Ensuring proper nutrition can be challenging for individuals of any age. As we move into our senior years, it is very important to become familiar with how to meet the body’s nutritional needs.
The aging process changes how the human body assimilates and absorbs vitamins and, as one ages, dietary needs change. Metabolism slows, muscle mass diminishes, appetite fluctuates, bones can become weak and brittle, and the body’s organs do not operate as efficiently.
Good nutrition acts as a powerful intervention in the aging process. Eating a well-balanced diet is key to supporting prevention of chronic disease and dementia as well as ensuring that, as we age, we continue to live a healthy, robust life.
According to ‘Eat Right Ontario’, “Healthy eating will help to prevent or manage heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers.”
To guarantee a long and healthy life, seniors can make simple changes in their diet to prevent disease and increase energy. Below are some recommendations to follow for optimal senior nutrition:
Eat more fruits and vegetables with moderate amounts of whole grains and lean protein. Strive to eat at least 7 servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Steam or bake veggies instead of frying them to trim excess fat and calories.
- Reduce the amount of sweets in the diet. Seek to satisfy the sweet tooth by eating fresh or frozen fruits. In addition, adding whole grains in the form of barley, oats, and whole wheat will naturally reduce cravings for sweets.
- Reduce sodium to control hypertension and prevent heart disease.
- Eat almonds, vegetables, and leafy greens to get appropriate amounts of calcium to keep bones strong. If not lactose-intolerant, eat an ounce or two of raw cheese, preferably goat cheese, per day to increase intake of calcium.
- Avoid hydrogenated fats when cooking and instead use healthy oils such as olive, grape seed or coconut. Also consider avocado, almond, walnut and flaxseed oils, which add wonderful taste and nutrition, when used over salads or steamed vegetables.
- Aim for 30 grams of fiber per day from whole grains such as brown rice, oat bran, whole wheat and barley, fruits, vegetables, and nuts to support the digestive tract and prevent constipation.
- Eliminate or reduce refined products such as white rice, white bread and store-bought cookies.
- If using antacids, choose foods rich in B vitamins such as nuts, seeds, broccoli, eggs and dark leafy greens. These foods also will promote energy and stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.
- Select foods rich in Vitamin E to keep skin, nail and hair healthy, as well as fight free radicals and cancer. Great sources of vitamin E include asparagus, sweet potatoes, papaya and swiss chard.
- Look for alternative sources of protein such as wild-caught fish, beans, tofu and nuts which are a good source of protein and low in fat. Go easy on consumption of red meats and pork products as they are high in saturated fat and are closely tied to heart disease and stroke.
- Try to eat all the colours of the rainbow everyday to get a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. For example, a day’s meals may include red beets, oranges, yellow squash, spinach, blueberries and purple grapes. Raw fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes to aid digestion and fight aging.
- Drink water often! Many older adults do not drink enough fluids. As we age, our sense of thirst declines. We need to drink whether or not we feel thirsty. Drinking fluids may help to prevent constipation. Try to drink 9-12 cups of fluid each day. This includes water, milk, juice, soup, coffee/tea.
It is natural for weight to change as we age, however, sometimes older adults lose weight quickly and without even trying.
Tips to help stop unwanted weight loss. • Eat smaller amounts of foods more often. Try eating every 2-3 hours. • Eat more food when your appetite is best. • Have a snack before bed at night. Try cheese and crackers or yogurt. • Eat your favourite healthy food any time of the day. • Use milkshakes, smoothies or meal replacements (Ensure®, Boost®, Resource 2.0®) as snacks. • Make every bite count! Fill up on high calorie healthy choices. • Avoid smoking. It lowers appetite and limits taste.
‘Eat Right Ontario’ suggests the following smoothie for older adults. Sunny Orange Banana Milk Shake
- ¾ cup vanilla yogurt
- 2 tbsp skim milk or soy protein powder
- 1 banana ½ cup of orange juice
- In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
For further information about Eating Healthy as we age, visit: (http://www.eatrightontario.ca/).