Nutrition for Older Adults

3 min read

Staying healthy is one of the most important parts of an enjoyable lifestyle. While many people take medicine and exercise regularly to take care of themselves, they often forget to eat right! Proper nutrition is essential to health no matter how old you are, but as you age, make sure your needs are met!

Special Dietary Needs

Aging can change how our bodies work, which means that the food we eat also needs to change as we get older. Everyone wants to eat healthier, but what that means will vary depending on individual needs. We’ve compiled a list of common things to look out for to help determine what may be best for older adults you know. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has a large health impact on older adults. It’s most known for impacting bone health, but new research suggests that it could have an effect on many other illnesses that commonly affect older people, ranging from depression to cancer. Either way, keeping up with Vitamin D intake will help overall health! One thing to remember is that people over the age of 70 need significantly more Vitamin D than younger people do, which means that an older adult’s current diet may need to be supplemented with more Vitamin D. There are many ways to add Vitamin D to daily meals. Many cereal and dairy products are fortified with it, and other foods like eggs and fish are great natural sources of it as well. Alternatively, taking a Vitamin D supplement can also be effective. 

Fiber 

Eating fiber has many benefits. Getting enough fiber can decrease the risk of heart disease and colon cancer, and it’s great for keeping the digestive system moving! To make the most out of fiber intake, older adults should increase their fiber intake slowly, drink plenty of water, and spread their fiber foods out over multiple meals. When it comes to finding foods with fiber, there are plenty of options. It can be found in fruits and vegetables, as well as in beans, whole-grain breads, and nuts and seeds! 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We’re often told that eating fats is bad, but omega-3 fatty acids are essential to health. They help keep the body working properly and can prevent diseases. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids can help the immune system and decrease the risk for heart disease and stroke. It can also reduce inflammation and even help protect against memory loss in older adults. The most common source of omega-3s is in fish. Salmon and tuna are some simple options that can be easily added to any diet! However, be careful to avoid types of fish with high mercury content, and remember to cook the fish in a healthy way. Chia seeds and walnuts are also good sources of omega-3s for people who can’t eat fish. Supplements are also an option, but it’s recommended to get most omega-3 from food rather than supplements. 

Ways to Improve Nutrition

Knowing what nutrients to watch out for is one thing, but knowing how to add them to a diet is another! Here are some easy steps to help. 

  1. Start with different parts of the diet. Medications or physical limitations, like the ability to cook food or chew it, can prevent older adults from adding new foods to their diet. That’s why it’s easier to start with other aspects of nutrition. One of the biggest barriers to eating healthy is “empty calories,” like chips and candy, as well as foods with high amounts of saturated and trans fats. Avoiding these foods can help improve health before adding anything at all. Similarly, drinking more water will prevent dehydration and help the body function. 
  2. Improve lifestyle. Many older adults may not have much of an appetite. Adding more physical exercise to their daily routine and making sure that their foods have lots of different colors and textures can help them have more of a desire to eat. Additionally, meals are a great way to help older adults feel connected to their community while improving nutrition. If an older adult has a special connection to their local church or any other community organizations, it could be beneficial to organize group meals. 
  3. Check for medical issues. Seeking the advice of a doctor or nutritionist is always a good idea. Doctors or medical specialists may be able to help older adults who have trouble chewing or swallowing, and nutritionists can provide advice on the best foods or supplements to add to their daily routine. If medication is causing a decrease in appetite, doctors may be able to recommend different medications or supplements as well. 
  4. Find supplements and foods. Depending on their needs, an older adult may prefer that they add some nutrients in the form of supplements instead of foods. The types of food they enjoy may also affect their decisions, so try to work with them to find recipes that can incorporate these nutrients into their diet. 

Eating healthier is important for staying healthy, so any step towards a healthier diet is great. Everyone has their own needs and tastes, but luckily, there are many delicious options out there! 

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