Searching for useful tips and info on the best foods for Seniors? You’ve reached the right place. As you get older, your nutritional needs also increase. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle which entails proper dieting, is especially important for the elderly as the body is in a degenerative mode. Reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that most diseases affecting the elderly originate mainly from poor diets. For instance, cancer found in the colon, prostate, and pancreas typically results from fatty foods. Diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis, which are degenerative diseases, are also diet-related.
Healthy eating habits change from time to time as you age. This is because, as you grow older, the body’s metabolism rate decreases, thus the need to take less fatty foods. The body will need more nutritious foods. That means you’ll have to choose foods that bring more nutritional value to the body.
Age-Related Complications Preventing Proper Nutrition
Aging is associated with the oxidation of cells and a lot of radical release in the body. Some of the age-related complications that prevent proper nutrition include:
1. Memory Loss
Memory loss conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s are some of the diseases that might affect members of an independent senior living community. In most cases, a senior may forget to buy food from the store leading to a skipped meal, and eventually, they will not follow the recommended meal program.
Many changes take place in life as one gets older. For example, your children move away, and you may also lose a spouse amongst many other life situations. Eventually, you will feel lonely if you live all by yourself. These issues added up may lead to depression and poor feeding habits. Depression may subsequently lead to more problems if left untreated.
3. Dental Health
You’re more likely to experience dental issues as you grow older. Some of these dental issues include:
- Missing teeth
- Jaw pain
- Mouth sores
- Receding gums which make the teeth shaky
These issues make chewing difficult and painful for seniors, thus reducing their ability to take healthy foods.
4. Financial Limitations
Most seniors are financially limited and worry more about money. This limitation leads them to cut on essential groceries, and they end up buying less nutritional food—these bad dietary habits lead to more nutritional deficiencies.
5. Drug Side Effects
Some drugs may cause a decreased appetite, nausea, and taste buds sensitivity. In this case, most of these side effects will discourage seniors from eating, and they’ll end up skipping meals.
6. Reduced Sensitivity
As you get older, your senses also start deteriorating. The body takes more time and energy to trigger a stimulus, and the sense of taste and smell equally decreases, leading to a reduced appetite. In severe cases, some are even unable to differentiate fresh food from stale food. Without any doubt, these changes will be detrimental to your health.
7. Physical Weakness
Poor physical strength can make even the simplest of tasks challenging for seniors. Therefore, doing basic things like carrying groceries, peeling fruits, or standing while cooking may be daunting.
8. Lack of Transport
One has to drive or walk through the heavy traffic to the store to shop for fresh cooking ingredients. It makes it more challenging when it’s raining or snowing, and the chances of tripping and falling are high. These challenges may discourage a senior from going shopping.
Best Foods For Seniors – That Can Help Them Maintain A Healthy Diet
We need to incorporate different foods to benefit from all the nutrients that the body needs. Let us look at the best foods for seniors that can help them maintain a healthy life:
1. Foods Rich in Omega-3
Nutritionists advise a serving of omega-3 fatty acids at least twice a week. These omega-3 rich foods help prevent:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Heart diseases
- Alzheimer’s disease
- The slow progression of Macular Degeneration (AMD) leads to poor vision
Omega-3 can be found in fish mostly, Tuna, Salmon, and Mackerel. They can also be found in soybeans, canola oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
As people grow older, they consume less calcium. Calcium helps to lower blood pressure and to build and maintain healthy bones. If the body doesn’t get enough calcium, the bones begin to weaken and brittle, leading to osteoporosis.
Calcium-rich foods are mainly:
- Dairy products- cheese, yogurt, and milk
- Green leafy vegetables
WHO recommends consumption of at least 1200 mg of calcium daily for people above the age of 50. This is equivalent to taking 4 cups of milk.
3. Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber-rich foods help to enhance a good digestive system and reduce exposure to heart diseases. As we get older, GIT walls thicken, and contraction is slower, leading to constipation. Fiber-rich foods include:
- Wholegrain cereal and bread
- Brown rice and bread
4. Iron-Rich Foods
These are among the most important foods for seniors. Iron produces hemoglobin which distributes oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron deficiency, commonly known as anemia, causes a limited supply of oxygen in the body. This results in fatigue and lethargic feelings. Iron-rich foods include:
- Spinach and broccoli
- Pumpkin seeds
- Read meat
5. Vitamin C Rich Foods
We can get Vitamin C in fruits, vegetables, and supplements from an approved health care provider. The various health benefits to the body include:
- Prevention of cancer and heart disease due to its antioxidant properties
- Maintaining skin elasticity and getting rid of dead skin cells due to the production of collagen
- Repairing bones and teeth
- Healing of wounds
6. Vitamin D
Exposing the body to sunlight leads to the production of Vitamin D. Some people may not prefer being exposed to sunlight as they believe that it causes cancer. In this case, it’s advisable to consider taking vitamin D supplements from your physician.
Vitamin D prevents conditions such as osteoporosis and protects one from chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes type 2, and multiple sclerosis. Some foods rich in vitamin D include:
- Fish like salmon and tuna
7. Vitamin B12 Rich Foods
With the advancement in age, it gets more complicated for the body to absorb vitamins from food. Vitamin B12 mainly helps in the production of red blood cells, DNA and maintaining nerve functions. They can be found in:
- Poultry products
- Health Supplements
8. Potassium Rich Foods
The recommended daily intake of potassium by the elderly daily is 4700. Unfortunately, most elderly Americans don’t adhere to this. Potassium helps to strengthen bones and lowers the chances of getting kidney stones. Potassium is found in:
- Fruits-bananas and prunes
- Health supplements- Too much of it can be risky, so consult your physician for expert advice
As you grow older, the ability of the body to absorb magnesium decreases. Also, some medications decrease the absorption of calcium in the body. Magnesium is crucial in the body as it helps the body to maintain:
- Physiological functions
- A healthy heart
- Strong bones
- The immune system
Magnesium is mainly found in whole grains, nuts, vegetables, and fresh fruits.
As you get older, the body’s ability to conserve water also decreases, and you don’t feel thirsty often. This is why experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water daily. To prevent getting overwhelmed by the quantity, you can put water in small bottles and drink gradually throughout the day.
Dehydration can cause episodes of confusion, constipation, and drowsiness, amongst other side effects. The surest ways to check dehydration are:
- Light and transparent urine shows you well hydrated
- Dark or bright yellow and cloudy urine shows signs of dehydration
However, it’s recommended for seniors with kidney or liver conditions to consult a healthcare provider to advise on the appropriate amount for you. Also, if you take lots of caffeinated drinks, it’s crucial to drink other fluids or water that don’t contain caffeine.
11. Cut Down on Sugar and Salt
Seniors should keep their salt intake to the minimum of about 6g (2.4g of sodium) and a minimum of 30g (7 sugar cubes) of sugar per day. Also, check the labels of processed foods when buying and opt for those with less salt. Replace salt with herbs, pepper, or other spices that add flavor to your dish.
Taking the right foods and maintaining a healthy weight will help seniors maintain independence and stay active. Also, less money and time are spent at the doctors. Remember, healthy eating begins with you!
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Jennifer Bell is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.