Nutrition and health are two sides of the same coin, especially for the seniors. With age comes lower metabolism and weaker senses that increase the risk to develop chronic conditions. According to the World Health Organization [WHO], most of the diseases affecting older adults are a result of poor nutrition.
For example, conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, and osteoporosis are diet-related. Nutrient deficiency is also common in the elderly to insufficient food intake, poor diet, and other factors.
Contributing factors to malnutrition in elderly people
Several factors contribute to poor nutrition in older people, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of physical strength and mobility
- Financial problems
- Suddenly living alone
- Depression and anxiety
- Loss of memory
- Certain medications that interfere with digestion
- Losing senses
- Mental conditions such as dementia
Providing the best foods for older adults goes a long way in averting nutrition-related problems. With a proper diet, they can live a longer and healthier life.
Nutrition tips for older adults
Creating a healthy diet for a senior is quite simple. Consider these simple tips.
#1. Less empty calories
Some foods provide no nutritional value, for example, chips, candy, soda, and baked goods. These foods are high in calories that can do more harm than good. However, this doesn’t mean the elderly shouldn’t enjoy these foods now and then. They can but in moderation and not too often.
#2. Less salt intake
High blood pressure is a real menace in older people. According to the U.S Food and Drug Administration, high salt intake leads to high blood pressure, which leads to other chronic conditions. Limiting salt intake lowers the risk of getting this condition significantly. Also, you can use low sodium alternatives such as garlic powder, fresh herbs, onion powder, etc., to add flavor to the food with little or no salt.
#3. Higher mineral and vitamin intake
Older adults are likely to suffer from osteoporosis due to decreased mobility and mineral loss. Increasing calcium and vitamin D intake helps to keep the condition from escalating. Ensure that the older person consumes calcium-rich foods and products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, leafy green vegetables, and calcium-rich cereals.
Also, ensure that they consume foods rich in other minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and iron. Foods rich in minerals include nuts, eggs, beans, cocoa, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains shellfish, cruciferous vegetables, to name a few.
On the same note, the vitamin intake should match the minerals. Other vitamins include vitamin B12, and vitamin C. Vitamin B12 can be found in milk and meat and poultry products while vitamin C can be found in fruits and vegetables.
Physical activity can help increase appetite and improve the health of older people. They can do moderate exercises such as walking, yoga, and floor exercises that require them to use bodyweight and resistance. Always be sure to check with a health care provider before introducing a new physical program.
#5. More liquids
The sense of thirst decreases as we age. As such, older adults may go for days without taking water and feel comfortable with that. The problem is dehydration kicks causing confusion, fatigue, and other issues. Seniors should take small amounts of water throughout the day so that they don’t get overwhelmed.
#6. More fiber
Digestion becomes less efficient with age and brings several complications. Dietary fiber lowers the risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and stroke as well as regular constipation. Fiber-rich foods include cereals, brown bread and rice, fruits, vegetables, wholegrain cereals, and nuts.
#7. Consider supplements
While fruits and vegetables provide the needed nutrients, it’s sometimes not enough. The doctor can recommend supplemental vitamins and minerals to boost overall health.