Our bodies naturally grow and change over time. It’s a simple fact of life, and nutrition is important every step of the way. Everyone needs healthy foods to help our bodies thrive, but seniors and the elderly have specific nutritional needs.
In assessing healthy diet and nutrition for seniors, there are several factors to consider. The most basic area is simple body composition. As people age, hormonal activity naturally decreases. As a result older people gain weight and lose bone and muscle mass.
The following points outline other health considerations for people in their senior years:
The amount of water that is present in the human body naturally decreases as we age. Fluid levels can also be affected by personal choices and habits. Many seniors claim that they just don’t feel thirsty, so the simply don’t drink enough water. For others it’s difficult or inconvenient to pour a glass of water. Regardless of the reasons, too many seniors suffer with dehydration. Older men and women should at least one ounce of water for every 2.2 pounds of weight, every day.
Protein is an essential nutrient at every stage of life. It supports a healthy immune system and prevents wasted muscle. Even though energy needs are decreased in the elderly, it’s still important for seniors to eat high quality proteins such as eggs, lean meats, fish and poultry.
Fiber and Carbs
Most people have heard that seniors require extra fiber, as a fiber rich diet combined with plenty of water can aid in preventing constipation. Carbohydrates from cereals, pasta, bread and other grain products are also required to provide the energy needed by active seniors.
The body’s natural metabolism slows down as age increases, so nutrition for seniors means less fat in their diets. It’s important to note that fat should be limited, but not eliminated altogether. You can trim the amount of daily fat intake by choosing fish, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and fat-free or fat-reduced preparation methods.
Keep Up Your Calcium
Many women and men don’t get enough calcium, which is a vital element of nutrition for seniors. Older people should take in about 1,500 mg of calcium every day. Unfortunately, people often struggle with digestive problems from drinking milk, but they can take advantage of the many calcium-rich alternatives. Low-fat cheese, yogurt and broccoli are all great choices, and non-fat powdered milk can be used in many recipes.
Beef Up Your Iron
Iron deficiency is a common problem for the elderly. Lean red meats and breakfast cereals are great sources of iron.
Many seniors neglect zinc as an important contributor to good nutrition. The fact that zinc isn’t readily absorbed into the body compounds the problem. Including healthy servings of poultry, meat and fish can help seniors to meet their daily zinc requirements.
Many elderly men and women suffer with a vitamin B12 deficiency that is caused by atrophic gastritis. The human body can only absorb vitamin B12 when there is an intrinsic factor present in the stomach. Men and women suffering from atrophic gastritis have an inflammation of the stomach that causes bacterial overgrowth and impedes the intrinsic factor. Seniors with a vitamin B12 deficiency should talk to a doctor about supplemental options.
People of all ages need a health, balanced diet to grow and remain healthy. It’s important to have a balanced diet with the proper amounts of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Seniors should be particularly careful about their diets, as they must deal with additional age-related health concerns. Aging causes change, but proper nutrition brings strength and vitality to every body.