Nutrition for Strength When You're Not Well
Get tips on nutrition and healthy eating when you’re ill.
Concentrating on Calcium
Calcium is an essential mineral that all women need from adolescence on,
says clinical nutrition specialist Frederic Vagnini, MD, FACS, medical director
of Pulse Anti-Aging Center in Scarsdale, N.Y. "It's an absolute must and a
For optimal bone health -- especially among people taking medications such
as corticosteroids that deplete bone density -- aim for 1,200 to 1,500 mg of
calcium a day from both food and supplements.
"Yogurt is rich in calcium and easy to get down," he says.
Taking a Daily Multivitamin
Most nutritionists, including Beller, suggest that people try to get their
vitamins from whole foods. Food contains many vitamins and minerals, and their
synergistic effect is probably more beneficial than vitamin supplements. Still,
no one has a perfect diet. So Beller and Vagnini suggest one multivitamin each
"I recommend everyone take a multivitamin, especially those who are
elderly or who have a chronic illness," says Vagnini. He says "poor
appetite is not an uncommon problem in the elderly and it is also worsened by
poor teeth, fatigue, and a decrease in mental acuity."
Finding Time for Fiber
Most people need 20-35 grams of fiber a day, depending on your gender and
age, according to the American Dietetic Association. In addition to improving
regularity, adequate fiber can help prevent several forms of cancer and heart
"Generally speaking, fiber comes from fruits, vegetables, and whole
grains," Vagnini says. But if your appetite is compromised, "one of the
things that you may try is a fiber supplement or try oat bran cereal mixed with
some milk and fruit."
Fresh fruit is another great source of fiber. Also, some meal-replacement
drinks and bars have fiber in them.
Certain pain medications and cancer medications can be constipating, so
fiber can help keep you regular. But she cautions against filling up on bran
because it is important to get calories from other foods as well.
Fitting in Fat
"We encourage people to eat fats like avocado and even ice cream,"
Pataky says. "We are not as concerned about fat types as we are about
getting in calories because if you lose weight when you are sick, it's not just
fat loss, it's muscle loss as well and that is very hard to get back," she
says. "It's important to get enough calories and fat is high in
calories," she says.