dieting for elderly people (1)

Dieting for elderly people

You can’t stop the process of ageing, but you can stay healthy.
The basic step towards good health as you age is eating right. For the body to run normally, you have to feed it good nutrition and maintain it. You should treat your body as you treat your home. Therefore, checking the diet for an elderly person is important.
As we get old, our body goes through many biological changes. As you change how you look, other changes occur in the body. Body processes become slow. You stop feeling as hungry or thirsty as you used.
As an elderly person, you can have a tough time chewing, opt not to cook or are bored to eat on your own. Having a diet plan for an elderly person helps.
These changes make the body susceptible to diseases if a proper diet is not maintained. The once healthy optimum functioning body can start to sputter.

What do elderly people need in their diet?

As seen earlier, old age comes with body changes. The changes make the body have different needs thus some nutrients become important for great health. Below are nutrients that are vital in a healthy diet for an elderly person.
So, what do elderly people need in their diet?

1 – Calcium and Vitamin D

Vitamin D and Calcium help in maintaining bone health. As a person gets old, bones start to disintegrate very slowly. This is the reason elderly people walk with a bend.
As you age, you need more calcium and vitamin D. A healthy diet for elderly should have calcium-rich drinks and food every day. Foods and drinks with high calcium content include fish with soft bones, fortified cereals, fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables, plant beverages and milk.
If you go for a calcium supplement, it is advisable to for one with vitamin D.

2 – Fibre

Fibre helps prevent type 2 diabetes and lowers the risk of diabetes. Vegetables, fruits, whole grain bread and cereals, beans and peas provide fibre.

3 – Vitamin B12

This vitamin plays a major role in the production of DNA and red blood cells. People over the age of 50 years do not get enough Vitamin B12. You can visit a registered dietitian nutritionist to know if you need a Vitamin B12 supplement. Foods rich in Vitamin B12 include lean meat, fortified cereal and some seafood.

4 – Potassium

Reducing calcium along with increasing potassium lowers the risk of high blood pressure. Beans, vegetables and fruits provide potassium. You reduce calcium intake by preparing meals with little or no salt.

5 – Fats

Foods with low saturation of fats lower the risk of heart disease. You should take monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats mainly found in avocados, nuts, seeds, fish and olive oil.

Why do elderly need iron in their diet?

We all need iron throughout the stages of our lives. So, why do elderly need iron in their diet?
The mineral iron makes haemoglobin, a blood protein that carries oxygen to the body cells. Low iron intake can lead to iron deficiency anaemia. Symptoms include;
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Feeling tired, weak and cold
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Slowed mental functioning
  • Shortness of breath

The elderly can suffer more severe complications. Blood loss is a common cause of low iron deficiency in seniors.

Elderly people at risk of low iron levels should first take foods rich in iron before taking supplements. Foods with iron include seafood, meat, legumes, fortified breakfast cereals and nuts. Use of iron supplements by seniors can affect the function of medication like antibiotics and more.

What is a healthy balanced diet for the elderly?

Understanding what a balanced diet is for the elderly can help you make a diet plan for an elderly person. “Eat a balanced diet” is a statement you will hear from almost everyone. However, the advice rarely comes with enough details on nutrition for the elderly diet. A healthy diet for elderly should have the right balance of nutrients.
A balanced diet for elderly people should have proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and other important nutrients.
Proteins should take the largest share of the dietary pie. Examples of high protein foods include chicken, lean meat, fish, Legumes soy-based meat substitutes.
Fruits and vegetables are vital for nutrition for the elderly diet. They help in boosting body immunity.

Why is a balanced diet important for elderly?

Nutrition has a big effect on the wellbeing and physical health for seniors. Nutrition needs vary depending on someone’s age.

Eating healthy plays a major role not only in physical health but also on mental and memory function. A healthy diet for an elderly person improves organ function. Besides improving organ function, the best diet for elderly people helps in managing chronic illnesses like diabetes, cancer, dementia and high blood pressure.

A healthy diet for elderly prevent fractures, maintains strength, flexibility, posture and mobility as it helps in muscle and bone health. When an elderly person eats healthy, it promotes healing and strengthens the immune system.

How to add calories to elderly diet

With age, appetite reduces and muscle mass reduces naturally. This puts the elderly at risk of being underweight. The following is an idea on how to add calories to elderly diet.
Elderly people can get calories from eating food rich in carbohydrates for energy and heavy protein for bone and muscle health.
High-calorie foods include dried fruits, nuts, avocados, coconut based, whole grains and more. Age reduces appetite making it hard for elderly to eat large volumes. For this reason, you can have small portions of meals frequently. In the end, this will add to your calories.
If you are changing diet, it is best to consult a nutritionist. An assessment of the health can need specific dietary requirements. They will advice you on balanced diet for elderly people.

Fluid balance

Best diet for elderly people should include fluids. Drinking enough water is vital in preventing dehydration. Fluids like fruit juices add a lot of calories. However, it is not advisable for diabetic people to take sodas and sweet fruit juices. As the sense of thirst declines with age, you can add lemon flavour in water with a slice of lemon.
Urine can help one know if they are getting enough water. The urine should be pale yellow.

Do not forget physical exercise

Physical exercise should be part of diet for elderly person. Regular exercise contributes to gaining weight. When you exercise, muscles gain mass. As you consume energy when you exercise, it helps in improving appetite.
One of the best exercises for the seniors is walking as it is easy on the joints. To those with chronic health conditions, exercise starves of the disease.
If you are not old, you might be taking care of an elderly person. If you are not taking care of an elderly person, you are ageing. Understanding what is a healthy balanced diet for the elderly and why is a balanced diet important for elderly will help you in taking care of your aged loved ones and you as you age.
This article was first published on UK Care Guide and you can read it here