It's no secret that everyone should eat a diet comprised of healthy foods; however, as each person ages, eating nutritious foods plays a larger role in helping stave off illness, disease and even incontinence. Gloria Tsang, founding editor of HealthCastle.com based in Bellingham, Wash., suggests some food choices that should be a part of your daily diet. Given the variety, incorporating them into your meals couldn't be easier.
Go for the Grains
Whole grains are an essential component of every healthy diet, but Tsang says they can have added impact to reduce loose stools because they build up bulk. Insoluble fiber is responsible for forming bulk, and one of the best sources is bulgur, Tsang says. Use it when baking or as a substitute for rice. Barley and spelt also are good choices for increasing the insoluble fiber in your diet.
Another superfood for those 50 and older is lentils. "Lentils are a very complete type of food," Tsang says. They are high in fiber, protein and potassium, which counteracts sodium -- good for those watching their blood pressure. Because they are so high in protein, Tsang says they make a good meat alternative for vegetarians and vegans.
The Skinny on Potatoes
Another food high in potassium, potatoes are a great addition to your meals -- provided you leave the skins on them. "The nutrients are contained in the skin," Tsang says. Therefore, when baking, roasting or even mashing potatoes, include the skin in your cooking. This is true of all potatoes, so any variety is a good choice.
Get a Little Fishy
Boasting high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, fish can have a big impact on your overall health. Those omega-3s are very important for brain development and help fight Alzheimer's disease, Tsang says. Plus, they help prevent high cholesterol, something many 50-year-olds have to watch. To get the most omega-3s in your diet, choose colorful fish like salmon.
It's Easy Being Green
Put a little green on your plate in the form of avocado. This fruit -- yes, really -- contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are the good fats. Healthy fats are important, Tsang says. While most people include avocado in salads or make guacamole, you also can use it as a dip or as a spread instead of butter.
Deep Purple Reigns
Thanks to their time in the sun, summer berries and fruits are very high in antioxidants. These antioxidants are great for keeping your immune system strong. For the highest levels of antioxidants, Tsang says to select dark purple fruits such as blueberries, plums and Concord grapes. Raspberries, strawberries, red grapes and other fruits also contain antioxidants, so fill your plate with a rainbow of fruit.
A Peeling Choice
Like potatoes, fruits like apples, peaches, pears and nectarines contain high levels of fiber in their skins. When including these fruits in your meals, leave the skins on. This goes for eating raw fruit and even for juicing. Many people ditch the peels when juicing, and, in doing so, ditch the key nutrients.
Keep Your Caffeine
If you start your day off with a cup of coffee or hot tea, continue the practice, Tsang says. "Caffeine is good for the heart," she says, adding that these beverages also contain antioxidants. But don't carried away. More than 2 cups a day could do more harm than good. And, of course, always double-check with your doctor to verify that these drinks are OK specifically for your diet.
Have a Sweet Treat
Sometimes it seems like eating healthy means eliminating sweets, but Tsang says that's not so. "It's always OK to have sweets if you have it sparingly," she says. For those managing diabetes, she recommends just a small amount of sweets with your regular meals, never as an extra snack. For specific recommendations, talk with your doctor.
Water, as always, remains a crucial component in the healthy diet of a 50-year-old. It performs a number of services in your body, including flushing toxins out of your system and delivering nutrients to cells. Plain water is the best option, but water intake through other fluids -- coffee, tea or juice -- and even foods like tomatoes and watermelon also contribute to your daily water intake.