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Front Page » May 2, 2002 » Health and Recreation » Flavorful eating for the later years
Published 4,909 days ago

Flavorful eating for the later years

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By Ellen Serfustini
Utah State University Extension

According to 1996 census figures, the most rapidly growing segment of the US population is age 65 or older. While this demographic comprised only 12 percent of the U.S. population in the mid 1990s, it is expected to make up 20 percent by 2030. This increased longevity has a variety of nutritional implications.

Many seniors find that the foods they used to love just don't taste the same anymore. It's not their imagination; it's a fact. Over time, our senses of taste and smell diminish, either naturally or as a result of medical treatments such as chemotherapy or medications. These chemosensory losses can result in a decrease in appetite, lack of interest in food, or oven malnourishment. However, compensating for these losses is well within your control. Following are some ideas for making food more appetizing.

•Make sure food is attractively arranged and garnished. Present meals on plates with simple patterns so the food is clearly visible.

•Vary the shapes, textures and temperatures of the food. Take time to savor your food, smell it before you taste it, and chew thoroughly before swallowing.

•Augment your food's flavor with a variety of herbs, spices and other flavor enhancement techniques. Maximizing food flavor does not call for great culinary skill, only imagination. You will find that, even if following a restricted diet, by creatively adding common ingredients in small amounts, the biter notes of some foods can be masked, and your overall enjoyment of food can be increased.

•Look for strongly flavored foods, if tolerated, such as garlic, onions, citrus fruits, and flavored vinegars.

•Use fruit sauces or jams, as well as concentrated flavors and extracts to stimulate taste buds. Double the discount of herbs and spices added to recipes, but within reason. Some spicy seasonings, such as black or red pepper, shouldn't be doubled automatically. Also, dry rubs and spice/herb combinations on meat and poultry add flavor without fat. Use flavor enhancers like monosodium glutamate to enhance savory foods or reduce perceived bitterness or acidity MSG's effectiveness is not dependent on the ability to smell, and because it is lower in sodium than table salt, this easy-to-use flavor enhancer can boost the flavor of sodium-restricted diets.

Add small amounts of fat (creamy dressing, cheese sauce, bacon bits) to soften sharp tasting foods.

The chemosensory losses associated with aging and medical treatments can be readily and easily managed. By using these simple tips, seniors themselves, or through their caregivers, may regain the enjoyment eating once had, leading to improved nutritional status and better overall health.

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