Advancing age comes with changing nutritional needs. As people grow older, normal body systems, including metabolism, slow down. The digestive system produces less amounts of digestive fluids, making it harder to digest and absorb vitamins and minerals. Significant appetite changes also make seniors less hungry, resulting in significant nutritional deficiencies and risks for malnutrition over time.
Nonetheless, healthy eating doesn’t change with age, especially if the senior adult already has a good diet. What’s important is for seniors to be wary of their specific nutritional requirements and adjust food choices to provide the body with the right nutrients for good health. Apart from family members, hired caregivers should be aware of the specific nutritional needs of the elderly.
Besides close care and medical support, professionals from Husky Senior Care ensure that your senior adult receives the proper nutritional support. Below are some specific nutritional needs for seniors.
Calcium and Vitamin D
People of advancing age require enough calcium and vitamin D to improve their bone health. Old age comes with hormonal changes that weaken bones, muscles, and ligaments, exposing senior adults to osteoporosis and arthritis.
Calcium-rich foods and fat-free or low-fat dietary products should be included in the diet to meet these nutritional needs. Common sources of calcium include fruit juices, canned fish, fortified cereals, leafy vegetables, and plant-based beverages. On the other hand, healthy sources of vitamin D include eggs, liver, and fatty fish, such as salmon. Multivitamins and calcium supplements containing vitamin D are also beneficial.
Adequate dietary fiber, specifically bulk-forming fiber, is also beneficial for aging seniors. Fiber plays an important role in the diet by preventing constipation. Lack of fiber in diet exposes seniors to risks of large bowel cancer.
Fiber intake for seniors should be adjusted gradually. A sudden change from a low to high fiber diet can lead to diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, and cramps. Caregivers should consider using 100% whole meal or high-fiber cereal instead of white bread. Good sources of dietary fiber include Weetabix, shredded wheat, bran flakes, and porridge.
Adults over 50 cannot absorb enough vitamin B12 from their diet. Deficient amounts of vitamin B12 in the body lead to loss of appetite, diarrhea or constipation, anemia, and depression. To avoid these problems, diets for senior adults should include fortified cereal, fish, lean meat, and seafood. Depending on the nutrient severity, some people may need vitamin B12 supplements.
Use Less Salt
While salt is a source of important minerals in the diet, nutritionists don’t recommend a lot of salt in the diet for seniors. Eating food with high salt content increases the risk of developing heart diseases and increases blood pressure. The senior diet shouldn’t include high salt foods, such as snacks like potato chips, cured meats like corned beef, ham, and bacon, and sauces. Instead, food for seniors should be primarily flavored with spices and herbs instead of raw salt.
Mindful eating is crucial for people of advancing age. This should include all foods and drinks. Food items with unhealthy calories, such as soda, alcohol, and cookies, or high fat and cholesterol content should be avoided. It is also worth noting that the nutritional needs of men and women slightly differ. Old adults should seek nutritional advice for better diets.