Maintaining Good Nutrition for Seniors

Eating a healthy diet and getting the right nutrients is important at any age, and that includes in older adults. The old saying “you are what you eat” may not be completely accurate. But your diet and food choices do play a big role in your overall health, which is why it is vital to make the
right choices.

Why Proper Nutrition is Essential in Older Adults

Proper nutrition is essential throughout your life. But as kids and young adults, the body can often tolerate a poor diet a bit better than as we get older. Poor nutrition can increase an older person’s risk of cognitive decline, an unhealthy weight, and decreased quality of life.

Maintaining a healthy diet is essential in older adults for several reasons
including:
  • Weight management: Metabolism tends to decrease in seniors, which can lead to weight gain if you have unhealthy eating habits.
  • Energy level: Eating the right foods helps provide you with the energy you need to get through the day.
  • Decreased the risk of certain diseases: The risk of many medical conditions, such as heart disease, increases as you age. Good nutrition is one way to reduce your risk.
Obstacles to Healthy Nutrition

Maintaining proper nutrition can be challenging as we age for a variety of reasons. For example, some seniors may have a limited income, which can make it difficult to buy healthy foods. But there are ways to stretch your food dollar and also social service programs that might be of help. Some seniors may also find their appetite decreases as they age. It’s common for our appetite to ebb and flow. But if you find your food intake has decreased significantly in the last three months, talk to your doctor. There may be a medical cause, and there are ways to stimulate appetite.

Poor oral health, including missing teeth, can hinder your ability to eat well. Maintaining good oral health is important not only for getting the proper nutrition but for overall well-being. Talk to your dentist about ways to keep your pearly whites healthy.

Important Nutrients for Aging Adults

Healthy eating does not change that much as you age. The basic rules still apply. Eat fruits, veggies, lean protein, and complex carbs. Choose foods that contain healthy fats, such as avocadoes, over trans fats. Limit
sugary foods and drinks.

Although many of the recommendations are the same for seniors as they are for younger adults, certain vitamins and minerals become even more important as we age. Make sure you get enough of the following:

  • Fiber: Fiber helps you feel full and plays a role in healthy digestion. According to the American Heart Association, it may also help protect against heart disease. Foods high in fiber include veggies, whole grains, and beans.
  • Vitamin B-12: This vitamin helps create red blood cells and promotes a healthy nervous system. We don’t absorb vitamin B-12 as well as we age as we did when we were young. So, it’s important to make sure we eat plenty of foods that are rich in this vitamin, such as fortified cereal, beef, and trout.
  • Calcium: Calcium is an important nutrient for several reasons, including maintaining strong bones. Bone loss is common in seniors. But getting enough calcium in your diet can help. You probably know that dairy products are a good source of calcium. But so are other foods. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, collard greens, broccoli, and kale are also good sources.
  • Potassium: Potassium also helps keep your bones strong and is essential for healthy nerve cell function, which is helpful as we get older. Foods high in potassium include lentils, bananas, and spinach.
Tips for Maintaining Healthy Nutrition

Eating a healthy diet and getting the right nutrients do not have to be complicated for older adults. Even a few tweaks to your diet can improve your health.

Consider the following tips:

  • Read food labels to track how much fat, sodium, and sugar you are
    eating.
  • Recognize a serving size, and eat the right portion for your age and
    body size.
  • Limit fast foods, which can be high in trans-fat and calories.
  • Eat smaller meals more often if you have a decreased appetite.
  • Flavor foods with herbs instead of salt.
  • Stay well-hydrated.
  • Talk to your doctor about unintentional weight loss or loss of
    appetite.

Sources:

https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/whole-grains-refined-grains-and-dietary-fiber
https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/a-guide-to-calcium-rich-foods/
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/vitamins-and-minerals
https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/healthy-eating-for-older-adults