As we get older, our nutritional needs change. At the same time, we tend to become less active, and our metabolism slows down. This leads seniors to eat less, leading many to an increased risk of malnutrition. But the importance of nutrition in elderly adults is hard to overstate.
Malnourished individuals experience worse health outcomes across the board, including a weakened immune system, muscle weakness, and an increased risk of death. Fortunately, all it takes to combat this problem are the right strategies to improve nutrition in the elderly.
Understanding the Challenges of Senior Nutrition
As we get older, our access to food may become limited. Preparation can be more challenging. One result of this can be a monotonous diet lacking in variety, which is a recipe for micronutrient deficiencies. Even if those problems don’t become an issue, natural changes to the digestive system make it more difficult for senior bodies to absorb nutrients like vitamin B6 and B12. The side effects of medications only make elderly nutrition problems more complicated.
Of course, dietary changes can always impact a person’s health. But nutrition actually has a far greater impact on our health during our golden years. This is especially true with respect to our risk of disease. Poor elderly nutrition can contribute to cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, blood pressure problems, and other serious conditions.
Senior Nutrition Guidelines
It’s easier to meet nutritional needs with variety in your diet. That usually means a diet full of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. These are nutritionally dense foods, which are usually ideal for people who are eating lower quantities of food. It may be helpful to come up with a senior nutrition program to make sure you incorporate more of these foods.
Fiber can help alleviate a variety of digestive issues, which makes healthy nutrition easier to get. Consequently, the most successful elderly nutrition programs are typically high fiber diets. That’s part of the reason why veggies and whole grains are so important. Cereals enriched with B12 make for a great senior breakfast.
But what you eat is just as important as what you don’t eat. It can be especially important for seniors to cut out foods with low nutritional value. Junk food is typically void of essential micronutrients, which is especially true of sugar consumption.
Likewise, cutting back on salt can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, kidney disease, and stroke. Fresh herbs and spices, like rosemary, sage, turmeric, and basil, are a much healthier alternative. And pay attention to nutrition labels – high sodium is common for many prepackaged foods.
Senior Nutrition Tips
At any age, maintaining healthy habits can be tough. Planning your meals and having a routine can make it easier. Forming a meal plan can even allow you to freeze prepared meals a week ahead of time.
For many seniors, multivitamin supplements are a good idea, especially for people eating under 1,500 calories per day. Additionally, calcium and vitamin D supplements have been shown to reduce the risk of hip fractures.
Good Nutrition for the Elderly
Food is like medicine. That’s why having a healthy diet can help ward off everything from heart problems to constipation, and why poor nutrition in the elderly can directly contribute to a number of serious health problems. For seniors, maintaining a healthy diet is almost the same as maintaining health. It can be tough to eat healthy, but even small steps in the right direction can make a big difference.