Q. Mom's appetite for munchies seems to have kicked into high gear. At 85, she doesn't seen interested any longer in eating substantial meals. but I don't want to keep buying potato chips and things like that for her. What do you suggest as a nutritional substitute for junk food?
Try popcorn that has a minimal amount of salt and butter - many seniors love it - and there are more reasons to feast on it. Popcorn's reputation as a snack food that's healthy popped up a few notches recently as scientists reported that it contains more of the healthful antioxidant substances called "polyphenols" than fruits and vegetables.
Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a pioneer in analyzing healthful components in chocolate, nuts and other common foods, explained that the polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn, which averages about 4 percent water, while polyphenols are diluted in the 90 percent water that makes up many fruits and vegetables.
In another finding, the researchers discovered that popcorn hulls - the part that gets caught in teeth - has the highest concentration of polyphenols and fiber. "Those hulls deserve more respect," said Vinson, who is with the University of Scranton (Pa). "They are nutritional gold nuggets."
The overall findings led Vinson to declare, "Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It's the only snack that is 100 percent unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients. One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70 percent of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person gets only about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way."
Vinson cautioned, however, that the way people prepare and serve popcorn can quickly put a dent in its healthful image. Cook it in a potful of oil, slather on butter or the fake butter used in many movie theaters, pour on the salt; eat it as "kettle corn" cooked in oil and sugar - and popcorn can become a nutritional nighmare loaded with fat and calories.
Another way to help your mother achieve a nutritious diet is through mealtime assistance. A Home Instead CAREGiver could support a healthy diet by providing companionship, shopping and meal preparation assistance.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact Sharon Massafra at 203-386-1151 or go to www.homeinstead.com/307.
For more about the study, check out http://nyp.org/news/hospital/study-stroke-symptoms-hooman.html.
The Home Instead senior Care network's 2012 Family Caregiver Support web Seminar Series features monthly seminars fo rfamily caregivers on a variety of topics that can help them care for their aging loved ones. Learn more about the topics and preregister at caregiverstress.com/familyeducation.