As we age our bodies experience physiological changes such as an increase/decrease in body weight, loss of muscle mass, absorption changes and sensory losses of taste & smell.
As our bodies change so do our nutritional needs! Eating nutritious meals in later years of life has been shown to have many positive side effects. Some of these include: increased energy levels, the ability to recuperate quicker from illnesses, manage chronic health problems and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
The majority of older adults will have nutrition concerns such as dehydration, constipation, malnutrition, swallowing difficulties (known as dysphagia), diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and arthritis. That's why some seniors will be on a special diet such as low sodium, diabetic or pre-diabetic, thickened liquids or minced/pureed foods.
There are 5 special nutrient needs to consider for your elderly loved one.
Most older adults aren’t eating enough protein in their diet! Protein supports a healthy immune system, it prevents muscle wasting and optimizes bone mass. As we age, we begin to lose muscle mass so we shouldn’t decrease our protein intake. Each meal should include at least 20-30 g of protein. Make sure there is a source of protein at all meals and throughout the day! For example, drink a glass of milk with your lunch or snack on nuts throughout the day. For your elderly loved one, a great snack with lots of protein could be a bottle of Ensure.
2. Calcium and Vitamin D
In a healthy body, bones are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. About 10% to 30% of the adult skeleton is replenished each year! As we age, our bones break down quicker than they can be built which leads to decreasing bone density. To help build our bones, we need calcium and vitamin D.
One way to increase calcium and vitamin D intake is to drink fortified beverages at meals, such as orange juice with vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements are also a great idea to increase intake. Another idea is to add powdered skim milk to beverages (coffee or tea) or to eat pudding/yogurt for dessert! It can be tricky to increase your vitamin D intake but remember that calcium and vitamin D work together to build our bones.
3. Vitamin B12
This vitamin is needed to make DNA, red blood cells and helps to keep the nerves working properly. It has shown that Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to poor cognition, anemia, fatigue, depression, confusion and tingling in hands and feet. Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products and sometimes is added to other foods (e.g. soy products). That is why it is highly recommended for those on a vegan diet to take Vitamin B12 supplements.
Fibre needs are different between men and women over the age of 50. Men need about 30 g/day and women need about 21 g/day. Did you know that there are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble? Soluble fibre lowers cholesterol level, controls blood sugar, prevents colon cancer and assists with weight loss. Insoluble fibre promotes regularity and a healthy digestive system. Soluble fibres can be found in oatmeal, beans, lentils, nuts, and fruits. While insoluble fibres are found in whole-grains, barley, dark leafy vegetables, brown rice, and root vegetable skins.
It is recommended to have at least 6 servings of grain products a day. The easiest way to increase fibre is to always choose whole-grain products rather than refined and processed grains. It is also recommended to have 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. When preparing vegetables and fruits, eat peels whenever possible and snack on fruit rather than candies.
As we age our sense of thirst declines, therefore older adults are more likely to experience dehydration! If fluid intake is consistently low, older adults can experience symptoms of dehydration – thirst, dry lips and mouth, flushed skin, tiredness, dark strong urine, headache, fainting and low blood pressure. Older adults need a minimum of 6 cups of fluid per day to remain hydrated and healthy! Prioritize your fluid intake by carrying a water bottle throughout your day, drinking water as the first and last task in the day, and by eating soup for lunch/dinner. Don’t ignore thirst! Drink before you feel thirsty. Drink, drink and drink water to combat dehydration!
Start a healthy lifestyle today!
It can feel overwhelming to start eating healthy but it’s not impossible. Eating healthy can be fun! Look up healthy and delicious recipes and start cooking away with your loved one. If cooking is not your thing, consider prepared meals by this local catering business. They make incredible healthy delicious meals and snacks! It’s never too late to start eating healthy. Why not start today?