Growing older presents many challenges and obstacles to staying healthy. The aging process affects the body's ability to repair damage, fight infection, and maintain wellness. These changes impact the nutritional needs of older adults. Healthy eating habits help seniors get the nutrients they need to support them during this stage of life. A senior wellness care provider can help you reach your nutrition goals by focusing on the following needs.
The caloric needs of older adults decrease due to loss of lean muscle mass and reduced activity. However, the need for vitamins, minerals, and protein does not decrease. Nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, lean meats, and whole grains pack more nutrition into fewer calories than foods with "empty" calories, such as sweets, white bread, and fried foods.
Many older adults do not drink enough water. The sensation of thirst diminishes as you age, so many seniors don't realize they aren't drinking enough. Some people limit their fluid consumption to avoid incontinence. Mobility issues make it difficult to walk to the bathroom. As kidney function declines with age, it becomes more important to stay hydrated with water, as well as juice, tea, coffee, or milk.
Digestion and Fiber
The digestive system slows down with age, due to reduced physical activity, loss of muscle function, and side effects of certain drugs. As a result, seniors are more prone to constipation and bloating. Consuming fiber improves digestion because it helps move things along in the intestines. Fiber also helps to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Seniors should aim for 28 grams of fiber per day for men and 22 grams for women.
A diet low in essential vitamins and minerals has a profound impact on wellness for seniors. Vitamin B-12 deficiency causes anemia, fatigue, low appetite, memory loss, and cognitive issues in older adults. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy foods are good sources of B-12.
Deficiency in antioxidants such as zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E impacts the body's ability to heal wounds and fight inflammation. Colorful fruits and vegetables such as red peppers, oranges, spinach, and blueberries are good sources of antioxidants that can help prevent heart disease and cancer.
Some physical changes in older adults make it more difficult to eat healthily. Age diminishes the sense of taste and smell, causing food to seem bland and less appetizing. Add a variety of spices and seasonings to make food more flavorful.
Difficulty chewing or swallowing causes older people to avoid eating many types of nutritious foods. Soups and smoothies provide good vehicles for incorporating nutrient-dense ingredients into easier-to-eat foods.
Nutrition and Wellness
Promoting good nutrition plays an important role in wellness care for seniors. Older adults can work with senior wellness care providers to ensure that they meet their nutritional needs to maintain health and quality of life.