Eat well as you age
Eating well is important for people of all ages. Nutrition for seniors is essential to reduce the risk of many health conditions.
Whatever your age, your daily food choices can make an important difference in your health and in how you look and feel. A good diet has been shown to reduce the risk of many health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, anemia and some types of cancer. As we age, our dietary requirements change.
One obvious change of aging is that we lose muscle and gain body fat. Due to these changes, we need about 10 percent fewer calories as each decade of life passes. However, our need for vitamins and minerals generally stays the same, or may increase with certain conditions. It is essential to eat very nutrient-dense foods. Empty carbohydrates such as cookies, crackers, alcohol, white bread, pasta and other processed foods should be minimized.
It is common for seniors to have a diminished sense of taste and smell. This may result in the increased use of salt to add flavor. Most dietary guidelines suggest limiting our sodium intake to less than one teaspoon per day to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and osteoporosis. As an alternative to salt, use herbs such as garlic, tumeric or rosemary. These herbs add flavor and have the added benefit of helping to preventing diseases such as colds and cardiovascular disease.
All ages can benefit from increasing the amount of vegetables they eat. Vegetables provide valuable antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. If food does not taste as good as it used to, try new seasonings, such as fresh herbs and spices.
It is important as we age to keep our bones healthy and strong. To do this we need two to three servings of dairy products daily. Two nutrients that are needed for bone health are calcium and vitamin D – we get calcium from dairy products and vitamin D from fortified foods such as milk. You can also get vitamin D from 10 minutes of sun exposure daily. Remember, daily physical activity is important for healthy aging.
Another essential nutrient many seniors need to consume is protein. Protein is important for energy production, blood sugar control and is essential for retaining muscle mass. Some good ways to incorporate vegetables, fruit and proteins in your diet are:
- vegetable soups made with milk or yogurt
- raw vegetables dipped in hummus
- grated cheese on vegetables
- yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
- scrambled eggs made with sautéed vegetables
- chickpeas or tuna on salads
- peanut butter on apple slices
Enjoying a healthy diet and staying active will help us to be healthy as we age – just remember to eat well, keep moving, and call on friends and family whenever you need help along the way.