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Why Vitamin C is Important for Seniors

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin with several health benefits, but the body does not produce it naturally. As you age, it becomes more and more important to keep up with your diet and make sure you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients. 

The recommended daily vitamin C intake is 75mg for women and 90mg for men. That might sound like a lot, but one orange can get you at least halfway there. There are several ways to incorporate vitamin C into your diet and to make sure you’re getting enough. No excuses! 

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it dissolves quickly in the body. While animals can “make their own” vitamin C, humans cannot produce it. Since it dissolves so quickly, it’s important to intake vitamin C every single day. 

Vitamin C is necessary for the “biosynthesis of collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters,” and is “involved in protein metabolism,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Biosynthesis is the process of creating complex molecules that are essential for survival.

In layman’s terms, Vitamin C and biosynthesis are necessary for healing and healthy body functions.

vitamin c fruits

Vitamin C Benefits: What is Vitamin C Good For?

Aside from assisting in the body’s natural biosynthesis process, vitamin C is a:

  1. Antioxidant – Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, meaning it helps defend the body against harmful diseases. It can also improve white blood cell function, making it an all-around fantastic immunity booster.
  2. Blood Pressure Reducer – Studies have shown that Vitamin C can help relax the blood vessels, resulting in reduced blood pressure.
  3. Heart Disease Preventative – Vitamin C has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, especially when taken naturally as part of a diet instead of through supplements.
  4. Gout Preventative – Vitamin C may reduce uric acid in the blood, helping to prevent gout, a painful form of arthritis.
  5. Iron Absorber – Vitamin C can help the body absorb iron properly, making it extremely useful for vegetarians and those who don’t eat enough red meat or who are anemic. 
  6. Memory Enhancer – Studies have shown that people with dementia had low levels of vitamin C, and low levels have overall been linked to forgetfulness.
  7. Eye & Tooth Booster – The American Optometric Association cites vitamin C as an important vitamin for vision and dental health.
vitamin c foods
Couple enjoying a picnic

Vitamin C Side Effects

It is unlikely that you can have a vitamin C overdose, though it is recommended that you don’t take in more than 2,000mg per day. If you get all your vitamin C from food, it can be very hard to have that much in one day. However, it is possible to have 2,000mg or more in one day if you get your vitamin C from supplements. 

It is unlikely to overdose and experience vitamin C side effects, but it can cause

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Nausea/vomiting
  3. Heartburn
  4. Abdominal cramps
  5. Headaches
  6. Insomnia
  7. Redness/flushing
  8. Lightheadedness

The Dangers of a Vitamin C Deficiency (Scurvy)

Scurvy is the body’s response to a lack of vitamin C. A vitamin C deficiency can cause:

  • Anemia
  • Dry hair and skin
  • Easy bruising, bleeding gums, and nosebleeds
  • Weakened tooth enamel
  • Weight gain
  • Swollen joints
  • Decreased ability to fight infection

Scurvy is a severe form a vitamin C deficiency, and it mostly affects older and malnourished adults.

How to Get The Right Vitamin C Dosage

The easiest and healthiest way to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C each day is to incorporate it into your diet. Most foods that have good amounts of vitamin C have other important nutrients in them as well. For example, oranges and orange juice are well known for being a good source of vitamin C, but they also have plenty of potassium, folate (vitamin B9), and thiamine (vitamin B1).

vitamin c food
Couple enjoying a healthy breakfast

Vitamin C Foods

Many fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin C, including

  • Guavas
  • Bell peppers
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Kale
  • Snow peas

Vitamin C Drinks

If you prefer, fruit drinks can have a lot of the same value as pieces of fruit. However, be aware that many fruit juices are full of added sugars and may not be a healthy long-term solution. If you have the ability to make your own fresh-squeezed orange juice, that can be a great healthy alternative. An eight-ounce glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice can contain 125mg of vitamin C, more than the recommended daily amount!

Grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, and prune juice can also provide great vitamin C value.

Vitamin C Supplements

You can find vitamin C supplements in various forms, like serums, powders, tablets, gels, and gummies! 

Vitamin C Tablets, Pills, and Gummies

You can find most any supplement you’re looking for in tablet, pill, or gummy form from your local pharmacy or grocery store. Consider these examples (which can also be purchased from Amazon):

  1. Vitafusion Power C Gummy Vitamins: These gummies can get you to your daily recommended vitamin C dosage
  2. CVS 500mg Immune Health Dietary Supplement: These tables contain 500mg of vitamin C, which is labeled as 833% of your daily value! Be sure to not take too much.
  3. Generics: Many drugstores will have generic versions of these supplements which may be cheaper than their brand-name counterparts (but usually include the same important ingredients).

Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C serums are usually meant to be used on the skin, so it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor or dermatologist before using a product. This example we found from InstaNatural is designed to be an anti-aging and blemish defense as well as a hydrating serum.

Vitamin C Powder

If you don’t want to take a pill but you need another form of a vitamin C supplement, you might want to try a vitamin C powder. Powders like this one from Nature’s Way are meant to be stirred into an eight ounce glass of water. You can also mix it into a smoothie or juice! This powder contains 500mg of vitamin C and only has 15 calories in it.

Emergen-C has a similar product, but it contains other nutrients as well. This one produces an orange fizzy beverage which includes vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin B12.

Emergen-C

We couldn’t go without mentioning the other host of products that Emergen-C offers (and no, they are not sponsoring this post)! Aside from vitamin C and adult  immune health support, Emergen-C also has energizing products, sleep aids, and kids immune support!

Orange juice
Orange Juice

Emergen-C Ingredients

Each Emergen-C product has slightly different ingredients, but we wanted to look at the Emergen-C Probiotics Plus product designed for daily immune health support. This product has an orange flavor and will provide 250mg of vitamin C (less than other products but still more than your daily recommended intake), and 110mg of potassium. It also lists out fructose, citric acid, maltodextrin, and malic acid. 

While those extra ingredients can seem a bit scary, a lot of them are found naturally in the foods we eat. For example, malic acid is what contributes to the sour taste of many fruits. Additionally, nutritionfacts.org said that by weight, citrus fruits are about 10$ citric acid. So, you might be getting these ingredients in your daily diet anyway.

Still, taking supplements does not mean that you can always eat unhealthy foods. These supplements are meant to literally supplement your diet, meaning you should still focus on eating healthy

Emergen-C vs Airborne

Airborne is another great product that advertises a “blast of vitamin C.” Both products contain very similar ingredients but come in different forms and flavors. For example, this product from Airborne has a “Very Berry” flavor and comes in the form of a tablet that will dissolve in a glass of water. 

Yummy Vitamin C-Filled Meal Ideas

If you have a hard time incorporating vitamin C-filled fruit and vegetables into your diet, consider these sneaky tricks:

  1. Add sliced strawberries to your morning cereal or oatmeal
  2. Freeze fresh fruit juices in a popsicle mold for a natural alternative to the sweet treat
  3. Include leafy greens in your sandwiches and burgers
  4. Use berries instead of chocolate chips in your pancakes and muffins
  5. Enjoy a bowl of tomato soup with your sandwich
  6. Add vitamin C powders to your water or juice

When in doubt, always ask your doctor about your diet. If you’re really struggling, your doctor might refer you to a nutritionist who can put together a concrete dietary plan designed just for you. 

Consider joining our 28-day “Healthy Living Challenge” to get yourself started. Good luck!

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Healthy Soups for Seniors

There are thousands of unique soup recipes out there on the internet. While soup may only be as healthy as the ingredients inside it, Eatingwell.com reports that soup-eaters have “higher intakes of fiber, vitamin A, magnesium, iron, and potassium, which are all important for a healthy diet, especially for aging seniors! Soups also tend to be relatively low in calories!

Granted, like everything else, you should enjoy soup in moderation. Soups also tend to be high in sodium, which can raise your blood pressure. The potassium content in many soups can even the sodium out, but it’s still not something you want to over-indulge in. 

Healthiest Soups for Seniors

The way you prepare and consume a soup can determine whether or not it’s healthy for you. “Healthy” can also depend on your specific dietary needs.

However, the following soups can be deliciously healthy when prepared correctly!

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Broth-based Soups

Broth is made of bones and tissue usually derived from chicken, cows, or even fish. Broth can be rich in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous. MedicalNewsToday says that broth can strengthen your joints, fight osteoarthritis, reduce inflammation, support weight loss, and even aid sleep.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting millions each year. Arthritis can become a legitimate concern. Arthritis happens when your bones wear down from overuse, which can become more possible as you age.

Tomato-based Soups

Tomatoes are loaded with vitamin C and antioxidants and are sometimes considered a superfood. Uniquely, they also contain lycopene, a plant compound that gives tomatoes their red color and has been linked to prostate cancer prevention. Tomatoes are one of the few sources of lycopene. Tomatoes have also been proven to help maintain blood pressure, support heart health, improve insulin levels in diabetic people, reduce constipation, and improve skin and eye health.

Tomato Soup for Seniors
Tomato Soup for Seniors

Lentil-based Soups

Lentils are high in fiber and nutrients like vitamin B, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. They also contain phytochemicals, which protect against chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Again, like everything, it’s important to only enjoy lentils in moderation. Uniquely, they contain “antinutrients,” which can reduce your intake of other nutrients. Thankfully, you would have to eat a lot of lentils for this to pose a real problem!

Healthy Canned Soup

In many cases, canned soups are not going to be nearly as healthy as a fresh, home-made batch. However, sometimes, you just don’t have the time or energy to make yourself some fresh soup! Canned soup can be very cheap at your local grocery store (and even online), and it’s not always terrible for you. 

When looking for healthy canned soups, look at the nutrition label and look for low sodium content, less calories, and more vitamins and minerals. Additionally, canned soups tend to have high levels of BPA. Consider looking for soups packaged in “Tetra Pak” or other cardboard/BPA-free solutions.

Here are a few examples we found online: 

  1. Health Valley Organic (No Salt Added) Minestrone: 
    • Only 100mg of sodium in the whole container
    • Only 180 calories in the whole container
    • Only 4g of fat in the whole container
    • A serving is about half of the container. Each serving contains 40% of your daily vitamin A intake, 15% vitamin C, 4% calcium, and 8% iron
  2. Dr. McDougall’s Organic Split Pea Soup
    • Verified non-GMO, gluten-free, and USDA organic
    • Comes in BPA-free packaging
    • Entire container has only 250 calories and only 1g of fat and 1g sugar
    • No cholesterol 
    • Entire container contains 590mg sodium
    • Entire container has 15g of protein 
    • Also includes vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium
  3. Pacific Foods Creamy Tomato Soup
    • Verified gluten-free, kosher, vegetarian, and USDA organic
    • BPA-free packaging
    • There is quite a bit of sodium in this one, with 3,000mg in the entire container
    • Entire package contains 8g fat and 400 calories
    • Good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron

Easiest Soups to Make at Home

Each of the healthy canned soup options we listed above can be made at home! We searched the internet and found three great recipes to share.

1. Easy Home-made Minestrone

We found this minestrone recipe from the Food Network!

You might have a lot of these ingredients in your pantry already, and you can use them to make six servings of minestrone!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 diced celery stalks
  • 1 diced large carrot
  • 1 1/2 cups of trimmed green beans (cut into ½ inch pieces)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 28oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  • 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (drained & rinsed) 15oz can low-sodium kidney brains
  • 1 cup elbow pasta
  • ⅓ cup finely grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil

Directions: 

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat
  2. Add onion, cook about four minutes or until translucent
  3. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds
  4. Add celery and carrot and cook until soft, about five minutes
  5. Stir in green beans, dried oregano and basil, ¾ tsp salt, and pepper to taste; cook for three minutes
  6. Add diced and crushed tomatoes and chicken broth; bring to boil
  7. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for ten minutes
  8. Stir in kidney beans and pasta, cook until tender (about ten minutes)
  9. Season with salt
  10. Serve topped with parmesan and chopped basil

Thank you, Food Network, for this recipe! Head over there to print this recipe and to leave a comment about what you think about it!

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2. Easy Home-made Split-pea Soup

We found this recipe for split-pea soup that serves six people from Epicurious! You could probably substitute out a different cut of pork (for example, if you have some leftover ham from Thanksgiving, throw that in there)!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 chopped large onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 1 ½ pounds smoked pork hocks
  • 2 tsp dried leaf marjoram
  • 1 ½ cups green split peas
  • 8 cups water

Directions: 

  1. Melt butter in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat
  2. Add onion, celery, and carrots
  3. Saute until vegetables soften (about eight minutes)
  4. Add pork and marjoram; stir for one minute
  5. Add peas, then water; bring to boil
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover pot
  7. Simmer until pork and vegetables are tender and peas are falling apart; stir often (about 70 minutes)
  8. Transfer hocks to a bowl
  9. Puree five cups soup in batches in a blender; return to pot
  10. Cut pork off bones, dice and return to soup
  11. Season with salt and pepper, serve warm!

Thank you, Epicurious, for this recipe! Head over there to leave a comment about the recipe.

Grandmother and daughter grocery shopping
Grandmother and her granddaughter bringing home groceries

3. Easy Home-made Tomato Soup

We found this recipe for “Easy Three-Ingredient Tomato Soup” by Adam and Joanne Gallagher at Inspired Taste! It contains half the ingredients (or less) and half the sodium of a canned tomato soup!

Ingredients: 

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • ½ large onion cut into wedges
  • 1 28oz can peeled or crushed tomatoes (or 10-12 medium fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 ½ cups water, low sodium vegetable stock, or chicken stock
  • ½ tsp sea salt

Directions: 

  • Melt butter in dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat
  • Add onions, water, tomatoes, and ½ tsp salt
  • Bring to simmer and cook uncovered for about 40 minutes
  • Stir occasionally; add salt as needed
  • Pour into a blender and blend to taste (it can be as smooth or as textured as you’d like)
  • Add basil if desired!

A note from Medicare Plan Finder: we love a little parmesan in our tomato soup!

Thank you, Inspired Taste, for this recipe! Head over to their site to watch a video of how this soup is made and to leave a comment with your thoughts on the recipe.

7 Fad Diets That Work for Seniors

It may seem like you hear about a different celebrity toting a new diet every time you turn the TV on. Some people say that eating lots of protein and cutting carbs is the way to go. Other people say to keep the bread and pasta in your diet and to not eat dietary fat.

The diets on this list may be considered fad diets, however, they are diets that work*. Experts in health and nutrition created and reviewed these diets, and they may offer overall health benefits along with additional support for specific health conditions such as dementia, heart disease, and diabetes.

*Always check with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.

1. Mediterranean Diet

According to US News, the Mediterranean Diet is the best diet for overall health, heart health, and diabetes management. The people who live around the Mediterranean Sea “live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments.” 

The diet itself “is more of an eating pattern than a structured diet.” In other words, you’re “on your own to figure out how much to eat to lose or maintain weight.” With the Mediterranean Diet, you focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts.

You should also have fish “at least a couple of times a week,” and eat poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt “sparingly.” The diet does not prohibit sweets and red meat, but it does encourage you to eat them only on special occasions.

2. DASH Diet

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The diet is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to stop or prevent high blood pressure. DASH ranks third in the “Best Heart-Healthy Diet” category.

The diet focuses on lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy in an attempt to help manage blood pressure, because these foods contain nutrients such as potassium, calcium, fiber, and protein. All of these nutrients have been shown to “deflate blood pressure.”

DASH also recommends limiting sodium to 2300 mgs a day. 

According to US News, the diet works because it’s easy to follow long-term.The DASH diet recommends making small changes such as:

  • Adding one vegetable or fruit serving to each meal
  • Introducing two or more meatless meals per week
  • Using herbs and spices rather than salt to flavor food
  • Snacking on almonds or pecans instead of chips
  • Swapping whole wheat flour for white flour whenever you can
  • Taking a 15-minute walk after lunch or dinner (or both)

DASH, according to US News, can be used as a weight loss diet if you burn more calories than you take in.

3. Flexitarian Diet

Flexitarian” is a combination of two words — flexible and vegetarian. The term basically means that you’re a vegetarian most of the time, but you can eat meat when the urge hits. The diet is based on a book called The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease and Add Years to Your Life, by Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietician. 

The idea is that if you consume more vegetables than meat, you can lose weight and improve your overall health. The US News panel of experts agree, because the Flexitarian Diet ranks third for the “Best Diets Overall,” “Best Diets for Weight Loss,” “Best Diets for Healthy Eating,” and “Best Weight Loss Diets.”

According to US News, the diet is easy to follow. The diet emphasizes plant-based protein (beans, peas, lentils), eggs, dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Blatner’s book offers a customizable meal plan that includes two snacks. If you follow the plan, you’ll consume about 1500 calories a day. 

You can adjust your food intake as necessary for weight loss or maintenance. How much you consume depends on your age, weight, height, and activity level.

4. MIND Diet

The MIND Diet is designed to help promote brain health. Note: There is no guaranteed way to prevent Alzheimer’s, but eating leafy greens, nuts, and berries may lower your risk of developing the progressive brain disorder.

MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, and it’s a mixture of the DASH and Mediterranean diets. The diet was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center.

If you follow the MIND Diet, you’ll eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad, and one more vegetable. You also get a glass of wine, which is good for brain health, according to Morris.

You’ll snack on nuts most days, and every other day you should eat half a cup of beans. You’re supposed to include poultry and blueberries twice a week, and fish once a week. When you cook at home, you should use olive oil instead of other cooking oils.

5. Volumetrics Diet

This diet was created by Barbara Rolls, a nutrition professor at Penn State University. Like the Mediterranean Diet, Volumetrics is an approach to eating, rather than a structured diet. 

Volumetrics groups foods by energy density. Basically, the lower a food’s energy density, the more likely it is to fight off hunger.

For example, non-starchy fruits and vegetables, and broth-based soups have a very low energy density because they’re mostly water. Those foods are in Category One.

Low-density (Category Two) is the next step up. Those foods include starchy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat meat.

Medium-density (Category Three) foods include meat, cheese, pizza, ice cream, pretzels, and cake.

High-density foods make up Category Four, and they include chips, chocolate candy, cookies, butter, and crackers.

To follow the diet, you’ll use Rolls’ book to categorize your food choices. You’re supposed to focus mainly on Category One and Two foods, keep Category Three portions small, and eat Category Four foods rarely.

Volumetrics can help you lose weight if you stay in a caloric deficit, which may be easy to do if you eat mainly filling, low-calorie foods.

6. Mayo Clinic Diet

The Mayo Clinic Diet is designed to promote “weight loss and a healthy lifestyle.” The diet uses the Mayo Clinic’s “unique food pyramid” that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

The diet works on some of the same principles as the Volumetrics Diet by focusing on foods with low energy densities. For example, two cups of broccoli has the same amount of calories as one quarter of a Snickers bar. 

The Mayo Clinic Diet is effective for weight loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, you can lose “6-10 pounds in two weeks, and continue losing 1-2 pounds each week until you hit your goal weight.” You do this by adding a healthy breakfast, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. 

7. TLC Diet

In the diet’s case, “TLC” stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes. The National Institute of Health’s National Cholesterol Education Program created the diet with the goal of cutting cholesterol for heart health. It focuses on vegetables, fruits, bread, whole grains, pasta, and lean meat. 

If you want to lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) level, men are supposed to eat 2,500 calories a day, and women are to eat 1,800. If you also want to lose weight, men are to eat 1,600 calories a day, and women are supposed to aim for 1,200 calories a day.*

Then you’re supposed to limit saturated fat to less than seven percent of your daily calories. If you do that and our LDL level hasn’t dropped by 8-10 percent, then add “two grams of plant stanols or sterols and 10-25 grams of soluble fiber every day.” You can find stanols and sterols in vegetable oils. 

Other daily guidelines include: 

  • Keeping meat to a maximum of five ounces per day, and sticking to skinless poultry and fish
  • Eating 2-3 servings of low-fat or nonfat dairy products 
  • Loading up on fruits and vegetables — up to four servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables daily
  • Eating 11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, pasta, or other grains

*The exact appropriate number of calories to eat may differ for each individual person. Speak to a doctor before beginning a new diet.

Healthy Choices for Your Overall Health

The above diets may be a great starting point for getting or staying healthy. Go to your doctor with specific questions about diet and exercise, and check out our blog for information about Medicare. To learn more about Medicare Advantage and/or Medicare Supplements, call 844-431-1832 or contact us here to arrange a meeting with a licensed agent.

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