Official figures reveal that as we get older, we’re more likely to suffer with conditions such as high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure, increasing the risk of conditions such as heart attacks and strokes. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced, nutritious diet will help to protect us from these things. 

One of the foods we can enjoy in plentiful amounts throughout life is fish – and our senior years are no exception. White fish such as cod, plaice, haddock and coley, and shellfish such as prawns, mussels and crab, are a great choice for helping to control calorie intakes without resorting to small portions or missing out on taste. Experts also agree that replacing some of the saturated fat in our diet with unsaturated fats such as polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats can help to maintain normal cholesterol levels. 

Oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, fresh tuna, salmon and trout can help with this as much of the fat they contain is unsaturated. In particular, oily fish are rich in long-chain omega-3 fats. These play a role in helping the heart to work normally and maintaining normal blood pressure and blood levels of triglycerides, a type of fat, which when raised increases the risk of heart disease. 

Looking after bones is also vital. In women, after the menopause, bone loss speeds up due to a drop in the hormone oestrogen, which helps to keep bones strong. Including plenty of calcium-rich foods is important as this mineral helps to maintain normal bones. Tinned fish, which contain tiny edible bones, such as anchovies and sardines, as well as brown crabmeat are packed with calcium. 

It’s also important to get enough vitamin D. Like calcium, vitamin D is important for maintaining normal bones and teeth as it helps to absorb calcium. Experts also agree that vitamin D may reduce the risk of falling in men and women over the age of 60. This is great news, as falling is a risk factor for bone fractures. To help protect against falling, it’s recommended older people have 20mcg vitamin D each day. The main source of vitamin D is sunlight – it’s made in our body when the skin is exposed to the sun’s rays. But increasingly, studies show that many of us have low levels of this nutrient in our blood, indicating that we can’t rely on sunshine alone to get enough of this nutrient. This means it’s important to eat more foods that are rich in vitamin D. And that’s where oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, pilchards, fresh tuna and salmon are true winners as they’re all packed with vitamin D. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Health also recommends all adults over the age of 65 years take a daily supplement containing 10mcg vitamin D. Bottom line: enjoying the recommended two portions of fish every week, including one serving of oil-rich fish such as sardines, mackerel, herring, fresh tuna, trout or salmon, is a great choice throughout life, including our older years.

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