Nutrition is often a key concern for those involved in elderly care, as it can sometimes be a challenge to get older people to eat a balanced diet. This can be especially difficult if they have also health problems to consider, with dietitians often being involved in dementia care and other areas that can see nutrition suffer.
There is comprehensive evidence to show that keeping a balanced and well-rounded diet can have a positive impact on physical health, reducing the risk of many illnesses and making it easier to fight off infections.
However, a new study from the University of Warwick has highlighted the importance of nutrition in relation to mental health.
This could be especially important in elderly care, as older people are often at an increased risk of suffering from depression if they feel isolated or disconnected.
Published in the American Journal of Public Health, the research suggested that eating more fruit and vegetables can substantially increase happiness levels. It is one of the first studies to explore the link between emotional wellbeing and food.
The researchers found that the happiness benefits of fruit and vegetables increased for each additional portion eaten up to eight portions a day.
Speaking about the findings, Professor Andrew Oswald said: "Eating fruit and vegetables apparently boosts our happiness far more quickly than it improves human health. People's motivation to eat healthy food is weakened by the fact that physical-health benefits, such as protecting against cancer, accrue decades later. However, well-being improvements from increased consumption of fruit and vegetables are closer to immediate."
The team concluded that people who went from eating nearly no fruit or veg to eight portions a day would benefit from increased life satisfaction equivalent to moving from unemployment to employment. In addition, they noticed that this change happened relatively quickly, with improvements being noticed within two years.
Dr Redzo Mujcic, research fellow at the University of Queensland, who also worked on the study, said the results could be more effective at encouraging people to have a healthier diet because the effect can be seen quickly.
He said: "There is a psychological payoff now from fruit and vegetables - not just a lower health risk decades later."
When choosing a care home, the quality of nutrition should be a key consideration. Having a team of dedicated dietitians and chefs who are able to adapt and adjust to each older person's needs can make a significant difference.