Eat Well to Age Well: How to Boost Your Immune System This Winter


Keeping seniors’ immune systems strong is important, especially during the cold and flu season. Since diet and health go hand-in-hand, eating foods that give your immune system the fuel it needs to fight infections is critical.

To get the low down on nutrition, we spoke with Jordana Hart, a Holistic Nutritionist in Toronto.

How Dietary Needs Change with Aging

Maintaining a nutrient-dense diet is critically important for older adults. Research continues to demonstrate the impact of diet on physical and cognitive health, as well as bone density, eye health, vascular function, and the immune system. Yet, seniors face some key challenges to maintaining a healthy diet:

  • Ageing is often accompanied by a loss of appetite and changes in taste and smell, all of which can lead to lower intake of healthful foods.
  • Ageing is also often accompanied by general oral health decline and a reduced ability to swallow, which can affect food choice and intake.

Thankfully, says, Hart, their impact on our overall health and wellbeing can be lessened with appropriate adjustments in diet and lifestyle.

  1. Focus on real foods rather than prepared or fast foods.
  2. Stick with fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
  3. Include lean protein like chicken, fish, and beans.
  4. Include dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens – these are packed with vitamins and minerals.
  5. Choose bright coloured fruits and veggies like blueberries and cabbage – these contain lots of antioxidants.
  6. Moderate you intake of foods that are high in energy and low in nutrients such as cakes, sweet biscuits and soft drinks – these spike blood sugar levels.
  7. When your sweet tooth strikes, avoid refined desserts like cookies and cakes. Instead, focus on fruit and opt for more natural sweeteners like raw honey and pure maple syrup.
  8. Choose foods that are naturally high in fibre to encourage bowel health.
  9. Increase the nutrient density, not the portion size. For example, prepare hot cereal and soups with milk instead of water, spread peanut butter on toast instead of butter, or drink a fruit and veg smoothie rather than a milkshake or pop.
  10. Add flavor with spices and herbs. Avoid sugar laden sauces like ketchup and barbeque sauce.
  11. If possible, try to spend some time outside each day to boost your vitamin D synthesis for healthy bones.
  12. Exercise as much as possible to encourage your appetite and maintain muscle mass.
  13. Get enough sleep, aiming for 7 – 9 hours per night. Without quality sleep or enough sleep, people are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. Click here for tips on how to improve your sleep.
  14. Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Water helps in the transport of nutrients and is very important to detoxification pathways, making sure we are clearing out any foreign invaders and other waste materials.
  15. Encourage social meals. The thought of eating alone can decrease appetite. At All Seniors Care, residents are encouraged to have meals in the dining rooms where they can socialize with others, which can help improve food intake.


When a resident moves into an All Seniors Care community, we complete a nutrition assessment that includes an interview to determine their typical eating pattern and favorite foods.  It is also an opportunity to discuss any problems involving the appetite.  By getting a clear picture of a senior’s dietary preferences and needs, staff can help optimize well-being and help seniors make the best choices for their health.

Should Seniors Take Supplements?

In Canada, many people take vitamins and nutritional supplements to improve their overall health.

In 2015, according to Statistics Canada, 45.6% of Canadians used at least one nutritional supplement in their daily lives. This number accounts for over 15.7 million people! Additionally, seniors are the age group most likely to take multivitamins and nutritional supplements, especially

But, are supplements safe? Hart thinks that some are safer than others.  Common deficiencies are Vitamin D, zinc, and Vitamin C.  “In fact, approximately 75 % of North Americans are deficient in Vitamin D. Since it’s essential to bone health, the immune system, and sleep, most people can safely supplement with this “sunshine vitamin”.”

While vitamins and supplements are generally considered safe, there are some instances where they are contraindicated or can lead to serious side effects as a result of drug interactions.

Always speak to your doctor or a dietitian before adding vitamin or mineral supplements to your diet.

Each of our retirement residences offers different dining options designed to meet your needs. While some provide two meals a day, others provide all three. Residences like Chapel Hill in Ottawa provide full dining service and private dining rooms when you have family and friends visit.

Meals are dietician-approved and there are options to fit a wide range of medical needs, including diabetic choices, and with menu options to satisfy your tastes.

We believe in redefining senior living across Canada, and the dinner table is a great place to start. Our retirement residences serve up tasty, healthy meals every day.

Continue to read our blog for more Health and Wellness tips and join us next week for the second part in our nutrition series with Jordana Hart as we explore Superfoods for Seniors.


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