Senior Nutrition: Blue Zone Inspired Meals at Maplewood

Bestselling author and founder of Blue Zones, Dan Buettner, has been writing about and studying regions in the world called Blue Zones. Aptly named because they have the highest number of centenarians in the world, Buettner has been collecting time-tested recipes of foods that promote longer life.
In a recent article in National Geographic (January 2020), Buettner revisits four key locations that he visited over fourteen years ago; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan, and Loma Linda, California. The diets in these four regions are based primarily on plants and grains, tubers, and nuts. Eating minimally processed foods appears to have a great impact on the overall health of the people living in these regions, for example, “On Okinawa, as compared to the United States, residents are three times as likely to reach 100, women suffer about half the rate of breast cancer, both sexes are afflicted by a third to a quarter the rate of heart disease, and elderly people die from Alzheimer’s dementia a tenth to a twelfth the rate.”

Senior Nutrition at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, improving the health of our residents, their memory and slowing the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia, are an integral part of what we do in our communities. Our meals are filled with variety including new and seasonally inspired choices every day. We provide a combination of locally sourced food with a global infusion and many dishes have ingredients that help brain health and memory. While we like to offer residents meals that they are familiar with we also like to keep their taste buds active by offering newer variations and some vegetable-based options.
At Maplewood at Southport, Culinary Service Director, Catie Eykelhoff, incorporates Blue Zone diets into her lunch service. She told us, “We offer a different Chef’s Power Bowl each day. Items and options vary with season and availability. Some of the most popular are our Grain Bowls which tend to focus on hearty grains, vegetables and great flavor combinations that residents may not have had before. More than often they are plant-based, protein-packed and include a variety of flavors and textures which fall into a Blue Zone Diet. “
To recreate these recipes at home is simple. We recommend making some of the core ingredients ahead of time such as the barley, brown rice and quinoa then each day you can layer in different combinations to suit your taste. If you’d like to recreate the bowls Chef Catie demonstrated for us, the recipes are below.

Chef’s Power Bowls
Tuscan Inspired Power Bowl: Barley, Kale, Broccolini, Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans, Toasted Pine Nuts, Garlic, Basil, Balsamic Reduction.
• 1 cup Barley (cooked)
• 1 cup Kale (shredded)
• 4 Broccolini (blanched
• 10 Grape Tomatoes (cut in half)
• 1/3 cup Cannellini Beans (cooked or canned)
• ¼ cup Toasted Pine Nuts
• 1 Tablespoon Roasted Garlic
• Basil Leaves for garnish
• Balsamic Reduction drizzle

Asian Inspired Power Bowl: Brown Rice, Avocado, Sautéed Mushrooms, Shredded Cabbage, Bean Sprouts, Roasted Peanuts, Seasoned Tofu, Sriracha-Soy Glaze.
• 1 cup Brown Rice (cooked)
• ½ Avocado (sliced)
• ¼ cup Mushrooms (sautéed)
• ¼ cup Green Beans (blanched)
• 1 Tablespoon Almonds (sliced)
• 3 ounces Seasoned Tofu (pan-seared)
• Sriracha-Soy Glaze

Mediterranean Inspired Power Bowl: Quinoa, Green Chickpeas, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Olives, Sunflower Seeds, Lemon-Tahini Drizzle.
• 1 cup Quinoa (cooked)
• ¼ cup Green Chickpeas)
• 1 Roasted Sweet Potato (sliced or diced)
• ½ cup baby Spinach
• ¼ cup Olives
• 1 Tablespoon Sunflower Seeds
• Lemon-Tahini Drizzle
• Note: Starting at the top, layer or section all ingredients into a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing.

If you’ve been a big meat eater your whole life, it will take time to make changes. Small steps at a time make a difference. Consider incorporating new foods that are known for boosting your brain and memory. Perhaps pick one day a week to go meat-free? Or try something new each week like adding turmeric into a soup or chicken dish? Even dark chocolate is reported to help boost your mood and your memory. Pick up a copy of The Blue Zones Kitchen (100 Recipes to Live to 100) for some inspiration on senior nutrition.

Promoting Senior Nutrition at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living we know how important eating well is, especially for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. That’s why we provide our residents with delicious meals sourced from local farms and businesses. If you are interested in learning more about our offerings or to schedule a tour and sample our healthy options, please feel free to contact us.

The Importance of Gut Health for Seniors

Seniors should learn more about the importance of gut health as they age.

It’s obvious that maintaining our gut health is important because it helps us absorb nutrients into our bodies, which we need in order to live. But, what isn’t as obvious is the importance of gut health when it comes to other aspects of our well-being. In fact, science suggests that our gut health is inherently linked to our brain health. At any age, it’s not uncommon to experience digestive issues like stomach aches or indigestion. But, as we get older these and other issues such as constipation, diarrhea, and gas can become common occurrences.

Just as our bodies change with age, so does our gut. Our gut microbiome, which is made up of trillions of bacteria that play an important part in nutrient absorption and digestion, becomes less diverse the older we get. This can lead to weak digestion and reduced nutrient absorption, ultimately causing abdominal discomfort, gas, and bloating. When we experience these gut problems, it’s also a signal that something else in our bodies might need to be addressed.

Importance of Gut Health: Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

There are many reasons that your gut might be unhealthy. Food, medicine, and stress can all affect the way our guts work. According to Healthline magazine, there are a lot of ways to tell if your gut might be imbalanced. Here are the top warning signs people with an unhealthy gut experience:

Upset stomach
The most obvious sign of an unhealthy gut or imbalanced microbiome is experiencing stomach disturbances. These can look like bloating and gas or constipation and diarrhea. On the other hand, a balanced gut won’t have problems with digesting and will feel normal.

High sugar diet
If your diet is mostly comprised of highly processed foods that are high in fat and sugar, you run the risk of decreasing the good bacteria in your gut. The problem with sugar is that the more you eat, the more you crave, which can cause you to damage your gut even more. In addition, sugar, especially refined sugar, which we find in processed foods, can cause inflammation resulting in discomfort and even lead to some diseases.

Unintentional weight changes
If you’re experiencing unwanted or unintentional weight loss or gain, it might be because your gut bacteria are imbalanced. An unhealthy gut is unable to absorb the nutrients and fat we need for energy. This can cause weight gain through overeating when our bodies don’t absorb nutrients, or weight loss because of bacterial overgrowth.

Sleep disturbances
Serotonin, which is produced in the gut, is a hormone that affects our sleep. When we have an unhealthy gut, it can result in an imbalance of serotonin, which can lead to insomnia and fatigue.

Skin irritation
Our gut has such a large effect on our body’s health that not understanding the importance of gut health can lead to skin conditions. Diseases like eczema and other skin conditions can be caused by gut inflammation due to an imbalanced diet or food allergies.

Autoimmune conditions
An unhealthy gut has the capacity to increase inflammation all over the body. When this happens long enough, it is thought to alter the way our immune system is supposed to work. This can cause autoimmune disease, which means our bodies attack the immune system instead of harmful bacteria.

Food intolerances
Most people have slight food intolerances, even if they are unaware of them. This means that our bodies have difficulty digesting different foods. If we don’t have the right kinds of bacteria in our gut to process these foods, it can often lead to bloating, gas, diarrhea, pain, and nausea.

Importance of Gut Health: Tips for Improving Yours

When we think about important parts of our bodies, we might immediately think of the brain, heart, and lungs. But the truth is that our guts are just as valuable. In fact, some researchers refer to the gut as “the second brain” because of its deep impact on the rest of the body. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re doing what you can to keep your gut healthy and working properly.

Diversify your diet
Our guts are comprised of hundreds of different types of bacteria. In order to keep these helpful bacteria in our guts, it’s important to eat a variety of foods full of different nutrients. We can do this by trying different vegetables, eating food that is grown locally and focus on foods that are in season.

Concentrate on fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens
Our guts need a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, most of which can be found in fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. Not only can we get the nutrients we need, but these foods also decrease the risk of disease-causing bacteria in our gut.

Eat whole grains
Our guts need help growing good bacteria in order to prevent our risk of disease and illness. Whole grain foods like brown rice, quinoa, and oats help promote the growth of good bacteria while also increasing feelings of fullness and reducing inflammation.

Add more probiotics to your diet
Probiotic foods help aid digestion and reduce inflammation while also generating various vitamins. Some foods high in probiotics include yogurt, cheese, kefir, and fermented foods like kimchi or sauerkraut.

The Importance of Gut Health: The Impact on Dementia and Depression

Our guts play a large role in our health and wellbeing, but recent research suggests its impact on our health might be much larger than we thought initially. In fact, a recent study conducted through the Center for Comprehensive Care and Research on Memory Disorders suggests that those who have been diagnosed with dementia have a vastly different population of bacteria in their gut when compared to those who have never been diagnosed.

In addition, some studies suggest that the foods we eat can have a tremendous impact on our mental health. Some researchers suggest that an increased intake of high sugar and fatty foods can cause depressive symptoms, while eating a well-balanced diet staves off depressive symptoms.

Exploring a Healthier Lifestyle at Maplewood Senior Living

Maplewood Senior Living takes gut health, and overall health, seriously. That’s why one of our priorities is to offer foods high in nutrients and minerals in order to keep our residents happy and healthy. Every day offers residents a new chance to pursue a healthier lifestyle. If you’d like to hear more about our culinary offerings or to tour our facilities, please contact us here.

Foods That Fight Aging

It’s no surprise that the process of aging changes our bodies in a variety of ways, some of which we can see and others we cannot. However, what most people don’t know, is that as we age our dietary needs change as well. Because of this, many older adults accidentally put themselves at risk of becoming malnourished. Consuming a well-balanced diet helps strengthen the immune system, and ultimately allows our bodies to fight off diseases and illnesses. When we under-nourish our bodies, we can negatively affect its ability to protect us. Understanding what our bodies need can ultimately keep us out of the hospital, and live healthier, longer lives.

How do our Needs and Habits Change?

 Calories and Appetite

It is not uncommon for older adults to eat less as they age. Most older adults might not be as physically active as they were in their younger years, which means they don’t necessarily need to eat as much as they once did. However, undereating can cause a wide variety of health problems.

Food sensitivities can also affect a person’s appetite, making it difficult to consume the appropriate amount of food each day. Some older adults might experience food sensitivities especially to foods like onions, peppers, dairy, and hot spices. If these are causing discomfort or pain after eating, they might need to be eliminated from your diet.

Nutrition Absorption

Even while monitoring your food and nutrition, medications can interfere with the nutrients your body is able to absorb. If you are taking a variety of medications, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about supplements you can add to your diet.

Immune System

Unfortunately, as we age our immune systems can weaken, making our bodies more vulnerable to illness and disease. However, we can strengthen our immune systems by consuming different types of food and nutrients.

Continue reading “Foods That Fight Aging”

Food for Thought

The culinary experience at Maplewood Senior Living is one that will leave your taste buds craving more. Through partnerships with local farms, and our own farm in Easton, Connecticut, we’re able to provide fresh seasonal produce that our chefs use to create delicious meals morning, noon and night. Because of this, our residents enjoy the vibrant tastes of each season and reap the long list of health benefits that come from eating freshly harvested fruits and vegetable.

We sat down with Mary Ellen Greenfield, Corporate Director of Culinary Services, to learn more about the benefits of utilizing fresh, locally sourced ingredients and here is what we learned.

Aside from supporting the local economy, sourcing our foods locally allows for produce to arrive at our communities shortly after being harvested. There are a couple of health benefits that come from reducing transport time. The first is a lowered risk of contamination. As food moves across states or changes hands, the possibility of bacteria exposure increases.

Additionally, the more time that passes between the food being collected and being eaten, the more fruits and vegetables lose valuable nutrients. The best time to eat food is right after it’s picked, when the nutritional value is highest. For that reason, transporting food locally, as opposed to across multiple states, can significantly improve the nutritional value to the consumer.

Fresh produce also taste better, which is important for our residents. Appetites often decrease with age, and yet the need for nutrient-rich food remains. We want to provide the best-tasting dishes that our residents are excited to try. With fresh, tasty ingredients, we can offer delicious options, even for residents with Alzheimer’s or dementia, who may have limited ability to eat a three-course meal.

At Maplewood, our connection to farms, including our own, means we utilize fresh foods that grow naturally for the season. Flavors are richer and nutrient levels are at their highest. This close connection to the supply allows our culinary team to design recipes around the freshest ingredients.

An example of these unique recipes is shared below from Giovanni Dillard, Chef at Maplewood at Strawberry Hill. This particular summer kale and carrot salad recipe utilizes kale grown at our Maplewood farm in Easton, Connecticut and is favorite among residents.

Kale and Carrot Salad

Ingredients:

1lb Purple kale

1lb Green kale

2c Golden raisins

4c Shredded carrot

2c Light mayonnaise

2tsp Garlic powder

2tsp Apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Chop kale into bit size pieces. Toss shredded carrot, golden raisins, and kale with light mayo.

Lastly season with garlic powder and apple cider vinegar.

Refrigerate till ready to use to let flavors combine.

Download Recipe: Kale and Carrot Salad Recipe

  Continue reading “Food for Thought”