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Omega-3 Fats

These unsaturated fats, found primarily in fish, have a wide range of benefits, including possibly reducing symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis and slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease of reduced vision in the elderly.  "New evidence suggests that omega-3s may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and perhaps even keep the brain sharper as we age," says Zelman.  Seafood should be part of a heart-healthy diet but omega-3 supplements have not been shown to protect against the heart. 

How to hit the mark: Nutrition experts recommend helping yourself to at least two servings of fish a week. Salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel are especially high in omega-3 fats. Some vegetable sources of omega 3 include soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil. Omega 3 supplements are available but be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin taking any supplements.

If you're an adult child trying to help your parents get more omega-3s, Coste says to make it as easy as possible for them. She suggests buying canned salmon to put on salad. "You can get little cans or open bigger cans and put them in a plastic container," she says. "Put mixed greens in another container. Then all they have to do is open the containers up and toss them together with salad dressing."

Water

Water might not seem like an essential vitamin or mineral, but it is crucial for good health. With age, sense of thirst may decline. Certain medicines increase the risk for becoming dehydrated. Water is especially important if you are increasing the fiber in your diet, since it absorbs water. In the Modified MyPyramid for Older Adults, created by Tufts University researchers, 8 glasses of fluids a day are next to physical activity in importance for health.

How to hit the mark: Nutritionists recommend you drink 3 to 5 large glasses of water each day, says Zelman. One sign that you’re drinking enough is the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow. If it is bright or dark yellow, you may need to drink more liquids. 

Coste says that adult children can help remind their parents to drink enough water by buying them 4-ounce water bottles. "As we get older, we get overwhelmed really easily," she says. "You open the refrigerator and you see big bottles of water and you close the refrigerator. You see a small bottle of water and you think, 'I can drink that.'"

Some people may need to have their amount of fluids restricted due to medical reasons such as kidney or liver disease. Make sure to check with your healthcare provider about a suitable fluid intake level for you. Taking in too much fluid can be unsafe, too.