As a person ages, their ability to absorb certain nutrients decreases. The answer, however, is not to simply eat more food, but to eat more wisely so you can be sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and strong. Here are some tips concerning nutrition in older adults that could make a big difference for you or for a loved one.
Nutrition in older adults: finding the right balance
Seniors generally are not as physically active as younger people. They have less muscle mass and their metabolic rate goes down, so in general, they need fewer calories every decade. But even while the need for calories drops, the need for nutrients does not.
Instead of eating more, the key is to eat more nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, low-fat dairy products and lean cuts of meat. According to webMD, your body needs the same amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals as you age.
A few examples why good nutrition in older adults is so important:
This important vitamin helps keep the body’s blood and nerve cells healthy, helps with the production of DNA, and plays a role in preventing megaloblastic anemia, which can result in overall weakness. Vitamin B12 also may help prevent osteoporosis, as well as reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Good sources of Vitamin B12 include meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs.
This busy nutrient works to keep your brain, nervous system and immune system on track. It also may improve mood and reduce depression, promote brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and cancer. Vitamin B6 also can promote eye health. In short, this vitamin is key to good nutrition in older adults, and can be found in foods such as chickpeas, tuna, salmon, potatoes and bananas.
Remember when your mother said to eat your fruits and veggies? They are a great source of antioxidants, which benefit the human body in many ways. Antioxidants reduce chronic inflammation, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. They also relieve oxidative stress, which is associated with heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke, immune deficiency, emphysema, Parkinson’s disease and other conditions.
Some excellent sources for antioxidants are plant-based foods and fruits, such as berries, oranges, bell peppers, carrots, peas, spinach, blueberries, tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, corn, wheat and other whole grains.
According to the National Center for Nutrition & Aging, it’s important for seniors to get the right amount of protein. Too little can cause malnutrition or muscle loss, which can lead to decreased physical function and independence, and increased fall risk. Too much protein can result in dehydration, and also cause complications in those with kidney disease.
Good sources of protein include lean cuts of beef, chicken, fish, pork and lamb. Even if a person does not eat meat, they can still find protein in eggs, beans, tofu and nuts, as well as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese.
Download our free guide, Just The Facts: Your Guide to Independent Living.
This is just a quick look at how eating healthy can benefit those over 60, but maintaining a healthy diet can be difficult for some seniors. For example, here are a few reasons why a senior may not be getting the nutrition they need to stay on track for healthy aging:
- Problems chewing or swallowing food
- Loss of appetite due to medications
- Inability to follow recipes due to cognitive issues
- Lack of transportation means not getting to grocery regularly for fresh fruits and vegetables
- Lack of physical ability to lift pans or access food items safely in kitchen
- Boredom or depression
The right environment can make all the difference for nutrition in older adults
Nutrition in older adults can have a profound impact on quality of life. If you are concerned an older loved one is no longer able to get the nutrients they need on a daily basis, it might be time to consider a change of lifestyle.
In a vibrant and supportive senior living community, older adults can once again enjoy a pleasant dining experience that offers both good nutrition and the health benefits of socialization. No more worrying about what’s in the refrigerator, how to prepare it, or even how to clean up afterwards. Instead, nutritious and delicious dining is served by a cheerful wait staff in a gracious setting where friends abound.
At St. Mark Village, residents can enjoy a range of dining experiences, each featuring a pleasing selection of choices created to blend flavor with essential nutrients. It’s just one aspect of our emphasis on total wellness, which includes seamless access to future care options. We’d love to tell you more.