As baby boomers age, they are increasingly looking to food as a way to maintain good health.
?All of the common health complaints around agingâheart, lung and vascular disease, diabetes, thyroid dysfunctionâcan be affected by good nutrition,? says nutritionist and gerontologist Jennifer Warner of Sacramento, Calif.
Steven Pratt, a researcher and ophthalmologist specializing in ocular plastic surgery at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif., began noticing outward signs of aging and disease in his patientsâeyes that lack clarity, for example, or skin that discolors or loses elasticity. In researching these symptoms, Pratt saw clearly some connections between food, specific nutrients and health.
Based on this research, Pratt wrote SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life (William Morrow, 2003). In the book, Pratt describes micronutrients as the nutritional equivalent of cellular-level rust prevention for human bodies. He targets 14 foods as particularly nutrient-dense: beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, oranges, pumpkin, salmon, soy, spinach, black or green tea, tomatoes, turkey, walnuts and yogurt.
Baby boomers drive demand for superfoods
In pursuit of maintaining youthful vigor?both internally and externallyâbaby boomers are discovering superfoods.
?Seniors who shop with us tend to be much more open to getting the necessary vitamins and minerals from pills,? says Sonja Tuitele, spokeswoman for Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats Markets. ?But baby boomers are a little more skeptical. They?d rather get the nutritional benefit that comes from healthy and wholesome foodâlike the superfoods.?
In response, Wild Oats has created a ?Did You Know?? signage program that identifies all of the superfoods and their benefits. At the fish counter, consumers might see a sign saying, ?Did you know that wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and is a heart-healthy choice??
Placing signs at the point of sale makes it particularly easy for consumers interested in finding high-nutrient foods to identify desired products easily, says Tuitele. ?We give people choicesâmaybe someone doesn?t like the taste of fish, or they don?t eat it daily, which is really what they should be doing to get the recommended amount of omega-3,? says Tuitele. ?But you can complement eating fresh fish by picking up fish oil capsules ... to get the desired omega-3 dose.?
David Bennett, co-owner of Mollie Stone?s Markets, a chain of seven upscale grocery stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, says his stores rely on signage, too, to efficiently direct customers to the foods and grocery sections they desire. The staff?s dedication to learning helps, too. ?We depend on the natural suppliers, magazines and natural food shows to help educate us and keep us current on the trends,? says Bennett.
Wild Oats designs quarterly programs that address customers? food and nutrition desires. In previous quarterly pushes, the store has provided customers with detailed information on a chosen topic, whether the focus is on gluten-free diets, celiac disease or superfoods. Topical specialists are brought into the stores to speak, and events, such as cooking demonstrations, are planned around the quarterly theme.
?We might do an educational program that talks to consumers, not only about the health benefits of superfoods, but about the taste profile, freshness and seasonality,? says Tuitele. ?We want to show how superfoods can be made fun and how to incorporate nutrition-packed foods into an everyday diet plan so you don?t feel as though you have to take a pill.?
Rachel Hauser is a free-lance food writer in Boulder, Colo.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 8/p. 18, 20