Seniors should be mindful of their dietary intake and prioritise reducing or eliminating sodium consumption to maintain optimal physical health.
Everybody always finds it a joy to eat alongside loved ones. The problem, however, is the composition of the ingredients in many dishes, with sodium as one of the red flags.
Sodium intake and related diseases
State and territorial health agencies in Australia have tagged sodium as a major contributor to lifestyle diseases in the country. Studies tagged Aussies for diets that include up to 4,000 milligrams of sodium a day for adults; levels of at least 2,000 to 2,300mg increases the danger of non-communicable disease, such as high-blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, plus kidney stones. Salt, which is a prime source of sodium, is used to maintain blood pressure and keep the body function as electrolytes, but an excessive amount leads to side effects like bloating and water retention; the latter is evident in the legs being more swollen.
Writing for Hospital and Healthcare, Australian lifestyle physician Dr Renae Thomas, MD MPH, took note of studies detailing 67 percent of Australian adults as obese with another 47 percent suffering from chronic conditions.
The 2021 Australian Feeding Infants and Toddlers Study also detailed concerns that the excess sodium intake during early childhood is a harbinger of ailments in later years, with junk food and items such as eggs and breakfast cereals as leading sources of sodium.
Lowering sodium intake
The Australian government is already working to combat excessive sodium intake through the Partnership Reformulation Program, which encourages food manufacturers to fix their product ingredients for lower levels of sodium, sugar and saturated fat. The program was built for reevaluating 27 specific packaged food categories with new benchmarks. The World Health Organisation’s 2020 report on processed food made in Australia, meanwhile, recommended changes for 58 categories.
A study published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension in January 2023, stated that if Australian food manufacturers were able to tweak their products for lower sodium intake per WHO guidelines, there may be a chance to lower annual diagnosis of heart disease, kidney disease, and stomach cancer by up to 7,000 new cases less. Scaling back on consumption of high-sodium items may even prevent up to 1,770 deaths per year, the study added.
Taking action at home
Elderly Australians have the energy, knowledge, and willpower to effect changes in their dietary habits. Here are some tips to help seniors shift gears away from a sodium-laced meal, in most cases with help from loved ones.
Reading nutrition labels
All food products will have a nutrition information panel on the labelling. The sodium content will be explicitly tallied there by their amount per 100-gram serving and the overall amount in the entire product. Products claiming to be “low salt” may be notable for containing less than 120mg of sodium per a 100g serving, while a “reduced salt” product contains 25 percent less sodium than a regular version of that product. Avoid any single food product with up to 500 mg sodium per 100g.
Limiting of salted food/condiments
Sodium is very much present in processed food items or condiments, as they are often used as preservatives. To this end, a health-conscious senior can be guided to gradually lower their intake of salty food items, including but not limited to instant noodles, soy sauce, fish in brine, and fast food. The latter is also highly distressing; a multinational study in 2012 tagged a number of Australian fast food items as saltier than counterparts in France and Britain.
Reducing your sodium intake can be effective by programming more fresh items into their meal plans, with the Australian Dietary Guidelines as a general reference.
Fresh fruits and vegetables will have less salt than normal, even though they must be thoroughly washed before eating, especially canned items. Noted low-sodium items include spinach, potatoes, mangoes, strawberries, and bananas.
Some people may suggest eating fibrous food to aid in digestion and proper bowel movement while limiting sodium intake. Go for whole-grain items including pasta, bread, barley and quinoa, plus whole-wheat cereal with no added sugar.
If meat is a vital part of your diet, especially protein for the added fuel, you can have your fix through lean fish, unsalted nuts, beef, pork, and chicken, among others – although the last one should not have skin or was marinaded.
For dairy options, some nutritionists recommend low-fat milk, plain yoghurt, and soy milk fortified with Vitamins A and D, and calcium. Be careful on the cheese front: mozzarella, Swiss cheese, and cottage cheese have lower sodium content than noted types such as Parmesan and Roquefort.
Salt is one of those well-known add-ons to cooking and many recipes list “salt to taste.” They can be replaced with more chopped vegetables (e.g. garlic, pepper, and onions), pepper, ginger or extra virgin olive oil. However, much caution is advised in other varieties touting extra health benefits than regular salt, such as rock salt, pink/black/red salt, and Himalayan sea salt; consumer advocate group Choice has dispelled the benefits claimed in those varieties.
The ASAG Reverse Mortgage
The ASAG Reverse Mortgage can be angled as a support arm for a seniors dieting plan that includes little or no sodium. For instance, the funds generated from your property’s equity may finance a Home Care or Aged Care programme with the dietary component placing much emphasis on lifestyle changes like a low- or zero-sodium diet.
Consultations with your loved ones and a registered dietitian can help plan out the meal options going forward, such as stocking up for more healthier food items and learning how to cook dishes with much lower sodium content. A loved one may even guide you with ordering reduced-sodium meal plan packages; many meal plan vendors are also registered with the NDIS, such as Be Fit Food, Good Meal, and WellHub. Combining a low-sodium diet with a comprehensive exercise plan can also aid in lowering blood pressure, given adequate monitoring.
Healthy options are a major element to protecting your body in your retirement. Curtailing sodium use will play a key role. Happy eating!
If you would like to learn more about the options available for equity release, feel free to contact ASAG through phone at 1300 002 724 or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also make use of the tool below to assess your own equity.
DISCLAIMER: The Australian Seniors Advisory Group has no business relationships of any nature with the companies mentioned in this article.