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Black History Month and nutrition for older adults

Golden Living

February is both Black History Month and American Heart Month, and an opportune time to address conditions like diabetes that are common among older adults, and disproportionately affecting older African Americans among the general older-adult population — 52 hospitalizations per 10,000 African American New Yorkers, compared to 17.7 per 10,000 for the general population, according to the New York State Office for the Aging (OFA).

Unmanaged diabetes is linked to increased risk for other diseases common in older adults, like cardiovascular and kidney disease, along with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The encouraging news is that by addressing diabetes, we can reduce the risk of many other diseases. Just as diabetes has a larger presence among African Americans, so will addressing diabetes bring about larger improvements among African-Americans.

Good nutrition and staying active are the keys

The Office for the Aging’s Nutrition Services division publishes monthly menus and newsletters for clients of OFA’s Friendship Centers and Home Delivered Meals program, and you can read them yourself at www.dutchessny.gov/OFANutrition. February marks the start of “candy season,” which begins on Valentine’s Day and can continue right through Easter season to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. It’s a lot of temptation: but rather than try and fail to avoid sweets altogether, it’s helpful to have healthy options available. They’ll keep one’s sweet tooth from taking too much control.

This recipe for dark chocolate-covered figs is included with the February menu:


½ cup dark chocolate chips (dairy free, if you can find it)

12 fresh Mission (aka Black Mission or Franciscana) figs

¼ cup finely-chopped raw walnuts


Melt chocolate in double boiler or microwave.

Dip figs into melted chocolate, sprinkle with nuts and place on parchment-lined pan.

Refrigerate about 30 minutes, until chocolate and nuts are set and figs are cold.

Calories: 80; Total fat: 4g; Saturated fat: 1.5g; Trans-fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 0mg

Total carbohydrate: 13g; Dietary fiber: 2g; Sugars: 10g; Protein: 1g

Compare that to what’s in a small box of mass-produced commercial chocolates: well over 200 calories; 18 or more grams of fat and trans fat; 20-50 grams of sugar; additives of questionable-at-best nutritional value; and negligible amounts of anything potentially healthy like fiber, vitamins and/or protein. But if you really must have a bit of candy, something produced locally will be far tastier. Savor it, and maybe you really will be able to hold yourself to just one.

Want more simple, healthy recipes? Go to www.dutchessny.gov/OFANutrition. Each recipe is in printable, large-print PDF format.

Exercise is the second part of the health equation, and OFA hosts safe, socially-distanced exercise classes throughout the county. Interested in tai chi? OFA offers those classes as well. And there’s an “A Matter of Balance” class getting underway this month in Fishkill. For more information about classes near you, or on becoming a volunteer exercise class leader, contact OFA at 845-486-2555 or ofa@dutchessny.gov.


Golden Living is prepared by Dutchess County OFA Director Todd N. Tancredi, who can be reached at 845-486-2555, ofa@dutchessny.gov or via the OFA website at www.dutchessny.gov/aging.

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