Nutrition for the elderly is essential and, done properly, can lead to healthy aging. Senior nutrition is not complicated, but as we age we do have some different health and nutritional concerns of which we need to be aware.
Why it matters
According to the National Institutes of Health, good nutrition for the elderly helps to reduce the risks of such things as osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer. Additionally, the government reports that eating well can reduce the risks of stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, some kinds of cancer, and anemia. Furthermore, for those who already have some of these conditions, good nutrition can help to manage them better.
As people age, they need fewer calories, but that does not mean they need fewer nutrients. Making sure that senior nutrition considerations are addressed is a step in the right direction for healthy aging.
Nutrition for the elderly
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a lot of the illnesses, disabilities and deaths associated with chronic diseases could be avoided or at least postponed with lifestyle changes. Getting good senior nutrition, along with not using tobacco and staying physically active, is the foundation of healthy aging. Here are some of the most important considerations when it comes to nutrition for seniors:
- Go for variety. People should aim to eat a diversity of foods so that the body is getting a variety of nutrition. This will help ensure nutritional needs are met. It’s important to get good sources of iron, protein, healthy fats and calcium each day.
- Avoid the junk. As much as we may like empty-calorie foods such as chips, cookies, soda and candy, they wreak havoc on our bodies. Avoiding them is a sure step toward good nutrition.
- Know the fats. The fats to avoid as much as possible are saturated, which come from animals. Also avoid trans fats, which are found in many processed foods.
- Get vitamins and minerals. A daily supplement of vitamin D is particularly important, as it helps to ward off osteoporosis which can lead to hip fractures. It also play a role in preventing several types of cancer.
- Good nutrition for seniors. The key to healthy aging and good nutrition is getting plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
- Weigh regularly. It’s a good idea to get your parents to step on the scale and check their weight regularly; otherwise they may not be aware of any changes.
Putting it all together
Many people have difficulty eating as they age. However, this should not discourage individuals from getting good nutrition. If chewing or choking is a concern, foods will need to be softened, creamed, or made into soups. For example, if someone has trouble chewing fresh fruit, they can opt for fruit juices, soft canned fruits, applesauce, etc. Another senior nutrition concern for those on fixed incomes is often the rising cost of foods. Consumers will need to make quality choices that provide for optimal nutrition, such as opting for beans, rice or soup. Other ways to cut expenses are to buy foods in season, use coupons, and watch for sales.
The American Dietetic Association reports that most older adults take in only a third of the nutritional requirements that their bodies actually need. That can lead to a reduced quality of life, making it imperative that people make an effort to set and meet better goals when it comes to nutrition for seniors.