Senior Dietary Changes That Can Boost Body Health
Good nutrition is important at any age to maintain a healthy body. It is especially important for aging seniors to sustain proper weight and good health while avoiding chronic conditions such as diabetes. The National Resource Center on Nutrition & Aging reports that one out of every four seniors suffers from poor nutrition. By making key dietary changes, seniors can improve nutrition levels for better body health, even in advanced years.
As the body changes and slows during the senior years, dietary modifications become necessary to compensate for slower metabolisms, health conditions, and loss of certain body functions such as the ability to absorb vitamin B-12. Older adults often must adjust diets regarding food selection and intake. Certain power foods become more essential in the diet to help with a senior’s digestive system and immune system. Here are some older adult nutritional guidelines for healthier eating.
Combat Slower Metabolisms with Protein-Rich Diets
Seniors often complain of slower metabolisms contributing to weight gain. Reduced muscle mass, lack of exercise, poor sleep and an aging body contribute to lower metabolism. Lessened activity, especially, can slow metabolism as it is responsible for burning 10 to 30 % of daily calories.
Dieting is not the answer. In fact, reducing caloric intake can further slow metabolism. Instead, seniors should eat more foods that benefit their bodies. Switching to a diet rich in protein can help combat a slowing metabolism by protecting the body from lost muscle mass. Consuming 25 to 30% of daily calories from protein can boost metabolism. Eating more frequent smaller meals with intermittent snacks also helps stave off hunger that lowers metabolism. Strength training also boosts the metabolism.
Seniors and their caregivers can add protein to every meal or to create a healthy snack. Here are some good sources of protein:
Grams of Protein
Maintaining bone strength is critical for mature adults in the prevention of falls and fractures. Calcium and vitamin D are key ingredients for bone health. The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Unfortunately, older men and women often are vitamin D deficient due to lower dietary calcium intake, limited sun exposure as well as the body’s decreased ability to absorb calcium. In addition, aging skin synthesizes vitamin D at a lower rate.
The Mayo Clinic recommends that men between the ages of 50 – 70 consume 1,000 mg of calcium while women over age 51 consume 1,200 mg. Dietary intake is the best way to meet these daily totals. Meals for seniors should include three daily servings of calcium-rich foods and beverages that includes a mix of fortified cereals, fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, beans, canned fish with soft bones, and milk. Here’s a listing of some calcium-rich foots to add to the diet.
Estimated Mg of Calcium
Frozen collard greens
Canned sardines, with bone
Low-fat plain yogurt
Milk, skim, low-fat, whole
Yogurt with fruit, low-fat
Orange juice fortified with calcium
100 - 10000
Super Foods That Power the Body
Certain foods pack a bigger punch to health than others. Including them in a senior’s diet adds a variety of tastes, textures and colors to meals as well as different health benefits. Here are a few super foods for healthy aging.
- Blueberries: High in dietary fiber and packed with antioxidants like vitamin C and E, this delicious fruit helps keep cells healthy to defend the body against heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Full of nutrients, blueberries also assist in boosting cognitive skills, skin health and cardiovascular strength.
- Beans: Good sources of antioxidants, beans - including kidney, pinto, black and red – are a hearty and lower calorie substitutes to red meat.
- Greek Yogurt: Full of probiotics, Greek yogurt helps with the digestive system while adding protein to the diet. Mix in fruit and nuts for a healthy snack.
- Fiber: Constipation is a common problem with seniors who are not active or have digestive problems due to medicines or health conditions. Vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruit can help normalize bowel movements while lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and sugar levels for a healthier heart.
- Fatty Fish: Packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and shellfish including mussels and crabs help reduce blood pressure and high triglycerides and cholesterol associated with heart disease.
- Spinach: Popeye wasn’t wrong eating his can of spinach. Just one cup of this vegetable can fight infection and strengthen the immunity system. While often eaten raw in salads, spinach is best when juiced or cooked.
Foods have a dramatic effect on senior health. Aging bodies may require fewer calories, but demand more protein, calcium, and other nutrients to remain healthy. Even small dietary changes can benefit an aging adult. Swapping out sugary snacks and drinks with foods with greater health value can improve health while managing weight. As seniors lose interest in meals due to changes in their sense of taste and smell, introducing new options might encourage better eating habits. Remember, we are what we eat.