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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

Malnutrition in Older Americans

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Sep 16, 2014 1:09:00 PM

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Most people know that malnutrition is prevalent in developing countries, but most don’t realize malnutrition is also common among the elderly in the United States. This is a growing problem, as the Census Bureau predicts there will be 92 million people over age 65 by 2060. Malnutrition in our elderly population is a serious issue, due to the associated adverse outcomes.

 The causes are multifactorial, but studies have shown nutrition care leads to better outcomes and saves money. 

At-risk individuals that receive nutrition care during and after a hospitalization are 3 times less likely to die.1

Nutrition care can reduce hospital stays by two days.2

Maureen-GarnerIndividuals with weight loss are at a higher risk for avoidable hospital readmissions. The greater the weight loss, the greater the probability of readmission.3

Malnourished patients have 2-3 times more complications than those not at risk for malnutrition.4

Malnutrition was found in 1/3 of inpatients and resulted in poor hospitalization outcomes and survival.5  

59% percent of patients identified with malnutrition risk, were unable to be discharged home with self-care.6

Hospitalized patients discharged with malnutrition are older and sicker. Their inpatient care was 2 ½ times more expensive than those without malnutrition.7

Being underweight is the strongest predictor for hospital readmissions.8

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Post-discharge meals reduced hospital readmissions by 39% in a CMS pilot in Florida.9
 
MCO paid $12,000 per month less for HIV/AIDS members receiving home-delivered meals than comparison group without home-delivered meals.10
 
Nutrition care is an essential element to support the independence of older Americans, reduce their hospital admissions, and postpone nursing home placement. Home-delivered meals have shown to be effective in preventing and treating malnourished individuals. Something to consider when the cost of a single day in the hospital is 200 times the cost of three home-delivered meals.

1 Feldblum I, et al, J Am Geriatr Soc, 2011;59(1):10-17. 
2 Barker LA, et al, Int J Environ Res Public Health, 2011;8(2):514-527.
3 Friedman JM, et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 1997;65(6):1714-1720. 
4 Sorenson J, et al, Clin Nutr, 2008;27(3)340-349.
5 Lim SL, et al, Clin Nutr, 2012;31(3):345-350.
6 Chima C, et al, JADA, 1997;97(9):975-978.
7 Corkins, MR, et al, JPEN, 2014;38(2):186-195.
8 Mudge AM, et al, J Hosp Med, 2011;6(2):61-67.
9 FMQAI, Florida’s Medicare Quality Improvement Organization, under contract with CMS.

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Topics: Nutrition, Malnutrition in Elderly, Home Delivered Meals

Fresh vs. Frozen Home Delivered Meals

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Jul 29, 2014 11:25:00 AM

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Home Delivered Meals:  

Are Fresh, Chilled Meals Healthier than Frozen?

People sometimes assume that fresh, chilled meals are a healthier choice than frozen meals.  The assumption is chilled meals aren’t as processed and the fresh produce is more nutritious.  However, this is only true if the meal goes from the farm to the table in a very short amount of time.  Many studies have compared the nutritional content of fresh vs. frozen foods and have found that frozen food has the same, if not better, nutritional value as fresh, chilled foods. 

Here are the cold, hard facts:

  1. Maureen-GarnerFrozen produce is not harvested until fully ripened.

    Fresh produce is harvested before reaching peak ripeness, so it can ripen during transportation and storage.  This means nutrients do not develop to full potential.  However, frozen produce is allowed to ripen before being picked.  The mature fruits and vegetables contain high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

  2. The quick-freeze process locks in the high levels of nutrients.

    Once a fruit or vegetable is picked, it begins to lose nutrients immediately.  Since most fresh produce travels long distances to chilled meal manufacturers, much of the nutrient content is lost prior to preparation.  Frozen foods are flash-frozen immediately after being harvested.  This process assures there is minimal nutrient loss when processing the foods.  This is true with both meats and produce.

  3. Nutrient content and food safety of frozen meals isn’t compromised during transit and storage.

    Fresh, chilled meals are subjected to light and heat during transportation and storage, causing further nutrient loss.  Chilled storage does not slow down this loss.  Frozen foods can be transported and stored without compromising nutrient content or exposing the foods to dangerous temperature zones.  Per Foodsafety.gov, frozen foods remain safe indefinitely.

Recently, two independent studies compared the nutrient level of fresh produce that was stored in a refrigerator for 3 days to frozen equivalents.  They found more beneficial nutrients overall in the frozen samples. Chilled meals are refrigerated much longer than 3 days, meaning even more nutrient loss will be experienced than reported in the studies.  A technical summary of the studies can be found here.  Also, below is a short video that summarizes the findings of these studies.

 

 

Fresh vs. Frozen Home Delivered Meals... Frozen Wins!

GA Foods provides frozen meals to ensure quality is retained, not only in nutrients but also in food safety.  

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Topics: Fresh vs. Frozen Home Delivered Meals, Nutrition

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