Getting adequate nutrition is a major challenge as you get older. With age, your overall calorie requirement decreases as your activity level nosedives. The absorption of key nutrients slows down, along with your metabolism rate. In addition, the ability to taste food declines, blunting your appetite.
Every calorie you consume must be packed with nutrition in order to hit the mark. Even then, your diet may fall short. Proper diet and a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand, especially for older adults over the age of 50. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a majority of diseases that older people suffer are because of lack of proper diet.
Major challenges for the elderly
•Decreased sensitivity: Numbness of senses; sensation of smell and taste decreases, thus reducing your appetite.
•Medication side effects: This age group is often affected by the consumption of some or the other type of medication, some of which can cause nausea, bring down appetite, change taste perceptions. In such cases, you can end up skipping meals.
•Poor dental health: Missing teeth and receding gums can make your teeth shaky, cause mouth sores, and jaws painful, ultimately reducing your appetite.
•Physical difficulty: When dealing with conditions like arthritis and disability, it becomes difficult to stay physically fit. Performing basic functions like standing for long, carrying heavy bags, or even peeling fruits may become difficult tasks.
•Memory loss: Memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease are some common issues found among the seniors. A major reason can be nutrient-deficiency.
•Degenerative diseases: Say, osteoporosis and diabetes, are also diet-related, more specifically with micronutrients.
•Micronutrients deficiency: Iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin E and C are key micronutrients and are often found lacking in the elderly, due to factors like reduced food intake and lack of variety in diet.
•Fiber-rich food: The problem of indigestion grows with age. What happen is, the walls of the gastrointestinal tract thicken and the contractions becomes slow, which lead to constipation. In addition, the fibre-rich foods have also been found to reduce the risk of heart disease. For example, wholegrain cereal, wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables.
•Water retention: With age, the body’s ability to conserve water decreases, and reduces thirst. However, you body would still need water. In order not to get overwhelmed by the quantity of water you are taking, you can put the water in small bottles and drink it throughout the day. Best to check your urine for getting the view of dehydration in your body. If it is light and transparent, that means you are hydrated. If it is dark or bright yellow and cloudy that is a sign of dehydration. Exceptions are always there for seniors with kidney or liver disease. Please consult your doctor or dietician about the amount of water you should be drinking.
•Iron-rich food: Main source of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. Supply of oxygen to the body tissues decreases in case of iron deficiency, resulting in feelings of tiredness and lethargy. For instance, peas, lentils, white, red and baked beans, soybeans and chickpeas, dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and apricots.
•Omega-3 Fatty Acids: These fatty acids helps in preventing inflammation which can cause cancer, rheumatoid, arthritis, and heart disease. It has also been found to slow down the progression of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)—a condition that leads to poor vision. Basically found in fish mainly sardines, Tuna, Mackerel, and Salmon. They are also present in flaxseed, soybeans, canola oil, and walnuts.
•Calcium for Bones: This is essential for healthy bones and for lowering blood pressure. If your body is not getting enough calcium, it begins to reabsorb it from the bones, leading osteoporosis as your bones becomes fragile. Major sources: dairy products, such as, milk, yogurt and cheese, as well as leafy vegetables and cereals fortified with calcium.
•Vitamin D: Precursor for absorption of calcium in the body, slowing down the rate at which bones lose calcium. Recent studies show that it also protects against chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and rheumatoid osteoporosis. Vitamin D is produced by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Naturally, found in eggs and certain fish (salmon and tuna).
•Vitamin C: Helps In repairing bones and teeth and aids in healing wounds. This essential vitamin can be found in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C also has antioxidant properties, which are believed to prevent cancer and heart disease.
•Vitamin B12: For maintaining nerve function, production of red blood cells, and DNA. Found in dairy products like milk, meat and poultry products.
•Potassium: Aids in cell function reduces blood pressure and lowers your chances of kidney stones. It is also believed to strengthen bones. Found in fruit and vegetables like bananas, prunes, and potatoes.
•Magnesium: Helps in keeping your heart healthy, maintaining your immune system, and bone health. Mainly found in whole grains, nuts, fresh fruit, and vegetables.