Antioxidants are substances or nutrients that may help protect the body from damage by harmful molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are formed as part of normal and natural processes in the body. Exposure to environmental factors, such as smoking, pesticides, pollution, and radiation are some other ways that free radicals may enter the body. Antioxidants act as “free radical scavengers” and therefore help to neutralize free radicals. Antioxidants include some vitamins (such as vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene) and some minerals (such as selenium).
Calcium is a mineral that plays a key role in bone health. The body needs calcium for numerous functions, including building and maintaining bones and teeth, blood clotting, the transmission of nerve impulses, and the regulation of the heart's rhythm. About 99% of the calcium in the human body is stored in bones and teeth. The remainder is found in blood and soft tissue. Common food sources of calcium include milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, salmon, collards, spinach, and calcium-fortified foods, such as orange juice, tofu, and soy beverages.
Carbohydrates are a type of macronutrient that provides the main source of energy for the body. The digestive system changes carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar). The body uses this glucose for energy for cells, tissues, and organs, and stores any extra glucose in the liver and muscles for when it is needed. Simple carbohydrates include sugars found naturally in foods, such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products. They also include sugars added during food processing. Complex carbohydrates include whole grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables, and legumes. Many of the complex carbohydrates are also good sources of fiber.
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses blood glucose, commonly called blood sugar. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, which the body uses for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of the body. People with diabetes either don’t make enough insulin (Type 1 diabetes), or the body can't use its own insulin as well as it should (Type 2 diabetes). This causes glucose to build up in the blood, which, if not managed properly, can lead to serious health issues.
Glucose is a type of carbohydrate that is used by the body for energy.
The immune system is an intricate network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body and defend against infectious organisms and substances that can invade the body. In most cases, the immune system helps to keep people healthy, but problems with the immune system can lead to illness or infection.
Malnutrition is a condition that can occur when the body does not get adequate amounts of the nutrients it needs. There are a number of causes of malnutrition, including an inadequate or unbalanced diet, problems with digestion or absorption, and certain medical conditions.
Minerals are a type of nutrient used by the body for many different functions, including building bones, making hormones, and regulating the heartbeat. There are 2 kinds of minerals: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur, that the body needs in larger amounts. The body needs just small amounts of trace minerals, such as iron, manganese, copper, iodine, zinc, cobalt, fluoride, and selenium.
MyPlate is the government’s food guidance symbol. It suggests people eat balanced meals consisting of servings of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein, and a small amount of dairy. The MyPlate Web site recommends reducing portion size; making at least half of each meal fruits and vegetables; making at least half of grains consumed whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and pasta; and switching to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk. More detailed information can be found at http://www.choosemyplate.gov
Protein is a type of macronutrient found in every cell in the body. Proteins are made up of amino acids, which function as building blocks. The body uses protein to build and repair tissue, as well as make enzymes, hormones, and other substances. Food sources rich in protein include meat, dairy products, nuts, and certain grains and beans.
The Self MNA® (Mini Nutritional Assessment)
The Self MNA® is a simple nutritional screening tool for adults ages 65 and older. The tool’s questions can be answered by an older adult or a caregiver concerned about an older adult’s nutritional status.
Scores obtained from the MNA® can be used to help facilitate discussions about health and nutrition between older adults and their caregivers and/or their healthcare providers so appropriate nutritional intervention can be recommended, if needed.
Self MNA® scores range from 0-14:
- A score of 0-7 indicates that the adult is malnourished
- A score of 8-11 indicates that the adult is at risk for malnourishment
- A score of 12-14 indicates that the adult is of normal nutritional status
Vitamins are a type of micronutrient that the body needs for normal metabolism, growth, development, and health. Vitamins fall into 2 categories: fat soluble and water soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins—A, D, E, and K—dissolve in fat before they are absorbed, and can be stored in the body. The water-soluble vitamins—C and the B-complex vitamins (such as vitamins B6, B12, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and folate)—dissolve in water and are not stored in the body. Therefore, they need to be replenished daily.