26 Apr Good Nutrition in Seniors
While a healthy diet is important in any decade of life, good nutrition in seniors comes with special challenges. Decreased physical activity, a slower metabolism, and less muscle mass means seniors must consume fewer calories to avoid weight gain. Therefore, it is important to eat more nutrient-dense food and avoid fast food, junk food, and processed meals. Inadequate or poor nutrition in the elderly can also lead to a number of medical problems.
A Nutritious Diet
Variety Counts. Eat a variety of foods including fruits, green vegetables, lean proteins, unsalted nuts, dried or low-sodium canned beans, and whole grains to maintain and improve overall health. Eliminate or reduce sugar and processed carbohydrates like rice, white bread, and junk food.
Eat Fish. Consume two servings of fish a week. Seafood contains omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce chronic inflammation–the root cause of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Many people avoid fish because they are afraid of mercury contamination. However, there are safe choices such as salmon, rainbow trout, tuna, tilapia, and sardines.
Limit Salt. Cut back on salt intake to help reduce high blood pressure. The ideal sodium limit for most adults is 1500 mg a day. Stay away from frozen foods, processed meats, canned soups, marinades/sauces, and certain restaurant meals. There are also a few surprising sources of sodium such as cottage cheese, canned beans, salad dressings, some cereals, and bagels/baked goods. Oatmeal, fresh fish, fresh fruit, skinless poultry, unsalted nuts, canned goods (with no salt added), brown rice, and eggs are all good sources of low-sodium foods.
Push Fluids. An important part of good nutrition in seniors is drinking plenty of fluids. Dehydration in the elderly is a common problem. Seniors feel less thirsty, even though the body still needs the same amount of liquids. Medications can also cause dehydration. Lack of adequate fluids in seniors can cause urinary tract infections, constipation, confusion, drop in blood pressure, tiredness, and mood changes. Start your morning with a glass of water. Be creative and offer your elderly loved one a smoothie, milk shake, or popsicle. Always have a glass of water accessible.
Vitamins. As we age, the body loses some ability to absorb certain nutrients including vitamin B-12, calcium, and vitamin D. Talk to your doctor about adding a vitamin supplement if you think you are not getting enough of these essential nutrients in your diet.
B-12. This nutrient helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. B-12 helps make DNA, the genetic materials in all cells. It also helps prevent a type of anemia that makes people tired and weak. B-12 is found in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and dairy products.
Calcium and Vitamin D. These two essential nutrients work together to help protect and build strong bones. Good sources of calcium are spinach, kale, okra, collards, soybeans, white beans, certain fish (salmon, sardines, and rainbow trout), dairy products, and calcium-fortified foods. The main source of Vitamin D comes from the sun. However, many people need to limit sun exposure due to skin cancer risk. Food sources of vitamin D include fortified milk, egg yolks, and fatty fish.