Health Benefits of Whole Grains

As we age, we should look for ways to protect our overall health and prevent the onset of illness and disease. Eating a balanced diet can help us age healthfully and stay independent for longer. Adding whole grains to our diets can help prevent some diseases and other conditions common among older adults. The health benefits of whole grains come from built-in protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium. In short, whole grains are packed with health-enhancing nutrients.
Diets that include the recommended amount of whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even some forms of cancer. Whole grains are also important for maintaining colon health by promoting healthy bacteria in the colon and regular bowel movements. Dietary Guidelines recommend that total fiber intake for adults older than 51 should be at least 28 grams per day for men and 22 grams for women. However, the average American falls short of this recommendation, missing out on the important health benefits of whole grains.

What Are Whole Grains, Anyway?
Some of the most common varieties of grains are corn, rice, and wheat, all of which are commonly referred to as cereals. Some seeds of these non-grass plants are also considered grains, such as buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth. Whole-grain kernels contain three essential parts that offer unique health benefits:
The Bran. The outer layer of a whole-grain kernel is called the bran, which supplies nutrients like B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Bran and fiber are also responsible for slowing the breakdown of starch into glucose which prevents our blood sugar from spiking.
The Germ. This part of the whole-grain kernel is responsible for seed growth and contains healthy fats and fiber.
The Endosperm. This is the inner layer of the whole grain that contains nutrients including carbohydrates, proteins, B vitamins, and minerals.
Whole-grain foods contain all three parts mentioned above and can come whole or in their flour form while retaining all naturally occurring nutrients. Other grains like refined grains and enriched grains contain some parts of whole grains, but not all three elements. Refined grains have had the germ and bran removed, while enriched grains have some vitamins added back in, but don’t contain all nutritious properties. To reap the health benefits of whole grains, it’s important to choose them in their whole form. According to the Mayo Clinic, some common forms of whole grains include barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, popcorn, and whole-wheat bread, pasta, and crackers.

Health Benefits of Whole Grains
Why is whole grain better? Adding whole grains to your diet can help improve your overall health in several ways. As researchers continue to study the health benefits of whole grains, experts agree they can affect our health in the following ways:
Lower risk of heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and older adults above the age of 65 are more likely to develop heart disease than younger adults. One study review found that adults who consumed 28 grams of fiber each day reduced their risk of heart disease by 22%. Heart-healthy diets also call for whole-grain foods while avoiding refined grains which don’t contain as many nutrients.
Reduce the risk of obesity
Fiber-dense foods can help prevent overeating and are recommended for folks who struggle with maintaining a healthy weight. Foods high in fiber are more filling and a healthy option for those who are at risk of obesity.
Aid with digestion
Fiber works to add bulk to stools and can help those who struggle with constipation. Fiber-rich foods also help healthy bacteria grow in the colon, which is especially important in maintaining digestive health.
Reduce inflammation
Inflammation is a key factor in many chronic diseases and conditions. However, eating whole grains can help lower the risk of inflammation in the body. One study, in particular, reported that participants who replaced refined wheat products with whole wheat products saw a reduction in inflammation.
Protect teeth and gums
Gum disease is often linked with other health conditions such as inflammation and heart disease. While visiting the dentist and practicing proper oral hygiene can help reduce the risk of gum disease, consuming whole grains can help too. A study found that consuming high-fiber foods, such as whole grains, can reduce the risk of developing gum disease, especially in older adults.

Adding Whole Grains into Your Diet
If consuming whole-grain foods isn’t part of your current diet, it might take some time to adjust. However, adding in more whole grains and experimenting with different flavors can be a fun experience. Here are a few ways to get started:
There are so many whole-grain options that can replace traditional refined grain foods. Bagels, cereals, bread, and crackers all come in whole grain form and have much higher rates of nutrients and health benefits. Try swapping your regular bread or cereal for a whole-grain option.
Adding whole grains to your regular baking recipes for cakes, pastries, and pies is a great way to sneak in additional nutrition to something you love. Swap half of the all-purpose flour for whole-meal flour or whole-grain oats.
If you usually consume white rice and pasta, try using a whole-grain option such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta. You can use your favorite recipes and still enjoy all the additional health benefits of whole grains.
The easiest way to add whole grains into your diet is to snack on them. Air-popped popcorn and stone-ground corn tortillas are packed with fiber and can help keep you feeling full.

Living Well at Maplewood Senior Living
Aging well can take a team. Our highly trained chefs and foodservice teams design nutritious dining options that keep our residents feeling their best while enjoying every meal. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Boosting Memory Through Diet

As we age, it’s common to experience forgetfulness or delays in our memory. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, “almost 40% of people over the age of 65 experience some form of memory loss, or age-associated memory impairment, which is considered a part of the normal aging process.” With nearly 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, memory impairment is a national issue. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a memory disorder, or are experiencing normal age-related memory loss, it’s possible to improve your conditions by changes to your diet.

Research has shown that the brain and gut are linked, and the relationship between the two is influenced by what we eat and drink. Our digestive system helps provide nutrients to the body and brain and it also produces hormones that can impact our memory and cognitive function. Certain foods can affect our memory in both positive and negative ways.

Memory and Cognitive Function

Our bodies are exposed to free radicals that can come from both internal and external sources. Stress, poor diet, pollution and the environment can all contribute to the development of free radicals, which can impact our brain and cognitive function. To help protect our brains from free radicals and heal the damage that occurs as a result, our bodies need certain nutrients from our diet. Antioxidants help protect our cells from free radicals, while good fats allow electrical signaling between nerve cells, allowing our brains to communicate with our bodies. Vitamins such as B12, B6, and B9 have memory-boosting benefits and key nutrients necessary for brain function.

Poor Diet Means Poor Memory

Research has suggested that diets high in cholesterol and fat can speed up the formation of beta-amyloid plaques, which are attributed to the same brain damage found in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Those with higher cholesterol can develop a gene that puts them at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, the build-up of these plaques in blood vessels can damage brain tissue through small blockages resulting in silent strokes or even more damaging strokes. Even if a stroke doesn’t occur, these build-ups can compromise thinking and memory. A study conducted by researchers at Brigham Women’s Hospital found that women who ate foods high in saturated fats, like red meat and butter, preformed worse on think and memory tests.

Foods That Boost Memory

While we can’t control or prevent memory loss entirely, we can use food to help reduce our risk of developing a memory disorder and try to consume foods that improve memory if we’ve already been diagnosed. Here are a few foods with memory-boosting benefits good to add to your diet.

Whole grains

One of the best power foods for the brain are whole grains. Whole-grain foods have a low GI which means they release energy slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert and awake all day long. Eating too few of these complex carbs can lead to brain fog. When you have the option, choose whole-grain items when available. Foods like cereal, bread, rice, pasta, barley, bulgur wheat and oatmeal all come in whole-wheat varieties and will help you stay sharp.

Oily Fish and Essential Fatty Acids

Certain varieties of fish have good sources of omega 3 fatty acids, which help build up membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain. They can help improve the structure of brain cells and overall cognitive function. Low levels of DHA and EPA, which are types of omega 3 fatty acids, have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. In addition to improving brain function, researchers believe these nutrients can also help relieve depression.

To add more of these fatty acids into your diet, stick with salmon, trout, mackerel, herring and sardines. If you don’t like fish or choose not to consume it, good plant-based alternatives include flaxseed, soy beans, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. Supplements are available, but make sure to consult your healthcare provider before adding them to your diet.

Blueberries

Blueberries and other deeply colored berries contain anthocyanins, which contain antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants act against inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases. Antioxidants have also been found to improve or delay short-term memory loss.

Turmeric

Curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric, can directly enter the brain and help repair cells. This ingredient has also been shown to clear up amyloid plaque build-up, boost serotonin and dopamine levels, and help grow new brain cells. This spice is found in many different curry powders and also comes in capsule form. Always consult your healthcare provider before taking supplements.

Broccoli

Broccoli is packed with antioxidants and vitamin K, which has been shown to improve memory function and reduce inflammation.

Eggs

We don’t often think of eggs as brain food; however, they contain several brain-boosting nutrients including B6, B12, folate and choline. Choline helps regulate mood and memory while B vitamins also work to relieve depression and its symptoms.

While eating a healthy diet and adding in more brain-boosting foods to your daily meal plan can help improve brain function, it’s also important to make other small changes. In addition to diet, you might also consider implementing these small steps to help improve overall brain function:
• Getting enough quality sleep
• Stay hydrated by drinking water and eating water-dense foods
• Exercise regularly
• Monitor and reduce stress through yoga, meditation, and journaling
• Reduce alcohol consumption

Improving Brain Function at Maplewood Senior Living

At our Maplewood Senior Living facilities, we know how important a healthy brain is for leading a healthy life. That’s why our head chefs make it a priority to use healthy, local, and brain-boosting foods in each meal they offer. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us here

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.