Ah, January — a moment to consider plans and directions for the upcoming months. Like many people, one of my personal goals is to recommit to mindful eating and wise food choices. While some residents like to rethink their diets as a New Year’s resolution, there are good clinical reasons to review the facility’s menu at any time of the year.
Researchers have found that the diet and the stomach microbiomes of those in long-term care are significantly less diverse and healthy than those of community-based elders, with institutionalized elders eating diets that are higher in fat and lower in fiber.
Not only that, but the alteration in gut microbes are detectable within 24 hours of dietary changes, suggesting an immediate payoff to dietary improvements (and immediate deleterious effects).
Benefits of a diverse menu
Studies indicate that a more diverse, healthier menu can promote healing, reduce inflammation and help to fight infection. Moreover, there’s a line of research suggesting that the foods we eat influence not just physical health, but also mental health and moods. A healthy gut microbiome is associated with better cognition and reduced anxiety, depression and other emotional maladies.
“The tried-and-true advice of a high-fiber, low-sugar, mostly plant-based diet can benefit patients in body and mind,” author Kirsten Weir writes in “The Future of Psychobiotics” (Monitor on Psychology, December 2018).