Proper Nutrition In Old Age!
For staying healthy as we age, eating a well-balanced diet is very important. It helps us to get the nutrients we need, stay energized and maintain a healthy weight.
Read on to find out what are the special nutritional needs of an elderly person & how to meet nutritional needs for elderly persons?
Old age is not a disease. It’s a biological phenomenon that we cannot avoid. Aging is a progressive, irreversible and an inevitable natural process. Aging causes many changes in your body, such as thinners skin, muscle loss and less digestive acid in your stomach. Some of these changes make us susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, while others can affect our quality of life and senses.
The physiological changes as we age include: loss of teeth, failing vision, impaired hearing, change in body composition, change in Gastro-Intestinal tract, loss of appetite, change in cardiovascular function, change in renal function, reduced neuromuscular coordination, change in respiratory function, physical discomfort, diminished sense of taste and smell.
Good Nutrition Is Important For Elderly
Proper nutrition has a big impact on the physical & mental health, and over all well-being of older folks. The seniors have different nutritional needs than the younger people. Elderly are tremendously prone to malnutrition due to lack of proper nutritional knowledge.
As you age, your calorie needs undergo change due to the changes in your body composition and activity levels. Calorie requirements vary depending on our age and activity levels, but generally for many older adults 1400 to 1600 calories daily will be enough to meet their energy needs. If chosen carefully these calories can provide enough nutrients that can help you lead a healthy and active life.
What Are The Special Nutritional Needs Of An Elderly Person?
Younger adults require protein to build muscles, stay fit and fend off high cholesterol. Nutritional needs for the elderly are similar in this respect, but the main reason seniors require protein is for preventing muscle loss. As muscle mass is lost with age, so eating adequate amount of proteins becomes important. For instance milk and milk products, cheese, eggs, lean meats, and peanuts are rich sources of protein.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The mantra is go for “GOOD fat” and not “NO fat”. Instead of aiming to eliminate fat from your diet, opt for enjoying healthy (good) fats such as omega 3s that can defend your body against disease, support your brain function and uplift mood. Not only they are important for maintaining your heart in good health, but also critical for supporting brain health in many ways. Low levels of omega 3s can lead to reduced immune function, memory loss and even mental health conditions such as depression, Dementia, etc. Examples of omega 3s fats are fish, sea-food, nuts and seeds, plant oils like flax seed oil, canola oil and soya bean oil.
This is an important part of senior nutrition. Fiber is necessary for maintaining healthy digestive system and preventing constipation. Many fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables are essential for supporting heart health also.
Calcium, vitamin D, Magnesium
All of these three nutrients are necessary for maintaining strong bones and muscles. Strong muscles and bones are critical for preventing falls and fracture risks associated with old age as well as osteoporosis. These all three work together – bones need calcium for strength, vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and magnesium helps the calcium available in your body make its way through your bloodstream.
(i) Good sources of Calcium: Milk and milk products
(ii) Good sources of Vitamin D: Sunlight and egg yolk
(iii) Good sources of Magnesium: Green leafy vegetables, lentils/legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains. In general, foods containing dietary fiber provide magnesium.
Vitamin B 12
According to some studies, about 20% of people over 60 years age suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. The digestive system’s capability for absorbing vitamin b12 decreases as we age. Deficiency of this important nutrient has adverse impact on both your blood and Central Nervous System. Vitamin 12 deficiency can cause symptoms such as anemia, numbness or tingling in the hands & feet, memory loss, fatigue and poor balance.
Milk, cheese, eggs, meat, and fish are good sources of this vitamin.
Your entire body requires good potassium levels for many health & fitness reasons. This mineral is important for cellular function across the body including your heart, nervous system & muscles. Adequate levels of potassium are needed to maintain healthy blood pressure numbers and strong muscles.
Bananas, oranges, lemons, coconut, cooked spinach, cooked broccoli, peas and potatoes are rich sources of potassium.
Important Tips To Get Maximum Out Of Your Food
To make sure that the elderly people get adequate nutrition to meet their nutritional needs, here are some useful tips:
(i) Rather than three large meals, opt for small frequent meals.
(ii) Include in your diet complex carbohydrates like peas, beans, oats, whole grain pasta, whole grain bread, other whole grains and vegetables.
(iii) Focus on having lean protein with every meal such as beans, legumes, groundnuts, dry fruits, eggs, paneer (cheese), and yogurt.
(iv) Choose different, bright colored seasonal fresh fruits and fresh vegetables because they are rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
(v) Keep away from refined sugars and simple carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and baked goods because they on one hand spike your blood sugar levels, and on the other they don’t have much nutritional value.
(vi) Instead of high sodium and high cholesterol flavorings/foods such as preservatives, butter and canned foods, add flavor using herbs and spices.
(vii) Stay hydrated with hot, warm, and cold beverages such as soups, green tea, smoothies, milk shakes, butter milk, fresh juices and fresh lime water, etc.
(viii) If you have any vital vitamins or minerals deficiency, consult your doctor to find out best course of treatment to remove the deficiency. The doctor may prescribe some multivitamins and supplements.
Most Important Tip: Eating balance, healthy diet as you age is about more than just quality and variety of food. Equally important is to enjoy your food, which increases when you eat in the company of your family, friends and others. It’s as important as the nutritious food. A social environment stimulates our mind, makes meals more enjoyable and helps us stick to healthy eating habits/plan.
About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Personal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, USA obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me age is just a number!”