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With Thanksgiving approaching and the holiday season upon us, meals with family and friends will be abundant. It is essential to consider your food consumption and feed your body a well-balanced diet especially during this time of year. According to reports by World Health Organization (WHO), a majority of the diseases that older people suffer are as a result of lack of proper diet Eating a balanced diet is very important for good health, energy, strong bones and muscles.
Age-Related Challenges that Hinder Proper Nutrition:
As you advance in age, your senses become numbed down; it takes more energy and time to trigger a stimulus. Your sense of smell and taste decreases reducing your appetite.
In some cases, you may even have trouble differentiating fresh food from stale since your senses are compromised. This, without any doubt, would be detrimental to your health.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications cause nausea, reduced appetite, and change food tastes perceptions. In this case, the side effects can discourage you from eating, and you end up skipping meals.
Poor Dental Health
Dental issues are more likely to come up as you grow older such as missing teeth, receding gums that cause your teeth to be shaky, mouth sores, and jaw pain.
All these factors make chewing painful and uncomfortable hence reducing the likelihood of taking healthy foods among seniors.
Lack of Finances
Older people have limited resources and worry more about money. They may, therefore, cut back on groceries and buy cheaper food, which, in most cases, is less nutritious. This lifestyle can result in many nutritional deficiencies.
Lack of Transportation
To shop for fresh cooking ingredients, you have to drive to the store, wait through heavy traffic, and park the car a distance from the door.
If it’s raining or snowing, it’s even more challenging. Chances of slipping and falling are high. These activities may discourage you from going to shop altogether.
Seniors become weaker with age, especially when dealing with conditions like arthritis and disability. Pain and poor physical strength can make simple tasks appear to be challenging.
Performing basic functions like standing for long while cooking, carrying groceries, or even peeling a fruit may become daunting tasks.
Memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease are fairly typical among seniors. A senior may forget to follow their recommended meal program or skip a meal or even forget to buy food from the store. This poses a nutritional challenge.
As you grow older, a lot of changes take place, (your children move away, you lose your friends and loved ones due to death, you feel lonely—especially if you live all by yourself, you experience physical changes).
All these issues compounded can lead to depression. Seniors may become apathetic about their health and avoid eating. If left untreated, depression can lead to much more significant health problems.
Healthy Food Choices
Let us look at foods that are good for elderly people. Begin with the basics. By this, I mean have a balanced meal, or elderly nutrition program, which constitutes:
- Carbohydrate-rich foods like sweet potatoes and brown rice
- Protein-rich foods like salmon and beans
- Fruits and vegetables (five portions a day)
Besides this, you can prepare meals rich in the following nutrients:
Foods High In Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These fatty acids are important for people of all ages including elderly people as they help prevent inflammation which can cause cancer, rheumatoid, arthritis, and heart disease.
It has also been found to slow down the progression of Macular Degeneration (AMD)—a condition that leads to poor vision. Recent evidence has shown that these fatty acids can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and keep the brain alert.
They can be found in fish mainly sardines, Tuna, Mackerel, and Salmon. They are also found in flaxseed, soybeans, canola oil, and walnuts.
Nutritionists recommend a serving of omega-3 fatty acids twice a week. Supplements are also available but be sure to consult your health provider before getting started.
Foods Rich in Calcium
Calcium helps our bodies build and maintain healthy bones. It has also been known to lower blood pressure. Unfortunately, surveys have shown that as we grow older we consume less calcium.
The body’s need for calcium is so essential that, if you are not getting enough calcium, it begins to reabsorb it from the bones. This makes your bones fragile and brittle leading to osteoporosis.
Foods rich in Calcium are mainly dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as in leafy green vegetables and cereals fortified with calcium.
The World Health Organization recommends that people aged above the age of 50 consume 1200 mg of calcium daily. This translates to 4 cups of fortified orange juice, milk, soy, or almond milk.
Some individuals find it difficult to absorb this much calcium daily through diet, in which case it can be taken as a supplement as directed by your health provider.
Foods Rich in Fiber
As we get older, our digestive system slows down. The walls of the gastrointestinal tract thicken and the contractions are slower and fewer which may lead to constipation.
Foods rich in fiber promote proper digestion by moving food through the digestive tract. These foods have also been known to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Foods rich in fiber include nuts, wholegrain cereal, wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice, brown bread, fruits, and vegetables.
According to a pyramid for older adults created by researchers from Tufts University, drinking eight glasses of water daily was next to physical activity in importance to health.
As you age, your body’s ability to conserve water decreases, so you don’t feel thirsty as often. However, your body still needs water.
Dehydration causes drowsiness and confusion among other side effects so it is essential to stay hydrated. If you are taking the recommended high fiber diet, you need to drink a lot of water this is because fiber absorbs plenty of water.
In order not to get overwhelmed by the quantity, you can put the water in small bottles and drink it throughout the day as opposed to storing it in a big container.
The surest way to check for dehydration is to observe your urine. If it is light and transparent, that means you are hydrated, if it is dark or bright yellow and cloudy that is a sign of dehydration.
There is an exception for seniors with kidney or liver disease; please consult your healthcare provider about a suitable amount of water for you.
Foods Rich in Iron
Iron plays a vital role in the body. It produces hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body.
When you are not consuming enough iron, there’s a limited supply of oxygen to the body tissues. This results in feeling tired and lethargic. Iron deficiency is known as anemia.
Foods Rich in Vitamin C
Vitamin C has antioxidant properties which are believed to prevent cancer and heart disease. It is also involved in the production of collagen, which gives your skin elasticity and gets rid of dead skin cells giving you healthy skin.
It also helps repair bones and teeth and aids in healing wounds. This essential vitamin can be found in fruits and vegetables. Supplements are also available with approval from your healthcare provider.
Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium in the body slowing down the rate at which bones lose calcium. It aids in the maintenance of bone density; therefore, preventing osteoporosis.
New evidence shows that it may also protect against chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and rheumatoid osteoporosis. Vitamin D is produced by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight.
Some foods come fortified with it such as cereals, milk, yogurt, and juices. Naturally, vitamin D is found in eggs and certain fish (salmon and tuna). A vitamin D deficiency also increases your chances of falling.
Some people argue that exposure to the sun predisposes us to skin cancer, so it is advisable to take vitamin D supplements instead following a consultation with your physician.
Foods Rich in Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is responsible for maintaining nerve function, production of red blood cells, and DNA. As you age, absorbing the vitamin from food is more laborious.
You can, therefore, consult your health care provider about supplements. It is found in dairy products like milk and meat and poultry products.
Foods Rich in Potassium
Surveys show that many older Americans do not take the recommended 4700 mg of potassium daily. Potassium aids in cell function reduces blood pressure and lowers your chances of kidney stones. It is also believed to strengthen bones.
It is found in fruit and vegetables like bananas, prunes, and potatoes. While lack of potassium is a problem, too much of it is dangerous, so consult your doctor before getting started on supplements.
Magnesium plays a crucial role in 300 physiological functions. It keeps your heart healthy, your immune system, and your bones strong. As you grow older, your body’s ability to absorb magnesium decreases.
Some medication for older people decreases the absorption of magnesium. It is mainly found in whole grains, nuts, fresh fruit, and vegetables.
For more information on the importance of a healthy diet, please visit Aging.com’s article:
ELDERLY NUTRITION 101: TEN FOODS TO KEEP YOU HEALTHY