My interest in studying Chinese soups for elderly started with my grandmother. She seemed fussy about her food. I thought it was because she was a picky eater, but I quickly realised that there might be more to it.
As I grow older, I noticed what I eat makes a lot of difference to my body and how I feel. I can no longer eat what I want without it showing up in my body. My friends and I always joke that we put on weight even when we only drink water. The truth, of course, is not so severe. But I am putting on weight a little bit every year even though I am not a big eater. It goes to show that with age, our bodies are more sensitive to what we put into it. We can no longer eat like when we are a young adult.
Good eating is the key to good health
If I am experiencing this, think about my grandmother. I did a bit of research on the geriatric diet and is surprised to discover that malnutrition in elderly is quite serious. Studies from the World Health Organization and regional health organizations and institutions in the US and Europe claim that many elderly are at risk of malnutrition. A health report even claimed that 16% of Americans over the age of 65 who showed up at emergency rooms across US are malnourished. Even Chinese health experts surmised that more than half of the elderly in China are malnourished. Many of them are vegetarian or are overly concerned with their weight.
No wonder older people have so many health issues. Not only are these symptoms of aging, but they are also signs of malnutrition. Fortunately, malnutrition can be treated with good dietary habits. Being better nourished, seniors are likely to experience better health and fewer ailments.
Healthy Eating for Seniors
I believe Chinese soups are a good way to make sure seniors eat healthily and nutritiously. And here are the reasons:
Chinese soups can be light and clear
Many elderly are still eating like they are in their 40s or 50s. People over 65 need less calories as their metabolic rate decreases, but they need more vitamins and minerals to sustain vital bodily functions. The elderly shouldn’t focus on weight-control or caloric-control diets. They should focus on geriatric diets that are highly nutritious.
Nutrients in Chinese soups are very easily and quickly absorbed because they are already in liquid form. Unlike creamy and thick soups that use milk, cream, or cook using root vegetables high in carbohydrates, Chinese soups can be predominantly broths with leafy vegetables, lean meat, tofu and more.
Recipe: Tomato and tofu soup
This recipe has tomato, and the skin must be removed because it is difficult to digest. This dish can ease bloatedness and increase appetite.
- 1 tomato
- 20g soft Chinese tofu
- 100cc soup stock
- Score the tomato skin and plunge into boiling water
- Remove the curled tomato skin
- Peel and chop the tomato
- Mash the tofu and tomato and add to the stock
- Bring the stock and mixture to a boil
- Remove from heat and serve
Chinese soups are soft food
I noticed that my granny likes to eat instant oats in the morning. She says they are convenient and nutrient dense. I think it is because she finds chewing food difficult as she had lost all her teeth.
Elderly must find it hard to chew with fewer teeth or sensitive gums. Their sense of taste and smell may also be dull, and food just do not taste or smell appealing.
I don’t think instant oats have enough nutrients as compared to meal replacement shakes. The problem with shakes is that they are usually cold and sweet. Most elderly Chinese prefers hot savoury meals.
Chinese soups and rice congee are hot and soft, a perfect medium to deliver micro-nutrients. They can be made the night before in the slow cooker and be ready as breakfast the next day.
Recipe: Pork rib congee
You can substitute the pork rib with chicken thigh or beef ribs or even ready-made soup stock. Just be mindful that ready made stock can have a high sodium content.
- 1 large pork rib
- 1 cup rice
- 10 cups water
- Dash of salt
Directions (rice cooker)
- Parboil the pork rib, remove and rinse (parboiling the meat is like giving the meat a hot bath)
- Place the rib, rice and water into the rice cooker and bring to a boil
- Continue to cook until the porridge is done
- When the porridge is done, remove the pork rib.
- Remove the meat from the bone and return them to the congee
- Season with salt if necessary
Try the recipe below if your elderly have a sweet tooth.
Recipe: Red Date congee
- 10 red dates, cored
- 1 cup rice
- 10 cups water
Directions (rice cooker)
- Wash the rice and soak in water for about 2 hours, if you have time
- Wash the red dates to remove any dirt
- Cut them into smaller pieces
- Place the rice, red dates and water into the rice cooker
- Cook for 1 hour or until the congee is done and the dates are soft
If you do not have a rice cooker, you can use the slow cooker, the instant pot, or a big pot on the stovetop.
Chinese soups contain soluble fiber and can boost immunity
Some old folks complained about bloatedness, churning and stomachache. These are likely due to poor digestion. I once heard a Chinese nutritionist said that the digestive ability of a 90-year-old is equivalent to a 5-year-old and a centenarian is like that of a 2-year-old. They should try my recipes on baby soups and baby rice congee then.
Seniors are also prone to constipation so consuming high fibre vegetables is important, especially vegetables that become soft when cooked but still contain a lot of soluble fibre. For example, Chinese cabbage, round cabbage, daikon radish, and lotus root.
Recipe: Thickened soup with chicken breast and round cabbage
Round cabbage has a lot of fibre and vitamin c. When sufficiently simmered, they are so sweet and mild.
- 15g organic ground chicken breast
- 10g round cabbage
- 5g carrot
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp cornstarch (to marinate ground chicken breast)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp cornstarch mixture (mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 1 tbsp water)
- Marinate the ground chicken breast with soy sauce and cornstarch
- Wash the cabbage and carrot
- Julienne both cabbage and carrot finely
- Put the vegetables in a small pot and add sufficient water to cover.
- Cook until they are soft
- Add the ground chicken breast and cook until done
- Add more water if needed
- Stir in the cornstarch mixture to thicken the soup a little
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
Elderly with chronic illnesses like renal and hepatitis or those on long term medication tend to have lower immunity. Mild Chinese herbs added to Chinese soups can help to maintain or enhance immunity. Here is an herbal soup recipe that I think is suitable for the elderly.
Recipe: Steamed herbal chicken soup
- 1 chicken thigh or chicken breast
- 2 pieces of angelica root
- 3 pieces of astragalus
- 6 red dates
- 1 litre of water
- 2 tbsp of cooking wine
- Salt to taste
- Cut the chicken thigh or breasts into slightly bigger than bite-sized pieces. Parboil them for roughly 2 minutes. Remove, rinse and drain
- Rinse the Chinese herbs gently
- Place the chicken pieces and Chinese herbs into a ceramic tureen/double boiling jar
- Add the water, cooking wine and salt. Cover
- Steam in a steamer for 1 hour
- Remove, plate and serve
Note: if you don’t have a ceramic tureen or double-boiling jar, use a large bowl and cover with cling wrap. If you don’t have an electric steamer, use a large pot or wok.
Nutritional supplements for Seniors
I believe in nutrient supplementation. It has become an accepted fact that food we eat now have lesser nutrients and it is getting harder to hit the minimum daily requirements and sensible supplementation is a good approach.
It is important to observe your body’s reaction to the supplements and adjust accordingly. It is not medicine, so it is not necessary to follow the instructions too closely. Take what you need and do not over-supplement. A good multi-vitamin supplement should do the trick.
We have come to the end of this post. I hope you found what you are looking for. If you have found it useful, let me know. It is a form of encouragement to me.