Why Nutrition Is Important For Seniors

Tuesday, October 3, 2006 - 12:44pm

By Staff

Everyone can benefit from a balanced diet that is rich in a diversity of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Yet seniors have particular needs that make eating a nutritious diet even more important. While chronic disease conditions can develop as the result of poor eating habits early in life, a nutrient-rich diet can reduce seniors' risk and symptoms of diseases at any age. Eating well contributes to aging well, as well as a general improvement in the quality of life and mental capacity.

Causes of malnourishment in seniors

While medical advances contribute to the increasing lifespan of the average American, proper nutrition is also a major factor in slowing the aging process. A diet that is dependent on easy-to-prepare processed and refined foods often offers little nutritional value. Many seniors are undernourished because they experience:

  1. Reduced appetites
  2. Declining metabolisms
  3. Limited mobility
  4. The side effects of medication.

Age-related disorders

These factors increase the risk of several age-related disorders, which include:

  • Heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure. Packaged and refined foods are harder for the body to process and digest. This is especially true for seniors who may have slower digestive systems. Processed foods are often laden with saturated fat and salt. This can increase the risks of heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase the risks of heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. Proper nutrition reduces these risks.
  • Osteoporosis and brittle bones. As we age, calcium levels can become depleted in our bones. Research indicates that proper nutrition and exercise can reduce the risk of osteoporosis by over 50 percent. Eat low fat dairy products, yogurt, and dark, green, leafy vegetables to get more calcium in the diet. Orange juice and soy products are also rich in calcium. After the age of 50, you should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium in your diet daily.

Key nutrition tips for seniors

Since seniors tend to eat less, they should choose nutrient dense foods. When we're not as active as we used to be, the amount of calories required by our bodies is reduced. But, if we consume the same amount of food that we used to, this can lead to weight gain. Eating whole, natural, fresh foods are the best way to get nutrient rich substances in the diet that are less likely to result in weight gain. This is also an effective way to get more fiber in the diet, which can reduce the risk of disease and aid digestive movement.

Your diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes and healthy sources of protein such as poultry, lean meat, fish, tofu and dairy products. Many whole foods can be easily prepared, which is important for those of limited mobility. Lastly, since good health and detoxification is dependent on being adequately hydrated, it is also important to drink six to eight glasses of water every day.

Medical science may not have found the 'fountain of youth' yet, but proper nutrition coupled with exercise is one key to graceful aging and increased longevity.

For more information on nutrition as you age see the following article from TheDietChannel: Nutrition Advice For The Elderly.