Articles and Information from GA Foods

Swallowing Difficulties: What You Need to Know

Posted by Levinia Clark, RD, LDN on May 5, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Levinia Clark is the Manager of Nutrition Services at GA Foods.  This is a first of a series of articles about managing chronic diseases  with medical nutrition therapy. 

What is the swallowing process?

Swallowing is a complex process that involves more than 50 pairs of muscles and many nerves. Food is moved from the mouth to the stomach in three stages. In the first stage, food is prepared for swallowing as it is moved around the mouth by the tongue. The second stage begins when the tongue pushes food or liquid to the back of the mouth. The third stage begins when food or liquid enters the esophagus. 

What causes swallowing problems?

Some people are born with swallowing problems, but in many cases it develops as a result of a physical illness or medical condition. Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, can result from a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, other neurological disorders, or pain upon consuming regular foods following oral surgery. People with cancers of the head, neck, and mouth and/or cancer treatment may also have trouble swallowing. 

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What are the risks with swallowing difficulties?

In the worst cases, difficulty in swallowing can result in aspiration pneumonia. This occurs when food enters the lungs instead of the esophagus, causing bacterial infection, pneumonia, and occasionally death. Left untreated, dysphagia can lead to malnutrition and dehydration, unintentional weight loss, and decreased quality of life. This can affect all age groups, but it is most often seen in the elderly population.

What is the purpose of a pureed diet?

A pureed food diet provides nutrition for individuals suffering from many different diseases and conditions, but is designed specifically for patients who have difficulty swallowing. Pureed food is described as a smooth, cohesive, pudding-like consistency. A pureed consistency makes it easier to form a bolus, or ball of food, in the mouth before swallowing. The cohesive, smooth texture of pureed foods keeps the bolus together throughout the entire swallowing process to prevent food particles from going into the lungs. Sometimes when a person has dysphagia, it is necessary to thicken liquids to make swallowing them easier. 

People with dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, usually follow this type of diet to prevent choking or silent aspiration. The length of time a person uses a pureed diet varies depending on the cause. People recovering from a stroke often use the diet for a period of weeks to months, and those with worsening throat cancer or a progressive degenerative disease may need to use the diet for the remainder of their lives.

People have different nutritional needs depending on a variety of medical and nutritional factors. As with any therapeutic diet plan, consult your physician and dietitian to individualize any diet to meet those needs.

What foods are allowed in a pureed diet?

Few individual foods are excluded from this diet because most foods can be processed to a pureed consistency, however, foods that require chewing are excluded.  

GA Foods’ Pureed Menu Plan contains pureed meals for seniors and those with with dysphagia, designed with all foods including meats, vegetables and fruits to be the consistency of thickened pudding.  Our meals meet the National Dysphagia Diet guidelines.  For more information, click here.

Pureed Meals Brochure and Nutritionals

The above information is intended for an education aid only. It is not intended as medical/nutritional advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor before following any regimen to see if it safe and effective for you.
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Topics: Chronic Disease Management, Dysphagia, Pureed

Can the foods we eat impact our mental health?

Posted by Felicity Dryer on Mar 24, 2015 10:00:00 AM

headshot0112-1This week we welcome our guest blogger, Felicity Dryer. 

Felicity is a women's health and fitness specialist. She loves writing, and due to the recent illness of her mother, has taken interest in senior care. Please be sure to download her infographic about superfoods!

According to many studies, yes. Foods high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, have been shown to improve cognitive function and memory. And while such foods can have a positive effect on people at any age, seniors most notably can reap the benefits of certain foods as they are more susceptible to memory loss and cognitive diseases.

Let's take a look at some of the so-called "superfoods" that could fight dementia, Alzheimer's and similar disorders.

Nutrition for Our Brain Cells

Topping the list for brain power foods is the blueberry. This small fruit packs more antioxidants than any other fruit and vegetable. Most notably, the polyphenol antioxidant found so abundantly in blueberries has been shown to protect the brain from, among other things, inflammation and free radicals.

A 2007 National Institute on Aging study showed that rats on a blueberry-enhanced diet had significantly less brain loss than those on a controlled diet. Another study in the same year, presented by the Neuroscience Laboratory of the USDA-ARS Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, seemed to confirm that blueberry consumption led to a protection of brain nerve cells and improved communication between these cells. This could promote better brain function and reduce the likelihood of impairment.

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Another tiny yet powerful food is the chia seed. Chia seeds contain even more antioxidants than blueberries, which is good news for your brain. These antioxidants fight free radicals, which can cause damage to our body's cells--including our brain cells. These little seeds also have the omega-3 fats that are essential to brain health.

Other foods high in antioxidants and omega-3's that could help maintain brain power include:

  • Kale
  • Salmon
  • Avocadoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beans (such as kidney and pinto)

Drinking Our Way to a Better Brain

There's not only "superfoods" but "superdrinks" for our brains as well.

Real acai juice can have a tremendous effect on memory and mental focus. Not only do acai berries contain antioxidants to destroy free radicals, they can also prevent the formation of plaque in the brain caused by beta-amyloid proteins, which have been shown to play a part in Alzheimer's.

Pomegranates are shown to decrease cholesterol plaque build-up; studies have shown that increased levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol and subsequent plaque buildup is linked to Alzheimer's. One can reap the best benefits from pomegranates by drinking pomegranate juice. Also, both black and green tea have free radical-fighting elements that can keep our brain cells healthier.

And can't get enough of the health benefits of blueberries? Drink blueberry juice. Several studies have shown that older adults who drank blueberry juice daily improved their memory performance by as much as 20 percent!

A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste

About 40 years ago, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) used the above slogan in an effective ad campaign. The phrase can easily apply to dementia and related disorders.

Of course there are many factors that play a role in the development of Alzheimer's and other cognitive diseases, and it's certainly not suggested here that specific foods are a cure-all or a total preventative measure for Alzheimer's, dementia or mild cognitive impairment.

But if eating the right foods could help in any way at all to prevent or delay the onset of mental decline, it's certainly worth making the necessary changes to our diets to maintain not only our physical but our mental health as well.

Download full PDF of Felicity's Superfoods Infographic!SeniorSuperfood_FDryer_pdf

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Topics: Nutrition, Chronic Disease Management, Senior Health

Lower Healthcare Costs with Home-Delivered Meals

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Mar 17, 2015 3:30:00 PM


This is the final post of our 5-part series, Impact of Nutrition Care on Patient Outcomes.  In this series, we reviewed original research that shows the impact nutrition care has on patient outcomes.

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In the past few weeks, we have been reviewing research about the effect nutrition care has on patient outcomes. This week we will finish the series with a review of a pilot study that looked at the impact of home-delivered meals and nutrition counseling on the healthcare costs of chronically ill patients.

MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance) is a nonprofit organization in Philadelphia that cooks and delivers medically-appropriate meals and provides nutrition counseling to individuals that are chronically ill.  Most of the recipients have cancer, renal disease or HIV/AIDS. Socioeconomic status is not a factor in determining who can receive their services, however, most of their clients are Medicaid-eligible.  Each week, MANNA delivers 21 frozen meals to recipients.  They also offer nutrition counseling by a Registered Dietitian.

Researchers evaluated healthcare costs of two sample groups, MANNA clients and a comparison group, matched for gender, age, race, and ethnicity, for a 12-month period.  The comparison group contained members of a local Medicaid managed care organization (MCO).  Because only aggregate data was provided by the MCO, some members of the comparison group may have been receiving food resources.  The authors do not believe any were receiving home-delivered meals.

While the MANNA research was a pilot study, the results1 were still significant:

  • The total average monthly healthcare costs were $28,000 for MANNA clients and $41,000 for the comparison group.
  • The average cost of a hospitalization was $132,000 for MANNA clients and $220,000 for the comparison group.
  • MANNA clients had 50% less hospitalizations than the comparison group.
  • MANNA clients’ length of stay was 37% shorter than the comparison group.
  • MANNA clients were 20% more likely to be discharged from the hospital to their home rather than to long-term care.

Per the CDC, chronic diseases are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems. Providing home-delivered meals to those with chronic conditions is an economical solution.  GA Foods’ home-delivered meals program allows members to have medically-appropriate, easy-to-prepare meals and remain independent in their homes.  Health plans that add post-discharge meals and chronic disease management meals to their supplemental benefits, see a return on investment of 3 to 1.

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Download free ebook on questions to ask when choosing a home-delivered meals provider.

1Gurvey, J, et al. J Prim Care & Comm Health 2013;4(4):311-317.

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Topics: Home Delivered Meals, Chronic Disease Management, MCO ROI

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