Healthy Nutrition Guide for Seniors
For many older adults, turning 50 doesn't mean slowing down; however, living an active life requires a body that is strong and in good health. Eating the right foods and getting the proper nutrition plays a large part in allowing seniors to live the life that they want. Nutrition comes in the form of vitamins and minerals that are often found in the foods that people eat on a daily basis. Unfortunately, not all foods are equally nutritious, and some can have a negative impact on one's body. Additionally, one's nutrition needs also change with age, and dietary adjustments must be made. In order to get the proper nutrition necessary for good health, it is important for seniors to understand what they need.
Malnutrition and its Effects
Failure to eat enough nutritious foods can result in a deficit of vitamins and minerals that can cause a host of problems for one's overall health. The condition of being undernourished is called malnutrition, and it is particularly problematic for seniors in terms of the health issues that it may cause and the factors that may lead up to it. Often, seniors who are suffering from malnutrition also suffer from financial issues such as having a limited income that prevents them from being able to afford the foods that are necessary for good health. They may also suffer from depression caused by grief or other factors, or they may have an illness such as dementia that can cause a lack of appetite. In terms of the health impact of malnutrition on seniors, it can cause wounds or injuries to heal more slowly, a weakness of muscles that puts them at a greater risk of falling, and increased risk of infection due to a weakened immune system. Additionally, malnutrition can lead to problems with the heart and even one's lungs.
- Senior Health: How to Prevent and Detect Malnutrition
- Food and Nutrition for Seniors
- Landon Center on Aging: Malnutrition in Older Adults
- Malnutrition and the Older Adult (PDF)
Creating a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is essential when it comes to seniors getting the nutrition that their bodies require. To be healthy, it is important to drastically reduce the consumption of refined carbohydrates and processed foods as much as possible. Ideally, fruits, vegetables, and protein such as fish, chicken, nuts, beans, and eggs should be a large part of one's diet. On a daily basis, women older than 50 should eat at least a cup and a half of fruit, while two cups is recommended for men. When it comes to vegetables, women 50 years of age and older should get two cups of vegetables a day and men should eat two and a half cups. The daily recommended amount of protein for seniors is five ounces for women and five and a half ounces for men. Additionally, a healthy diet for seniors should include whole grains; foods such as dairy products, kale, and broccoli to help them get their daily 1,000 mg of calcium for men or 1,200 mg for women; and fibrous foods. Getting enough fiber is an important part of senior diets, as it aids digestion, which becomes less efficient with age. Women older than 50 should be eating 21 grams of fiber daily, while men in the same age group should get no less than 30 grams a day.
While it is important to cut unhealthy fat from one's diet, not all fats are considered bad. Polyunsaturated fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats are considered healthy fats. Healthy fats they can be found in nuts, avocados, salmon, and mackerel. These healthy fats can provide a source of protection against certain types of diseases.
- Senior Nutrition and Diet Tips: Eating Healthy as You Age
- Eating Healthy Is Vital to Seniors' Well-Being
- Healthy Eating for Healthy Aging
- Seniors Still Need Adequate Iron for Good Health
Take Your Vitamins
For seniors, getting the right vitamins is an important part of keeping their bodies functioning optimally. Vitamins and minerals that are especially important for people older than 50 include vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate. Both men and women should get 400 mcg of folate daily. It can be found in vegetables that are dark green and leafy and in fruits and beans. It is also known as folic acid when used to fortify cereals and flour. Vitamin B12 is found in fortified milk and cereals as well as fish and chicken, but a supplement is often necessary. People who are 50 years old or older should get 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 daily. The required amount of vitamin B6 depends on gender: Men typically require 1.7 mg on a daily basis, while women require 1.5 mg. It can be found in fortified foods and organ meats. Vitamin D comes from the sun, but the amount that one receives is usually not enough. At a minimum, 600 IU is needed for people who are between the ages of 50 and 70 years old. This rises to 800 IU for individuals older than 70. Vitamin D supplements are available, or people can get it from taking fish liver oil or eating fatty fish such as mackerel.
- Micronutrients for Older Adults
- Vitamins and Minerals
- Nutrition and Aging (PDF)
- Older Adults May Need More Vitamin D to Prevent Mobility Difficulties
It is important that seniors regularly drink fluids. Dehydration is a risk because the ability to recognize thirst is reduced with age. It is just as important that the right types of fluids are consumed for maximum benefit. Water is the ideal liquid for seniors, as it has no carbohydrates or other additives. Sipping liquid such as water throughout the day is beneficial and will help keep problems such as constipation and urinary tract infections at bay. People should drink at least six to eight glasses of water per day, but more may be necessary depending on temperatures and other factors. Juice and low-fat milk are also options, but juice should not be a sole source of liquid, as it does contain sugar. Certain fruits, such as watermelon, have a high liquid content and are an additional and refreshing way to help quench one's thirst. Sodas and alcohol add calories without any nutritional value and should be consumed sparingly.
- Water: Fountain of Life (PDF)
- Dehydration of the Elderly in Nursing Homes
- Preventing and Treating Dehydration in the Elderly During Periods of Illness and Warm Weather (PDF)
- More Than One in Three Older Americans May Not Drink Enough Water (PDF)
Healthy Eating Plans
Changing one's diet is always difficult, but it can be particularly hard to alter lifelong eating habits. Fortunately, there are many resources available for seniors who wish to turn to a healthier diet. This includes online information on diet plans such as the DASH diet. While these plans are designed to be healthy, it is important to check with a doctor before making any drastic adjustments or limitations. Doctors also have the resources to provide their patients with a more tailored eating plan that takes any health conditions into consideration.