Wholesome nutrition for older adults is not only important, it’s a necessity for overall health, vitality and quality of life. Unfortunately, as we age nutrition doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. Healthy eating is key for physical health and also has a huge bearing on memory and mental function. Studies show that many seniors do not get enough of the right caloric intake, especially those cooking for themselves at home alone.
Believe it or not, seniors are extremely susceptible to malnutrition. And malnutrition does not necessarily mean not getting enough food; it means not getting enough of the right food. This can happen for a few reasons, such as:
- Lack of interest in cooking. When you live alone and are eating for one, it can be hard to motivate yourself to prepare and eat a balanced diet.
- Changing taste buds. As sense of taste and smell diminish, eating becomes less enjoyable. Absent tasty, yet healthy alternatives, seniors may eat mostly sweets.
- Medication side effects that can suppress appetites or create bitter tastes. It is important to have medical oversight to address medication-related problems.
- Mobility issues can make it harder to cook. Even sore gums and other dental issues affecting chewing or even troubles swallowing can lead to malnutrition if not addressed.
Why It Matters
According to the National Institute of Health, good nutrition for seniors helps reduce the risks of osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure and some form of cancers. Additionally, eating well can reduce the risks of stroke, type 2 diabetes and anemia. For elderly people who have these conditions, a healthy diet can assist in managing them better.
Another important benefit of a healthy diet: better brain function and memory.
Impacts of Healthy Eating
Nutrition impacts health in several ways:
- Organ function: eyes, liver, kidneys and digestion
- Brain function: memory and cognitive ability
- Managing chronic illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes and dementia
- Immune system and promoting proper healing
- Muscle tone and bone health: preventing fractures and falls, maintaining mobility, strength, flexibility, and posture
Healthy Nutrition Tips for Seniors
When seniors eat, they need to ensure meals are packed with as many nutrients and as much healthy caloric intake as possible. This is important for supporting cellular function throughout the body, strengthening the immune system, and warding off physical illness. Here are some of the most important considerations when it comes to nutrition for seniors:
- Go for variety. Diversity of foods should be the aim along with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. It’s also important to get good sources of iron, healthy fats and calcium each day. Leafy greens and berries (especially blueberries and strawberries) are most beneficial.
- Fiber. Essential to maintain proper digestive health and avoiding constipation.
- Protein. Seniors need protein for muscle strength since muscle mass decreases with age.
- Limit sweets. As much as we may be tempted by empty-calorie foods such as chips, cookies and soda, they can wreak havoc on our bodies.
- Get vitamins and minerals. A daily supplement that includes vitamin D is particularly important, as it helps prevent osteoporosis, which can lead to bone fractures.
- Balanced diet. The key to healthy aging and good nutrition is getting plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.
- Staying hydrated. Healthy hydration is especially critical for seniors.
- A healthy breakfast. The “most important meal of the day” is essential.
- Weigh regularly. Ask your aging parents to step on a scale so you can monitor their weight regularly; any significant changes should be discussed with their doctor.
Putting It All Together
According to the American Dietetic Association, most seniors take in only a third of the nutritional requirements that their bodies actually need. That can lead to a reduced quality of life.
At Teresa’s House, we understand the importance of creating meals that are nutritious, balanced and most importantly, delicious. Through meals, snacks and health and wellness activities, we work to ensure that our residents are getting the nutrition they need to live their best lives. To learn more or schedule a visit, contact us at 469-998-7952.
Disclaimer: The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The author does not in any way guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any message and will not be held responsible for the content of any message. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice.