Recipe ideas for seniors often advocate for juicing as a healthy option, especially for people who have trouble chewing or swallowing. But is juicing really the best solution for seniors with chewing difficulties? Here’s some food for thought.
Too Much Sugar
It’s true that juicing provides all the vitamins and minerals from the fruit and vegetables it’s made from, and they’re raw, which is most beneficial. Unfortunately, it also provides a concentrated source of sugar, which, for many seniors, can cause blood sugar problems, and cause damage to teeth and gums. Because our bodies process liquids like juice much faster than solid food, a serving of juice dumps a large amount of fructose into the system in a very short time, which not only effects blood sugar, but mood and concentration, as well.
The Obesity Trap
There are several ways in which juicing can contribute to obesity:
- You’d never sit down and eat 5 servings of fruit all at once, yet this is precisely what can happen with juicing.
- Juicing strips the fiber and protein out of the fruit and vegetables. This means that you will feel less full and have less lasting “fuel” available for your body. You’ll be hungry again sooner.
- Fructose (fruit sugar) is converted to glycerol in the body, and having an excess of glycerol in your system triggers your body to store more fat.
Diabetes and Juicing
For diabetics, juicing introduces far too much sugar into the system to be healthy in the first place. Sadly, though, that’s not the end of the discussion. Consistent juicing can actually cause people to develop type II diabetes. As the fatty acids the body produces in large quantity while metabolizing all that extra fructose build up in the liver and skeletal muscles, insulin resistance builds, and, if it continues unchecked, can result in diabetes.
Liver Damage, Hypertension, and Gout
The damage from those fatty acids we just talked about doesn’t stop there. The build-up in the liver can also lead to fatty liver disease, and can overload the liver with waste toxins, including a high concentration of uric acid that can cause high blood pressure (hypertension) and gout.
For people with chewing and swallowing issues, there are many alternatives healthier than juicing. Ultimately, our food is the fuel our bodies run on. Juicing provides the equivalent of watered-down gasoline. Here are some high-octane ideas:
- Smoothies – Smoothies that are made with whole fruits and vegetables provide more nutrition, and are metabolized more slowly than juice. Smoothies made with more vegetables and less fruit tend to be less fructose-laden. Plain, unsweetened yogurt, or a low-sugar protein supplement can add nutrition without packing in sugar or fat.
- Mechanical Soft Foods – That’s a fancy way of saying “food you can squish up in your mouth without chewing.” These include foods like oatmeal, bananas, ground meats and vegetables, pasta, soft dairy products like cottage cheese or yogurt, and macerated soups (like cream of broccoli, where the vegetables are cooked soft and then blended).
- Soft Foods – These are foods that require minimal chewing, and are easy to swallow. These include meats that are moist, tender, and cut into small bits; rice; untoasted bread; well-cooked vegetables (cooked to the consistency of canned vegetables); and scrambled or poached eggs. Besides being easy to chew, the most important feature of soft foods is that they need to be moist, in order to aid swallowing.
It’s difficult caring for a senior who has difficulties with chewing and swallowing. Juicing is fast and easy, and it’s a big temptation to an already-harried caregiver. Planning ahead will make it easier for you to offer healthier options in ways that are both economical and simple. If you need help, contact Grove Menus for more recipe ideas for seniors and dietician-approved menus.