Spring Diet for Seniors
By Anna Hazard
Spring, known as a season of rebirth and new beginnings, is often considered a good time to ring in the new with freshly awakened motivations for starting a healthier lifestyle & diet. The same is true for seniors, who can enjoy the opportunities (not to mention the fresh bounties) brought forth by the warming weather.
After the winter months have passed, many types of produce will be more plentiful and much less expensive to acquire due to the added costs of out-of-season fruits & vegetables needing to be transported from further away (California or Florida for those still USA grown with other popular exporters being Mexico and Central America). Locally grown produce also tends to be more flavorful and nutrient-rich as importing from out-of-state or out-of-country often requires that produce be harvested before they have fully ripened, requires chemicals to preserve or induce ripening, or leaves the fruit or vegetables past their peak time of freshness once they've hit the store shelves.
Going out to acquire fresh produce at local farmer's markets within the city or suburbs or even picking your own produce at certain publicly available farms in the countryside could be a fun family trip that includes healthy outdoor exercise for the elderly. Other options include planting a small easily-tended spring herb garden (good for stress relief & keeping hands & fingers nimble with exercise) with those species of plants that would be currently coming into season. Those with less hand dexterity & mobility can still enjoy eating outdoors whether it be picnicking in the park with family & friends or sitting at shaded outdoor tables for those senior loved ones who have problems rising from a sitting/crouching position or have other leg problems.
Keep in mind that more liquids (especially water which can be flavored with fresh fruit or vegetable juice) should be consumed to compensate for increased activity, especially for those going outside in warmer temperatures.
Spring is also the season for many freshwater fish (especially those who will be traveling inland to spawn) such as bass, carp, catfish, crappie, pike, salmon, sunfish, trout and walleye. Fatty fish such as salmon & lake trout are particularly good for their abundance of Omega-3 Fatty Acids which help with arthritis & joint pain, lower the risk of heart disease, and help prevent Alzheimer's & dementia.
Another healthy protein alternative for Omega-3 would be grass-fed spring lamb which starts to become available in larger quantity around late May or June. Lamb is also considered a high quality protein source for helping to stave off sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass due to age). The organic, grass fed variety is leaner with higher nutrient content. Grass fed lambs will be smaller than their grain fed counterparts and as lamb meat darkens with age, look for slightly pink meat with a velvet-like texture when shopping.
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