wound healing and boost the immune system. Without sufficient protein and other nutrients, your post-surgery recovery can be delayed or you might experience extra complications, such as infections.

Treating food as medicine is one of the best things to do during the convalescence period. However, many post-surgery patients don’t get the right nutrition once they leave the hospital. This is usually because of fatigue, limited mobility, and lessened appetite. Cooking healthy meals is often the last thing on the patient’s mind. In this situation, home delivered meals are a way to fill this nutritional deficit and offer comfort and peace of mind by eliminating worry about getting a proper diet.

The elderly are more at risk for nutritional deficits than most of the population. This is due to reduced appetite, reduced mobility, reduced income and emotional factors, such as depression. Good nutrition fuels the body with the natural, necessary ingredients it needs to fight illness and increase overall well-being. A healthy diet should always be a part of an older adult’s care plan.

To learn more about the impact of nutrition on your health, download our eBook:

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Topics: Home Delivered Meals

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