How Nutritional Needs Change with Age
Eating a nutrient-rich, whole foods diet is good practice for people of all ages, but is especially important for seniors. As you age, your metabolic rate and muscle mass decrease, meaning you need less calories to sustain your energy. However, eating less calories puts you at risk of not getting all the nutrients you need to stay healthy and active. Seniors should try to avoid empty calories and eat whole foods like nuts, beans, fish, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Read on to learn more about what seniors should know about their changing nutritional needs.
Changes that may happen as we age that affect our nutritional needs:
- Loss of muscle mass and more sedentary lifestyle means you require less calories
- Long-term inflammation can cause the body to produce less stomach acid, which affects the absorption of nutrients
- The body is less able to recognize senses like hunger and thirst, which can lead to dehydration and unintentional weight loss
- Constipation becomes more common
- Changes in hormones and senses like taste and smell can lead to a decreased appetite, which in turn can result in not eating a big enough variety of nutritional food
So, how do you ensure you get the right nutrients? Eating the right foods or taking the proper supplements can help immensely. Here are some of the vitamins seniors should make sure they are taking in the right amounts, and how to get them:
We lose muscle mass as we age, leading to weakness and potential fractures. A diet rich in protein combined with resistance training is the best way to maintain muscle mass.
Good Sources of Protein: almonds, chicken breast, eggs, oats, yogurt, broccoli, lean beef
Calcium & Vitamin D
Calcium is vital for maintaining healthy bones. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, so the two work together to keep our bones in good condition.
Good Sources of Calcium: spinach, kale, soybeans, dairy, okra
Vitamin B-12 helps produce red blood cells and promotes healthy brain functions. It can be found in foods like dairy, meat, eggs. Many cereals and foods are fortified with B-12. Because it’s commonly found in animal products, vegetarians and vegans may want to take a supplement to be sure they get this important nutrient.
Good Sources of B-12: meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, clams, nutritional yeast, fortified cereals
Potassium helps bodies in numerous ways such as reducing the chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, and kidney stones.
Good Sources of Potassium: bananas, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers, spinach, oranges
Iron deficiency is a common problem as we age. This can lead to anemia, which means the blood doesn’t supply enough oxygen to the body.
Good Sources of Iron: read meat, seafood, beans, dark leafy greens, iron-fortified breads and pastas
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Studies show omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain healthy brain function.
Good Sources of Omega-3s: flaxseeds, salmon, tuna, trout, walnuts
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about your diet in order to make sure you are meeting your nutritional requirements. If you need help finding a new doctor, use the search tool on our website to find the right one for you.