As a senior, practicing proper nutrition is one of the biggest ways to improve your health and maintain a state of excellent well-being overall.
Though making the correct dietary choices for your body can get somewhat more complicated with age, eating right can still be enjoyable and is well worth the small lifestyle changes you may have to make. To help you learn more about the importance of good nutrition for seniors, and to get you started on building a personalized nutrition plan to meet your needs, our professionals here at St. Paul’s have put together this short overview. Read on for Nutrition Tips for Seniors: The Importance of Good Nutrition, and reach out to our San Diego, CA senior living community today!
Why Do Seniors Have Different Nutritional Needs?
The first step to eating healthy as a senior is to understand your own individual nutritional needs. These needs may vary from the needs of other age groups — and even other seniors — based on a number of factors. For instance, many seniors experience reductions in sensory faculties including the senses of hearing, smell and, most importantly, taste. These sensory deficiencies can lead seniors to make poor choices regarding nutrition and choose foods that may look or taste appealing but contain a number of unhealthy ingredients.
As far as nutrition and your individual dietary needs as senior are concerned, you’ll want to visit a doctor to make yourself aware of any medical conditions you might have. Do you have a gastrointestinal condition? High blood pressure? Nutrient deficiency? You’ll want to build your diet around the unique demands of these conditions. Meeting with a doctor in your area is the best way to make yourself aware of your current medical needs and begin building a specialized diet around those needs.
General Nutritional Guidelines For Seniors
In addition to determining your individual dietary needs, there are a number of general nutritional guidelines that you should follow as a senior. These general nutritional guidelines are based upon dietary needs that every human has, as well as age-specific needs that apply to all seniors. By following them each day, you can markedly improve your health and mitigate a wide range of conditions that commonly afflict seniors.
We’ll start with the most general of dietary recommendations. These apply to virtually everybody, regardless of age. Beginning with things you should avoid, you’ll want to stay away from saturated fats and trans fats. These can increase cholesterol, blood pressure and your risk of heart disease. Instead, moderate your fat intake with healthy fats such as Essential Fatty Acids (more on this in the section below). You’ll also want to mitigate your intake of sugar and sodium, as these can both increase your blood pressure and put you at risk for a number of severe conditions, including stroke, heart failure, osteoporosis, stomach cancer, and kidney disease.
Before going into the foods you should be eating, we’ll say a bit about how you should be eating them. As a senior, your metabolism will gradually slow down, which means your body won’t digest and absorb food as quickly as it used to. For you, this means you’ll not only have to eat less food to stay at a healthy weight — you’ll also have to pick foods that are rich in nutrients to ensure that your body gets everything it needs. If you’re taking medication, understand that your appetite may be adversely affected due to your meds. You’ll want to continue to eat an ample amount of food (even if you don’t feel like it) to ensure that your body is getting the nutrition it needs to stay healthy.
Incorporate These Nutrients Into a Balanced Diet
There are a number of nutrients that are especially important to consume as a senior, since your body will be begin to lose its ability to efficiently produce or absorb them as you age. Vitamin B12, a nutrient that is essential in immune system and cell function, is absorbed less efficiently in the bodies of seniors. By taking B12 supplements or eating foods high B12 — such as shellfish, yogurt, and eggs — you’ll do a lot to help your body absorb enough of this vital nutrient. Protein and calcium are two other vital nutrients that all seniors should incorporate into their diets. Protein supports muscle growth and function and is found in high doses in most nuts, meats, and dairy products. Calcium supports healthy bones (which can be a concern for many seniors) and is found in bananas, dairy products, broccoli, and other vegetables.
Speaking of veggies, you’ll want to be sure to eat enough green vegetables to supply your body with essential nutrients including iron, folate, Vitamin C and K, fiber, and others. (It’s good idea to “rough up” your diet with high-fiber foods to facilitate digestion and help prevent heart disease.) As mentioned above, ingesting Essential Fatty Acids from foods such as seeds, nuts, avocados, fatty fish, and vegetable oils is a must. Your body does not create these fats on its own and needs them for a number of functions at the cellular and organ levels. As a final consideration, you’ll want to be sure to drink enough water. This is because seniors’ bodies produce less water than those of kids and adults, making it harder for them to absorb ingested nutrients than the bodies of their younger peers. By drinking enough water, you’ll stave off dehydration and help your body work the way it’s supposed to.
Create Your Own Healthy Eating Plan
With these suggestions, you can begin to craft a dietary plan to keep your body healthy and happy well into your golden years. Of course, every nutrition plan can be helped with more specifics and the insight of a professional.