Nutritional Supplementation for Seniors

Rebecca Meyerson, MS, Certified Nutrition Counselor

by Christine Fusiillo, M.D.
posted on August 04th 2011
Nutritional Supplementation for Seniors

Given the abundance of choices for nutritional supplementation, and an ever-growing variety of foods, society is faced with many difficult dietary choices. Practitioners themselves, constantly debate whether supplementation is necessary and if it can replace the food we eat.

A good diet should be the basis for one’s health and supplements are the means of catching up for lost time nutritionally. With this in mind, rather than resorting to a new supplement to correct for nutritional deficiencies, one should attempt to make changes in the food they eat first and foremost. Once, a sound nutritional diet has been established, and then the benefits of supplementation can be explored. Many elderly people's concerns today include whether to supplement fish oil, vitamin c and garlic capsules into their diets.

The benefits of consuming fish include promoting mental health, protecting the nervous system and supporting cardiovascular function. One of fish’s key building blocks for such benefits are omega 3 fatty acids. Good omega 3 sources include salmon, sardines, fish oil, and herring and flax oil. When choosing fish oils and eating fish itself, one should be aware of the importance of the source and it’s quality. Fish that is farm raised has added hormones, chemicals and are prone to diseases due to overcrowding. Eating wild fish is the ideal source to get the necessary fatty acids. If wild fish is not an option, then taking a whole natural omega 3 supplement is advised.

Garlic cloves are great for cooking and used for medicinal purposes.  Research supports that garlic serves for antibacterial and anti-inflammatory functions, and may be helpful to prevent blood clots. Given the abundance of garlic, its ease of cooking and affordability, it is not necessary to replace with supplementation.

Vitamin C is the best-known treatment for the common cold and is a powerful antioxidant, which protects our cells from damage.  People typically get Vitamin C from orange juice, however it is readily available from other sources including pineapple, papaya, lemon, and red peppers.

It is best to advocate eating as many whole fruits and vegetables as possible, and supplementing only when needed.   One should be aware however that taking a Vitamin C supplement alone means ingesting a fraction of the whole orange.

If one is to supplement it is important to make sure the vitamins are not synthetic, which means they are concentrated and simplified. Synthetic vitamins are not as effective. One should supplement with whole food extracts instead of chemical fractionated vitamins.  In closing, one useful anecdote when considering supplementing is from Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

However sometimes supplementation is beneficial in addition with a whole, well balanced diet due to the enriching and fortifying of processed foods, less nutrient dense soil, stress and environmental pollutants.

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