Healthy Eating for Seniors - How Can We Maintain a Healthy Diet With Age?
Our body composition is always in a dynamic state and hence, it keeps changing especially when we grow old. This transformation also affects the nutritional requirement of our body; therefore, healthy eating becomes a challenge, especially for the senior ones.
What is healthy eating in seniors?
As we age, our nutritional requirement takes altogether a different route as against the younger counterparts. So a well-balanced diet becomes inevitable part of our daily life. This not only helps us maintain healthy weight and get essential nutrients, but also lowers the risk of developing chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetesand heart diseases.
In India, where over 10 percent of the total population constitutes the seniors (60 and above), it poses some serious nutritional challenges, increasing the risk of both getting underweight and overweight. Eating foods which are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and limiting or avoiding foods containing processed sugars, sodium, saturated and trans fats, can make a world of difference.
How our diet and eating habits changes with age?
As we age, our body becomes less forgiving, so we have to compromise on several things and make more effort on eating healthy and staying fit. The change in diet comes in several ways; we will look into different aspects mentioned below.
Calories – You will want less
As you age, you will perhaps need fewer caloriesas against more calorie intake when you were younger. This keeps your weight in healthy range. Moreover, being older means less energy and more problems with joints and muscles, hence you will be less active and burn fewer calories. This automatically lowers your metabolism, reducing your calorie needs.
According to National Institute on Aging, the daily calorie requirement for men and women over age of 50 is as follows:
Not active – Around 2,000 calories/day
Moderate activity level - Around 2,200–2,400 calories/day
Active lifestyle – Around 2,400-2,800 calories/day
Not active - Around 1,600 calories/day
Moderate activity level - Around 1,800 calories/day
Active lifestyle - Around 2,000-2,200 calories/day
Loss of appetite – You will start losing sense of smell and taste
Loss of appetite is a very common sign of old age which can be further contributed by constipation. It’s no surprise you will also lose sense of taste and smell as well. However, you must get enough calories and essential nutrients for maintaining the health of vital organs and prevent malnutrition.
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Medical conditions – Change in diet becomes important
Aging also increases the likelihood of getting chronic health conditions such as heart attack, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and osteoporosis. You must keep in regular touch with your doctor as he may be suggesting change in your diet. You may be advised to eat less salty and less spicy foods.
Medications – Impact on appetite
The range of medical conditions and the medication may compel you to make changes in your diet. This can directly affect your appetite. The medicines may also interact with certain foods. For instance, people taking blood thinning medication such as warfarin or heparin, may need to skip eating grapefruit as it may decrease the body’s ability to metabolize the drug.
Oral Health – May lead to poor eating habits
Aging also brings oral health problems which can affect your ability to eat. One such situation is when dentures don’t fit properly and this may result in poor eating habits and even malnutrition. There are also instances where oral infections can lead to problem in eating.
Immune System – Increases risk of food-borne diseases
Weakening of the immune system with age raises your chances of disorders such as food poisoning. So we need to be extra cautious about our health and avoid certain foods which contain organism such as parasites, bacteria and viruses. Some of the examples include raw eggs, undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk or homemade mayonnaise.
Life at home – Lots of challenges
There are situations like if you have lost your spouse, it may lead you into depression, affecting your eating habits and patterns. If your spouse did most of the cooking, you may find it difficult to prepare food for yourself and hence, you tend to avoid eating.
If you facing such situation, you should talk a family member, relative or trusted friend to help you find out food services near your place.
How can we maintain healthy diet with age?
The dietary requirement may vary from individual to individual. However, below are the general dietary strategies we can follow to keep ourselves up and healthy.
Target foods rich in nutrients
While your calories requirement will be taking a plunge, the nutrient needs will remain the same or even increase. Foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, lean protein and low fat dairy will fulfill your nutritional needs.
At the same time, limit or avoid foods in high calories such as sweetened beverages, desserts and deep fried foods.
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Include fiber in your diet
Aging brings digestive problems such as constipation and the best way to counter these conditions is to include foods rich in fiber. These foods also help you maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The seniors on a daily basis would need 14 grams of fiber per 1,000 calories consumed.
- Dark colored vegetables such as carrots and beetroots contain 2.8 grams/fibereach, per 100 grams of serving.
- Where banana contains 3.9grams of fiber, apple contains 3 grams of fiber per cup. Seasonal fruits such as guava and mango contain 9 grams and 5 grams of fiber per cup.
- 2 slices of whole wheat bread will give you 3.8grams of fiber
- Single cup of mixed nuts will give you 9 grams of fiber
- Start your day with 1 cup of oatmeal and get 4 grams of fiber
- Have half cup blacked beans or kidney beans in lunch to get 9.7 grams of fiber
Consider taking supplements
Sometimes it is hard to derive required nutrients from our diet especially if you are suffering from some chronic condition and avoiding essential foods. In this case, talk to your doctor whether you need supplements for getting vitamins, minerals, calcium and other essential nutrients.
In addition to above mentioned tips, you need to stay hydrated all throughout your day. Consider drinking at least 8 glasses of water every day. Besides, stay socially active as eating with family members will make you enjoy your mealtime.
You may still need doctor’s help
Some older people complain of unintentional weight loss. It may be a sign of aging but it could also indicate other health conditions that need prompt treatment. If you are overweight, you may need help of dietician and fitness expert to lose weight. Moreover, you need to regularly visit a dentist for check-up of dental health and talk to them if you notice pain or soring in your mouth. They may also advise you on how to prevent cavities.
The fact is healthy eating remains extremely important irrespective of your age. But as you age, choosing foods low in calories and rich in nutrients will help you prevent major chronic health conditions, something which you would never want to experience while enjoying the golden years of your life.