As people age, bodies change. Metabolism and appetites slow down, and the ability to absorb nutrients decreases. Studies show those following a healthy diet live longer and recover quicker from illness. Since needs change, achieving a healthy diet can seem like a moving target, and in some ways, it is. Recommended nutritional guidelines are adjusted for each age demographic. Young children require additional calories for growth, while those in the childbearing years need specific vitamins and minerals. As with each of these groups, wise, wholesome food choices ensure optimum health. The right nutrition in a senior’s diet can help ward off chronic disease and even cancer. A healthy diet positively affects the entire body, the cells, muscles, bones, and organs.
Here are some of the common ailments of the elderly and how a healthy diet can help.
A diet rich in fiber can help with constipation. Choose complex carbohydrates like oats and whole grains. Start reading packages and choose foods high in fiber and other essential nutrients. Oatmeal is high in fiber, which helps slow digestion, and is promoted as heart-healthy. But why is oatmeal good for your heart? Oatmeal is high in beta-glucan and works to lower your LDL, the bad cholesterol numbers. It’s also full of antioxidants and many vitamins, such as vitamin E, proven to aid the heart.
Many government and non-profit websites offer detailed balanced diets for seniors. Listed on the sites are the quantities and portion size for each type of food. Be sure and discuss any dietary changes with your medical doctor before beginning a new diet. Certain foods can have adverse effects on some medications.
Brittle Bones and Weak Muscles
When muscles weaken and bones become brittle with age, falls and fractures can occur. Quality protein in the proper amounts is necessary to maintain strong muscles and bones. Look for low-fat options in meat and fish. In addition to protein, Vitamin D in foods or supplements helps to maintain strong bones. As you age, fractures can be severe, and seniors often end up in skilled nursing facilities for care while they recover. It’s best to give your muscles and bones the best advantage throughout your life.
A common chronic health condition affecting the aging population is kidney disease. High blood pressure and diabetes are the most common causes of kidney failure. A healthy diet can help. Take steps to reduce your blood pressure. Decrease overall sodium and sugar intake. Read labels and drink plenty of water.
Sedentary lifestyles contribute to excess weight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It’s hard for seniors with low energy to go for a walk or even perform basic life activities. Studies show the best sources of nutrients come from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and cold-water fish. Each of those choices is low in calories and high in nutritional benefits. Increasing stamina and energy levels are achieved through a healthy balanced diet.
If metabolism and appetite have slowed, seniors may eat less. Lower food intake can leave the body without enough valuable nutritional content. If not careful, seniors can end up malnourished. Some seniors lack transportation or are not well enough to do shopping themselves. Thankfully, services deliver groceries to the home and provide prepared meals, both fresh or frozen. Contact a local senior center, the county social services office, or the state health department for assistance.
Mental and Cognitive Decline
As a general rule, seniors should eat foods with lots of vitamins and antioxidants. The brain is an organ and needs a variety of minerals and vitamins to function best. Here too, a balanced diet heavy on fruits and vegetables is optimal. Avoid highly processed food.
As you can see, maintaining a healthy diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has many benefits on aging. You’ll look better, feel better, and studies show you’ll live longer. By knowing what to eat and how much, you may be able to sidestep some of these potentially life-altering ailments.