Senior Nutrition Tips
Adequate nutrition is essential for senior health. Seniors benefit the most from low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods that can help to combat slowed metabolisms and nutrient deficiencies that develop naturally with aging.
These tips for senior nutrition can help adults over 60 boost their metabolism and lose weight when combined with exercise.
Choosing foods with high nutritional value can help prevent long-term conditions such as heart disease and diabetes and help maintain an active and independent lifestyle.
Create a Healthy Plate
You can have your physician recommend a dietician to create a diet plan based on your specific nutritional needs, but there are also steps that you can take yourself to make a healthy plate. Eating a healthy diet can also aid in weight loss. Some elements of a healthy diet for seniors include:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Lean sources of protein such as turkey, fish, eggs, and beans.
The USDA has created a useful online tool to help you evaluate your current diet and give recommendations on how to improve your nutrient and caloric intake. Visit https://www.myplate.gov/ to get started.
Read the Nutrition Facts
The best foods for nutrition and calorie counting are whole foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy products that do not have added sugars. However, if you choose to use processed foods in your diet, be sure to look at the nutrition labels and ingredients to see what exactly you’re eating.
Avoid foods that contain sugar, trans/saturated fats, and high levels of sodium and preservatives.
Look for Key Nutrients
Older adults have more difficulty absorbing essential nutrients from their food. Some key nutrients that seniors should look out for include:
1. Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B12 helps to support red blood cell production and brain function. However, older people have difficulty absorbing enough B12 from their food and are commonly prescribed B12 supplements by physicians. Eating foods rich in B12 such as eggs, dairy products, meat, and fish can help in addition to supplements.
2. Folate/Folic Acid
Folate is commonly prescribed for pregnant women, but seniors whose diets lack fruits, vegetables, and fortified breakfast cereals may be missing out on this B vitamin. Low folate levels can cause conditions such as folic acid deficiency anemia. Look for breakfast cereals that have added folate in addition to fruits and vegetables.
Calcium is essential for maintaining bone strength, and seniors are at higher risk for developing brittle bones and sustaining fractures from simple slips and falls.
Low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt can help to maintain calcium levels in addition to vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, and collard greens. Therefore, it is recommended to use dairy products to help aid in calcium levels instead of supplements.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for people of all ages. Although we naturally absorb it from the sun, seniors may be confined much of the time indoors, and older people have more trouble absorbing this essential vitamin.
Vitamin D can help prevent common health problems in elderly adults. Some examples include type 2 diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and depression. However, few foods naturally contain vitamin D, so your physician may prescribe supplements.
There is some controversy on what constitutes a healthy vitamin D level, so it is best to consult your doctor.
In addition to calcium, potassium is essential for maintaining healthy bones. Potassium also supports healthy cell function, prevents hypertension, and reduces the risk of kidney stones. Some potassium-rich foods include fruits and vegetables such as bananas, prunes, and potatoes with their skin.
The recommended daily amount of potassium for seniors is 4,700 mg, but be conscious of how much you are consuming- too much potassium can cause serious health problems like heart attacks.
Magnesium is essential for various physiological processes, and as we age, we absorb less and less magnesium from our food. In addition, medications commonly prescribed for seniors, such as diuretics, can also affect magnesium absorption.
Whole foods such as nuts, whole grains, seeds, beans, and fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in magnesium,
Fiber aids in digestion and can protect against chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and constipation. Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans provide the best sources of fiber. Fiber supplements can also be helpful if you are experiencing constipation.
8. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are a common supplement but are primarily found in fish. These healthy fats can help treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and prevent the development of macular degeneration, an age-related ocular disease.
Experts recommend up to 2 servings of fish a week. Other Omega 3 fatty acids sources include flaxseeds, walnuts, soy, canola oil, and chia seeds.
Please note: The information in this article is provided as an educational resource and should not be used as a substitute for professional expertise, diagnosis, and treatment regarding a specific medical condition. Please consult your healthcare provider before making any decisions regarding dietary or lifestyle changes, or doing any physical exercises. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by grief or depression, contact a mental health professional.
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