Senior Nutrition – Carbohydrate Needs For Older Adults

Carbohydrate intake in elderly people
The older adults should meet their carbohydrate needs mostly from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They should avoid sugar and other refined carbohydrates, such as white bread as their aim should be to get the most nutrients while consuming the fewest calories. Also they have to make sure to keep tabs on the "extras" that traditionally go hand-in-hand with carbohydrates, such as margarine, cream cheese, cheese, and cream sauces.

Foods containing carbohydrates help your body functions well. They supply dietary fiber, sugars, and starches and form an important part of a healthful diet.

Carbohydrate Facts The Seniors Need To Know

In this article you will find tips and guidelines about which type of carbohydrates and how much of them an older adult should eat to be fit and healthy.

Why Carbs Are Important?

The dietary fiber has many health benefits. For instance, it helps protect against heart disease and move the bowels efficiently. Older adults generally suffer from constipation because of certain medications or insufficient intake of fluid. So for seniors dietary fiber becomes even more important. The sugars and starches are essentially needed to provide energy to the body in the form of glucose, which is used to fuel your brain and nervous system. Moreover to contract your muscles you need a steady supply of glucose. Not only the carbs help save muscle-protein from being used as energy, some carbs are also needed to metabolize fat efficiently.

Read here Good Carbs Vs. Bad Carbs

Meeting Carbohydrate Needs For Seniors

The good carbohydrate-containing foods are nutrient-packed foods in various basic food groups, namely, fruits, vegetables, grains, and milk & milk products. Selecting these foods within your calorie requirements every day help your heart stay healthy and reduce the risk of life-style diseases like constipation, diabetes.

Elderly Needs To Choose Their Carbs Wisely

It’s important for the older adults to choose carbohydrates sensibly. Always keep in mind that sugars are already present in foods such as the fructose in fruit or the lactose in milk. Sugars are also added to foods during processing or preparation, such as high-fructose corn syrup in sweetened beverages or baked products, honey, sugar, or molasses. So beware of foods with added sugar as they are high in calories and low in nutrients—and that combination is not good for your body.

Know Your Carbohydrates And Which Kind To Choose?

Except lactose found in milk, almost all carbs come from plant sources. Because of a natural process plants absorb energy from the sun, and carbon, hydrogen & oxygen from atmosphere. These are converted into carbs. Plants store carbs inside them and use it for energy. When you eat plants, you get carbohydrates.

(i) Include in your diet fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains often.

(ii) Eat a variety of fruits. Avoid fruit juices. Preferably include fresh fruits in your diet. If not available then may go for frozen, canned, or dried, but without added sugar.

(iii) Eat a variety of vegetables. Include in your diet more of dark green vegetables like broccoli, kale, and other dark leafy greens. Also eat more of orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and winter squash.

(iv) Eat Legumes like dry beans and peas as they are especially rich in dietary fiber and should be consumed several times per week.

(v) Make Whole Grains At Least Half Of The Total Grains You Eat: Include in your diet at least 3 ounce equivalents of whole-grain products each day. Here are some tips:

(a) Examples of whole grains are whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, and pasta, brown and wild rice.

(b) One slice (1 ounce) of whole-grain bread, 1/2 cup cooked brown rice, and 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal together are equivalent to 3 ounces of whole grains.

For a 1,600-calorie diet: You can eat about one and a half to two cups of fruit daily, two cups of vegetables daily, half cup of dry beans or peas (legumes) most days (4 to 5 times per week), and 5 ounce equivalents of grains (minimum 3 ounces should be whole grains) daily.

For a 2,000-calorie diet: You can eat 2 to two and half cups of fruit daily, 2 to two and half cups of vegetables daily, half cup of dry beans or peas (legumes) most days (4 to 5 times a week), and seven ounce equivalents of grains (minimum 4 ounces should be whole grains) daily.

(vi) Whole Grain Products Tips: You can not identify whole-grain foods only by looking at their color or name (brown bread, 9-grain bread, hearty grains bread, mixed grain bread, etc. are not always “whole-grain”). Also on many whole grain food products, you may find the words “whole” or “whole grain” may appear before the name (for example whole-wheat bread). But the real way is that you look at the ingredient list to find out whether a food product is whole grain or not. Make sure that the whole grain should be the first ingredient listed. The following are some examples of how whole grains could be listed:

Whole wheat Wild rice
Brown rice Whole oats/oatmeal
Buckwheat Whole rye
Popcorn Whole grain barley
Bulgur (cracked wheat)

 

(vii) Dietary Fiber In Foods Tips: Look at the information provided in the nutrition facts label on front of the package.

For instance, the label might say “excellent source of fiber,” “rich in fiber,” or “high in fiber.” The label will depict the quantity of dietary fiber in a serving and the percent Daily Value (% DV). Read the % DV column—5% DV or less is low in dietary fiber, and 20% DV or more is high.

Read here about the good carbs that you should eat.

How Much Saturated Fat Is Recommended For Seniors?

The professional dieticians recommend a dietary fiber intake of 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed.

Let us take this example. If you’re a sedentary older woman who requires 1,600 calories per day, your dietary fiber intake should be approximately 22 grams per day. You can achieve this target by eating 1/2 cup stewed prunes (3.8 grams) and a whole-wheat English muffin (4.4 grams) for breakfast, 1/2 cup cooked cowpeas (5.6 grams) with lunch, and 1/2 cup of green peas (4.4 grams) and 1 medium boiled sweet potato without peel (3.9 grams) with dinner.

And in case you’re a sedentary older man who requires 2,000 calories per day, your dietary fiber intake should be approximately 22 grams per day. You can achieve this target by eating 1-cup raspberries (8 grams) and a whole-wheat English muffin (4.4 grams) for breakfast, 1/2 cup black beans (7.5 grams) with lunch, and 1 cup of mixed vegetables (8 grams) with dinner.

Choose Foods And Beverages Without Added Or With Little Added Sugar Or Caloric Sweeteners

The various health organizations recommend limiting intake of sugars and sweeteners so as to curb obesity. For instance, the World Health Organization recommends to intake not more than 10% of total calories from added sugar.

The Nutrition Facts label depicts how many grams of sugar a food has, but does not state added sugars separately. The amount stated includes sugars that are naturally present in foods (like fructose in fruit or lactose in milk) and sugars combined with the food during processing or preparation.

Added sugars, also called as caloric sweeteners, provide calories but very minimal or no essential nutrients. So, the higher amount of foods with added sugars you intake, the more difficult it becomes to get the nutrients you require without eating too many calories and gaining weight.

Note: Always keep in mind that added sugars are not the same as sugars found naturally in foods.

Tip: The health and diet experts say that most carbs should come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean dairy products.

How To Find Out How Much Sugar Is In A Food Product?

On packaged foods, read Nutrition Facts. It generally shows the ingredient list, wherein the ingredients are mentioned in order of amount by weight from most to least. If the sugar is mentioned as one of the first few ingredients then that product may be high in added sugars.

Check the Nutrition Facts label to find out the amount of sugars per serving. The amount stated includes sugars that are naturally present (such as fructose in fruit) and sugars added to the food product during processing or preparation. Now you need to do a little mathematics. Apply these conversion factors to estimate the total amount of sugar (natural and added) in one serving of a food item: 4 grams of sugar = ~1 teaspoon = ~16 calories.

Here are the other names used for added sugars in an ingredient list: Brown sugar, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, Dextrose, Fructose, Fruit juice concentrates, Glucose, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Invert corn syrup, Invert sugar, Lactose, Maltose, Malt syrup, Molasses, Maple syrup, Raw sugar, Sucrose, and Syrup.

Given below is an example of an ingredient list for a fruit yogurt (High Fructose Corn Syrup is underlined).

INGREDIENTS: CULTURED GRADE A REDUCED FAT MILK, APPLES, HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CINNAMON, NUTMEG, NATURAL FLAVORS, AND PECTIN. CONTAINS ACTIVE YOGURT AND LACIDOPHILUS CULTURES.

 

Take care while buying foods from restaurants, convenience stores, or other food stores. They generally have added sugar. Such foods contribute the most added sugar to diets of the Americans. Keep away from regular soft drinks, Candy, Cakes, Cookies, and Pies; Fruit drinks like fruit punch; Milk products like Ice cream, Sweetened yogurt, and Sweetened milk; and Sweetened grains, like cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles.

So, to keep yourself fit and healthy: Eat natural, unprocessed carbs. Try to keep away from sugar, sugar foods, sugary drinks and highly processed foods.

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