Eating a healthy diet is a protective factor for preventing falls and falls-related injuries due to its role in helping to improve muscle and bone strength. It is important to consume an adequate amount of vitamin D, calcium, and protein to reduce the risk of a fall.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb more calcium. We get vitamin D from certain foods as well as sunshine, which helps our body to make its own vitamin D. The best sources of Vitamin D are fatty fish like salmon, herring and mackerel, and eggs. Vitamin D is also added to margarine in Australia, and some fortified foods such as milks, soy drinks, breads, and cereals.
Calcium is required for normal bone development and maintenance of the skeleton. It forms with other minerals to make the bones hard and strong. Amongst individuals aged 51 to 70, 90% of women and 60% of men have inadequate calcium intakes. Good sources of calcium include milk, leafy green vegetables, soy and tofu, fish, nuts, and seeds, especially almonds.
Protein is needed to keep muscles strong and give energy and can be found in meat like chicken and other poultry, eggs, fish and other seafood, milk, cheese, yoghurt, nuts, and legumes.
Older adults are encouraged to eat nutritious foods from all five food groups and keep physically active to help maintain muscle strength and a healthy weight.
The five (5) main food groups are:
- Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
- Vegetables and legumes/beans
- Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans.
Some recommendations to healthy ageing to reduce the risk of falls:
- Eat a variety of foods or try new foods.
- Pick fruit instead of calorie-dense sugary foods.
- Cook at home and freeze meals.
- Use different cooking methods.
- Avoid skipping meals.
- Eat smaller portions.
- Eat with other people – make it a social event!
- Use herbs to meals to add flavour instead of salt.
- Drink plenty water – always carry a water bottle with you.
- Eat in a different environment e.g. outdoors.
- Food services such as Meals On Wheels are great for ready-made and nutritious meals delivered to you at a low cost.