You probably don’t consider soup an unhealthy food, especially since it’s so easy to pop open a can for lunch or dinner. But the canned stuff tends to contain tonnes of sodium, and research has shown that older people aren’t able to filter out excess sodium as well as when they were younger. “High levels of sodium in the diet can elevate blood pressure, and can also increase the risk of osteoporosis,” says dietitian Erin Palinski-Wade. Plus, “as we age, we are also more susceptible to water retention, so reducing sodium can help to reduce unwanted bloat,” Palinski-Wade says. She suggests making your own soups and freezing them in individual portions for easy defrosting, or at least selecting low-sodium canned options.
It’s time to say goodbye to those footy night franks – as well as other highly processed meats like bacon and salami. “Processed meats are high in sodium, saturated fats, and nitrate [a preservative], all of which may have a negative impact on health,” Palinski-Wade says. High intake of processed meats has been linked with a greater chance of developing heart disease, diabetes and stomach cancer – and we already have an increased risk of those diseases as we age. “If you do select processed meats, opt for ones made without nitrates and choose lower fat, lower sodium varieties when possible,” she says.
Barbecued or fried chicken
Unfortunately, swapping out that hot dog for fried or barbequed meat won’t do you much good. “Cooking meat at very high temperatures can increase the levels of HCAs [chemicals called heterocyclic amines] in the protein, which can be carcinogenic,” Palinski-Wade says. Some studies (although not all) have linked high consumption of fried or barbequed meat to colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer. Even though research is ongoing, it’s best to err on the side of caution when it comes to increasing your risk of the cancers that tend to strike older people. “Limit to one or fewer servings per week, and marinate your meat before grilling to help reduce the production of these compounds,” Palinski-Wade says.