What You Need To Eat To Stay Healthy As A Senior
A lot of time, the word malnutrition is misunderstood. Many people seem to conflate it with starvation, but this confusion blinds us to the fact that malnutrition is a regular issue in this country, and seniors are among one of the largest groups at risk. The proper understanding of malnutrition is poor nutrition or “insufficient food intake compared with nutrition requirements.” Out of the millions of seniors admitted to hospitals each year, as many as one in three of them have some degree of malnutrition. In addition, there’s a whopping 300% increase in healthcare costs stemming from malnutrition. This can stem from a number of issues, including:
- taste disturbances
- difficulty accessing or preparing food
This is why it’s important to keep in mind the different nutrients that seniors are more likely to need, especially because, in some cases, they may need more of them than a younger person. Here’s a profile of some of the nutrients to look out for.
As people get older, their bodies produce less of the natural components that build bones, so looking into nutrients that help pick up the slack become paramount. A key example of this is calcium. Ideally, you’re going to want to have at least three servings of food rich in calcium. Obvious examples of this include dairy foods, but for those who want variety or have dairy sensitivities, there are other options as well. Dark leafy green vegetables and fortified cereals are ideally. There are also certain nutrients that complement calcium. Vitamin D is a good example, as is magnesium. It may be hard to get these items from food, but we’ll address that issue later.
Many seniors turn to fiber in order to help with regularity, but this sells its value short. Fiber has been shown to have benefits for lowering risk of heart issues and diabetes, factors that both tend to go up with age. Ideal fiber-rich foods include whole-grain cereals and breads. Beans and peas are other foods that are versatile and will help you get your necessary fiber.
Potassium is something that plenty of people are lacking, in, not just seniors. In fact, one survey showed that that only 3% of all Americans are getting their recommended amount of potassium. This is notable because the body doesn’t produce it naturally at all, but it is necessary for bone and heart health, and may also decrease risk for heart attacks and strokes. Bananas are the classic recommended food for potassium, but beans, spinach and avocados are also ideal options.
A lot of the time, eating healthy as a senior is not just about targeting nutritional issues, but also making sure to cut down on certain things like excess sodium or simple sugars. This can be tough for some seniors, who eat a lot of convenience foods. Ideally, when you’re looking for quick meals or snacks, some good options include low-sodium soups or stews, oatmeal, or precooked lean proteins like turkey or chicken.
It’s also important to consider how you eat as well as what you eat. In some cases, dental issues may limit the amount of the food you can eat comfortably. This is why it’s important to look into dentistry for the elderly, in order to help keep your teeth healthy or find ideal replacements if you are missing teeth. This means that you can keep eating all the healthy foods you need rather than having to look out for substitutes.
As a final note, we should talk about dietary supplements. At any age, these different supplements are helpful when it comes to filling nutritional gaps and taking care of vitamin deficiencies. But for seniors, these can be even more useful for all the different reasons that we mentioned before. Some of the potential options include vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. While you want to try and get as many of these from a balanced diet as possible, it may be difficult for a variety of reasons, especially for older people who may not have larger appetites. This is where supplements come in.
However, it’s a good idea to consult with a doctor or nutritionist before implementing different supplements into your lifestyle. The main reason is that they will help you identify different nutritional deficiencies you may need to target based on your specific blood work. In addition, there are a lot of different supplement brands and types out there. A health professional will help you find the right one.
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