Growing old is a fact of life. For some, this is a bitter fact, while others embrace aging gracefully. As our body grows older, everything about it changes, including our nutritional requirements. We do not need nutrients for growth and development any more. Rather, the focus of our diet shifts to keeping the body protected from various diseases associated with age and weight. That is the reason why it is of important that older people get well-acquainted with their nutrition needs. This way, they will be able to stay away from wrong foods and stay fit and healthy at the dusk of their lives.
Basic Nutritional Needs for Older Adults or Elderly People
The basic nutritional needs of older adults are similar to that of the younger lot. They should have a well-balanced diet comprising sufficient amounts of healthy and nutritious foods. In general, their diet plan should contain:
- Carbohydrates (mainly from cereals, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, potatoes, and so on)
- Proteins (both non-veg and veg including egg, fish, meat, beans, pulses, etc.)
- Fresh fruits and veggies (at least five portions per day)
Aged people should steer clear of oily foods, processed foods, excess salt, drinking, smoking, etc. Otherwise the normal functions of their internal organs can get affected, which can eventually take a toll on their health.
Special Nutrition Needs Of Elderly People:
Apart from these basic requirements, elderly people should also incorporate a number of other specific nutrients in their daily diet. Let us take a look at those special nutritional needs for older people:
1. Vitamin D:
Most of the elderly people are diagnosed with acute calcium deficiency, which is the result of lack of vitamin D in the body. The vitamin, essentially produced in the skin from exposure to sunlight, helps the body absorb calcium more affectively. In other words, Vitamin D is necessary for maintaining bone health. So, proper sun exposure and adequate intake of vitamin D-rich foods, such as egg, fortified cereals, margarine, cod liver oil, salmon, tuna, etc. are needed to meet the daily requirement of the Vitamin as well as to prevent significant bone loss. It is recommended for the elderly people to take 10µg of vitamin D supplement each day.
2. Vitamin C:
The natural healing capacity of our body goes down as we age. However, intake of sufficient amount of vitamin C can combat the condition successfully. Studies have proven that this vitamin can promote the production of collagen in our body, which is necessary for repairing tissues and curing wounds. Being an antioxidant, it can take care of the health of our blood vessels, connective tissues, and skin. It is also known to prevent severe diseases like cancer, stroke, heart attack, etc. Elderly people should consume lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to meet their daily requirements of vitamin C as well as top it up with supplements, if necessary.
3. Dietary Fiber:
Constipation, frequent bowel issues, and irritation are common as our body begins to slow down. That is why elderly people need to include loads of fiber in their diet to deal with these problems efficiently. Some excellent sources of dietary fiber are whole grain bread, breakfast cereals, brown rice, brown pasta, porridge, pulses and legumes, fresh fruits, vegetables, and so on.
Older people should always keep themselves hydrated by consuming sufficient amounts of fluids. Fluid is essential to keep the regular functions of cells going and a mature body does not have enough power to conserve it. So, they need to consume plenty of water, fruit juices, hot beverages, etc.
As said before, calcium is vital for the maintenance of bone health in aged people. Lack of this mineral can lead to severe bone issues like fragility, fracture, osteoporosis, etc. So, it is important that their daily diet contains enough calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products, apart from leafy vegetables.
Aging is something we cannot prevent. But growing old does not mean exile! No longer does the elderly need to lead a life of isolation and inactivity. With the right kind of food and nutrition, one can lead a healthy and active life, irrespective of one’s age. So, do not let your age slow you down.
Continue living your life with the same zest as you grow older—just make sure you are eating right to give your body the ammunition it needs to stay fit!
Hope this article was helpful! Do share your views on nutritional needs for older adults in the comments section.