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Healthy Nutrition for Older People

Rita Putatunda Nov 24, 2018
As you grow older, getting a nutritionally rich diet becomes even more important. Read on to know all about the importance of healthy nutrition for older people.
A healthy eating plan can never be outgrown. Irrespective of stage of life you may be in, eating healthy is vital. However, for an older person, individual nutritional needs are to be modified keeping intake of balanced diet, the same. Your overall future health will be affected according to you food intake, whether you are 45 or 75; home-bound or active.
Healthy food choices along with lifestyle changes can reduce the chances of getting certain aging related diseases, such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease. It aids in treatment as well as recuperation from illness. This may not turn the clock back, but is known to make people feel more energetic and healthy in a long run. 
Consuming a nutritional diet involves eating a wide variety of health foods every day. After all, food is the source of energy, vitamins, protein, fiber, minerals, and fluids you require in order to be strong.

Factors Suggesting High Risk of Poor Nutrition

There are various factors that can be indicative of higher risk of inadequate nutrition. In case you experience 3 or more of the factors given here, you need to consult a registered dietician or a physician:
  • Prolonged poor health
  • Poor dental health
  • Unexpected loss or gain in weight
  • Inadequate eating habits
  • Taking medicines
  • Economic inadequacy
  • Inadequate social contacts and loneliness
  • Being unable to take care of yourself

Facts you Need to Know

The same types of nutrients are required by older people as well as by younger people, except the intake amount. As one gets older, one requires fewer calories compared to when one is younger. The reason being, that with the decrease of muscle mass and a reduction of physical activity, there is less energy required for the basic processes of the body.
Nevertheless, contrary to general misconception, the basic nutrient requirement do not decrease with ageing. In fact, older people need increased amounts of some nutrients. The challenging aspect is to create a diet plan that provides lots of nutrients without adding much calories. Of course, calorie requirements are depends on age as well as activity level.
A nutritional eating plan can be achieved by selecting foods that are high in fiber and low in fat such as cereals and breads made with whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, along with healthy fats and oils.
Plus, of course, adequate amounts of protein foods, such as eggs, fish, poultry, meat, and beans. Also, while foods that are high in calories, fat, and sugar can be indulged in occasionally, it is best to limit their consumption.

Essential elements to be included in nutrition rich meals.

Calcium

While this mineral is essential at all ages, however it is particularly important as one grows older. Calcium is necessary for preventing osteoporosis and building strong bones.
Many old people simply do not consume adequate amounts of foods that are rich in calcium, plus, the aging body is not as good at the absorption of calcium from food. Also, many adults do not get enough exercises that are weight bearing, such as walking, which helps to strengthen the bones.
According to nutritionists, those who are 65 and above require 1200 to 1500 mg of calcium in a day. However, since this amount may be hard to consume via food alone, it may be advisable for some people to take a calcium supplement, after consulting your doctor.
In case you do choose to include a calcium supplement, it should be taken between meals, since calcium can interfere with iron being absorbed from other foods.
Some of the foods that are good sources of calcium are: cheeses, yogurt, low-fat milk, canned salmon that includes edible bones, leafy green vegetables, tofu made by adding calcium sulfate, and soy milk fortified with calcium.

Vitamin C

This helps in the absorption of iron from sources of food that are derived from plants. Low vitamin C levels may occur due to smoking and inadequate eating habits. Low levels of this vitamin can lead to iron deficiency, delay in the healing of wounds, and bleeding gums.
Some of the best sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, tomatoes, melons, berries, green peppers, and so on.

Potassium

Although many people are aware of the importance of calcium and vitamin C, very few people know about how important potassium is. It helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure, as well as the proper functioning of muscles and nerves, and an adequate fluid balance.
Most foods contain good amounts of potassium, yet people do not get enough of this mineral as they do not eat enough fruits and veggies. Some good sources of potassium are: bananas, oranges, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, tuna, halibut, eggplant, chard, and so on.

Vitamin B12

This helps in the formation of red blood cells and its lack leads to anemia. Some of the vitamin B12 rich foods are: liver, which is the best source; mutton; beef; chicken; pork; whole egg; fish; yogurt; cheese; and milk. You can also take vitamin B12 supplements and B12 fortified foods with a doctor's consult.

Magnesium

This is required for a wide range of processes of the body. It strengthens the immune system and bones, while also playing a key role in the functioning of the nerves, muscles, and heart. 420 mg per day is the recommended amount for men, and 320 mg per day for women.
Fish; fruits like artichokes, bananas, and dried figs; nuts like Brazil nuts, almonds, pine nuts, and cashew; vegetables like spinach, pumpkin seeds, white beans; and tomato paste.

Vitamin A

This is essential for maintaining good vision, the growth of tissues, and for immunity. Some of the best sources of vitamin A are: winter squash, spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin D

This helps in the absorption of calcium and is a preventive against diseases of the bone. It is produced in the body on exposure to sunlight. However, those who do not go outside much, or always use sunscreen when out in the sun, or have dark skin, do not produce adequate amounts of this vitamin from sunlight.
About 20-30 minutes of exposing face or hands to sunlight about 2-3 times per week is enough to get adequate amounts of vitamin D. Some of the sources of food high in vitamin D are: fortified cereals and milk. You could also take vitamin D supplements, after consulting your doctor.

Vitamin E

This is a very good antioxidant that helps in protecting you cells from getting damaged. Some of the best sources of this vitamin are: almonds, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and tomato sauce.

Fiber

The importance of fiber for older people can't be over-emphasized. It keeps the bowel working in peak condition, and protects against intestinal problems. A healthy intake of fiber is also thought to help in protecting against some types of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Most vegetables, fruits and nuts are high in fiber. The recommended amounts of fiber per day for older people are: 30 gm for men and 21 gm for women.
Usually, there is a deterioration in the ability to taste and smell foods with aging, which results in food being less appetizing. Plus, certain medications can produce a bitter taste, which makes foods taste bad.
In order to compensate for this, meals should be created by enhancing the flavor of foods. Flavors can be enhanced by adding spices, herbs, and lemon juice. Select foods that have interesting textures and look appetizing.
One of the best ways of incorporating a nutritionally healthy diet is to consume a wide range of foods, with the focus being on vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.