Nutrition refers to the process of getting the necessary nutrients for the body through eating a well-balanced diet. Maintaining good nutrition plays a significant role in keeping the body healthy, however, seniors’ nutrition can be a bit more challenging to maintain than younger people’s.
This is due to different bodily changes we experience when we reach our senior years such as changes in appetite, caloric demands, medications, and lifestyle. That’s why it’s crucial to practice healthy eating habits, especially for senior citizens.
Importance of Good Nutrition Among Seniors
Maintaining good nutrition should always be a priority for both the young and the old as it offers a ton of benefits to your overall health. To be more specific, listed below is what makes good nutrition important for everyone.
- Keeps body processes functioning properly
- Helps in muscle and bone growth
- Gives enough energy for the body
- Keeps various illnesses at bay
- Helps maintain a normal, healthy weight
Factors That Affect Nutrition among Seniors
Some of the factors that affect the nutrition of seniors are:
Older adults tend to gain weight more easily compared to younger people. This is because, since we get less physically active when we get older, we tend to burn fewer calories which makes it difficult to lose weight.
Slower metabolism also plays a factor in this matter. Since older adults have a slow metabolism, it makes it harder for their bodies to burn excess calories. Thus, it’s crucial to cut off calories from one’s diet during senior years.
As we get older, the more likely we lose our appetite. This is because as we age, our ability to taste also gradually diminishes. Loss of appetite in seniors implies poor absorption of essential nutrients. If not addressed, this will then result in poor nutrition.
Lifestyle and major events in life can also play a factor in one’s nutrition. Whether it’s a death of a loved one, separation from family members or other major events can affect your mental and emotional health. Thus, it will also affect your eating patterns and even cause a loss of appetite.
Some medications can affect your diet. In some cases, you may need to avoid certain foods to make sure the medicine properly functions. Talk to your doctor if there are needed changes in your diet when taking certain medications, and what alternatives can be eaten to maintain good nutrition.
We all know that as we age, we become more at risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or stroke. To slow its progress, your doctor may advise some changes in your diet. This includes cutting off cholesterol-rich and calorie-rich foods.
One of the reasons why seniors are more susceptible to various illnesses is due to their weakened immune systems. Doctors may advise cutting off certain foods that may cause allergic reactions or poisoning to your body.
Whether it's tooth loss, gum disease, or tooth decay, there’s no doubt these conditions affect your appetite and your ability to eat certain foods. For example, seniors suffering from tooth loss may lose their ability to chew hard foods like meat or dry foods. This will then reduce the nutrients the body can receive. If not addressed, this may lead to poor nutrition.
Seniors who live in low-income households may not be able to eat enough meals. According to a recent study published in BMC public health, the researchers stated that low income and poor nutrition are somehow linked to each other.
Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors
The crucial and most effective way to maintain good nutrition among seniors is to have a well-balanced diet. However, you should know that the ideal diet for seniors can be quite different from those of younger people. To help you establish healthy eating for seniors, here are some tips you should know:
Always look for nutrient-rich foods
Since seniors are more prone to diseases and appetite loss, it’s important to always opt for foods that are rich in nutrients like fruits, vegetables, and white meat. If you have tooth loss, you can cook recipes with sauces. Soup recipes are also a good option to soften the texture of your meals.
Include fibers in your diet
Fiber-rich foods offer a lot of benefits to one’s nutrition. Not only does it help clean your digestive tract, but it also helps control calorie intake keeping cholesterol levels and obesity at bay.
Take nutritional supplements
It was previously mentioned that some medical conditions may require you to change your diet. Unfortunately, this may affect the number of nutrients you consume. A solution? Taking nutritional supplements might help you with that.
For seniors, supplements consisting of vitamin B complex, vitamin D, magnesium, or calcium can be a good choice. If you encounter a multivitamin, check its contents if it's what you’re looking for.
Note: If you do decide to take a supplement or vitamin, it’s important to check with your doctor first if it will not interfere with the current medication you are taking.
Keep yourself hydrated
Water is another essential mineral needed by our body. Drinking an adequate amount of water every day will contribute to improved health and nutrition. Drinking plenty of fluids will cleanse your urinary tract as well.
Always check the nutritional info
Nutritional information or also termed nutrition facts refers to the table that can be found behind any package of food. When shopping for frozen, canned, or packed foods, it’s important to check their nutritional information to monitor the number of nutrients as well as calories and fats that you consume. In this way, you can cut off the foods that you think aren’t healthy for you.
Follow the ideal food serving for the elderly
For a start, try basing the food you eat each day on the classic food pyramid we have known since we were kids. If you’re not sure of the ideal food serving for you, you can base your meal plan on USDA’s MyPlate or take the quiz for a personalized diet for you.
Allot an adequate budget for food
As they say, health and good nutrition are one’s real wealth. It’s important to allot a nice budget for healthy foods, however, not all people are capable of it, especially low-income households and communities. Fortunately, there's a government program known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Good nutrition is crucial to both young and old people. Not only does it keeps your body healthy and properly functioning, but it also reduces your risk of getting various illnesses. However, seniors should prioritize more on maintaining good nutrition since they are more susceptible to chronic illnesses.