Food is life. But, why does your favorite pizza suddenly give you indigestion? As you age, your body changes. Nutritional needs for seniors will grow and change depending on metabolism, bodily functions, taste and even activity level. Finding the perfect balance for senior nutrition is important to staying healthy.
Importance of Senior Nutrition
Now that you are older, your body is beginning to work differently than it did in your 20s, 30s and 40s. You may find you can no longer eat the same foods you could even 10 years ago. Senior nutrition focuses on the foods you need to stay healthy while overcoming new digestive and health obstacles you may incur.
Benefits of Changing Your Diet
The first thing you need to do is begin making changes in your diet and approach to eating. You will benefit in numerous ways when you begin focusing on senior nutrition. These changes will help:
- Increase your mental acuteness
- Build resistance to illness and disease
- Give you higher energy levels
- Help boost your immune system
- Aid you in faster recuperation times when you are sick
- Help you manage chronic health problems
Dietary fiber is an important part of your diet. You can add fiber by eating lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-fiber bran cereals. The benefits of high-fiber consumption are that it helps fight:
- Heart Disease
Read Food Labels
Pay attention to the food labels and nutrition facts when grocery shopping. Look for foods labeled as:
- Low Fat
- Cholesterol Free
- Good Source of Fiber
You probably are not getting all the vitamins and nutrition you need through your regular meals. Vitamins help your body get the recommended dose it needs to stay active. If you are over the age of 50, you need to take 400 micrograms of folic acid and 1.7 mg. of vitamin B6. Taking these vitamins helps reduce blood levels of the amino acid called homocysteine, which is recognized as a risk factor for both heart disease and strokes.
If you haven't already, you will begin to notice changes in your body and the way you react to different foods. Reasons include:
As your metabolism changes, you begin to burn fewer calories. In older folks, the body seems to sense a decreased need for calories, which affects your metabolism.
Losing Interest in Food
Both your metabolism and the increase of medications can affect your appetite. This lack of hunger is dangerous because your body needs nutrients to survive.
Numerous symptoms occurring in your body are a factor, such as:
- Dental: Many senior citizens experience dental problems that create dietary issues. Chewing becomes more difficult as you lose teeth.
- Throat: Restrictions of the throat make swallowing a challenge and can cause you to choke.
- Digestion: Digestive problems are more common. Your body can no longer tolerate many of the same foods as before. Eating at a new restaurant can become a nightmare if it does not agree with you.
- Taste: Even the enjoyment level of eating your meal can change. You may find your tastes differ. Foods you formerly loved now taste bland.
Difficulty Getting Out of the Home
It may not seem like part of senior nutrition, but getting out of your home and socializing during mealtime plays an important part. When you are lonely, your appetite often drops. If you cannot leave your home, take advantage of the options your city, local businesses, churches and synagogues offer you.
- Many grocery stores now offer a delivery service. You can order over the phone or online.
- Meals on Wheels delivers food to your door and provides companionship.
- Ask a neighbor if they will shop for you, they need to go anyway. Most people don't mind helping out a neighbor.
- Senior centers offer you a chance to get out. If possible, look into joining a program near you.
- Ask your church if volunteers or the youth group can join you for a meal.
Harvard's Health Publication says part of senior nutrition includes exercise. Keeping active gives you a healthier appetite which helps burn more calories to increase your metabolism and intake of essential nutrients. Plus, getting out of the house to exercise is good for your mentality.
There is a lot to remember when thinking about senior nutrition. Just changing a few things will make a difference in your health level. Take the following steps for a longer, healthier life:
- Reduce your salt intake. Too much salt causes water retention and high blood pressure.
- Make sure you take both calcium and vitamin D for your bones.
- Maintain your cholesterol levels by watching your fat intake.
- Foods high in fiber help prevent constipation.
- Find a regular exercise program or maintain your own. Move your body daily.
- Drink lots of water, your body needs it to function properly.
- Double check to make sure you are getting your vitamins and minerals.
- Cut back on foods that are high in sugar.