Unfortunately, the most affordable foods are also some of the most unhealthy, so poverty can drive malnutrition. A diet that is rich in calories but bereft of nutrients will cause one to simultaneously gain weight and develop deficiency diseases (illnesses caused by lack of vitamins). This results in a bizarre phenomenon unique to developed nations, which is the presence of seniors (and sometimes adults in other age groups) who are simultaneously malnourished and overweight.
If you don’t think you or your loved one is getting adequate minerals and nutrients from the food you eat, see a registered dietitian, nurse practitioner or doctor to get a prescription for a multivitamin. Our bodies need adequate vitamin D to absorb calcium. Food is the best way to obtain nutrition, but it can be difficult to achieve adequate intake through food alone. If symptoms of weakening bones or osteoporosis are already present, then a multivitamin with vitamin D added is the more suitable choice.
Nearly every senior asks me how much they should eat to maintain a healthy weight. Most are concerned that they may gain a few pounds while recovering from surgery or a health setback. The general Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is listed below for senior men and women of different activity levels. However, keep in mind that this is just an overview. Even caloric intake must be personalized for some individuals, depending on whether they need to maintain a healthy weight or lose/gain a few pounds.
Turning 50 is a milestone for many people. The half-century mark comes with new rules for medical tests and often brings a couple of health-related signals indicating that it’s time for some dietary changes. Even if you have enjoyed a healthy 50 years or more, nutritional needs change over time. Gradual dietary tweaks may be wise to ensure your golden years are, well, golden.
*Editor’s note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; it does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group, and it is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
Our body composition changes with age. Aging is associated with an increase in total body fat, as well as a shift of that fat distribution. An older individual has higher total body fat and visceral fat (fat surrounding the organs). While routine physical activity may help lessen this shift, some degree of change is inevitable. To some extent, a small increase in overall fat may be healthy. Think of it this way—if you slip and fall, you will likely fare much better with adequate fat tissue to pad and protect your bones.
A healthy diet is rich in fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). As the National Council on Aging notes, details about nutrition for seniors you might change as people age. Because your metabolism slows, you may need fewer calories than earlier in your life. However, your body may need more of certain nutrients. This may be especially true if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Nutrition for seniors can be complex. Always talk with your doctor before changing your diet.
Learning all about good nutrition for seniors is a wise move, but you should also know the warning signs of poor nutrition. You or your loved one may experience symptoms that point to a nutritional deficiency that can be resolved with dietary changes. If you suspect any kind of deficiency, then follow up with your doctor in order to be properly tested. Here are some common signs that may indicate that certain vitamins or minerals are lacking from your or your family member's diet:
Older individuals may be at risk for low B12 due to less intake of foods containing this vitamin and decreased stomach acid secretion, which can inhibit conversion of B12 into a usable form. Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in animal source foods, such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products. It also can be added to fortified foods such as breakfast cereals in a crystalline form, which is better absorbed by those in the older population. This crystalline form is not dependent on stomach acid for absorption, making it more bioavailable.
Lastly, don’t take dry, delicate skin lightly because it’s just a “sign of aging.” Be proactive and use vitamins E and C to help maintain skin integrity. Sunflower seeds, almonds and spinach are excellent sources of vitamin E, and bell peppers, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cauliflower), and berries pack a great deal of vitamin C. Adequate hydration is crucial for improving skin elasticity and resilience as well. Skin that is in good shape won’t be damaged as easily, and injuries will heal much faster. This includes everyday bumps and scrapes around the house, incisions from surgery, and pressure ulcers. Don’t forget that eating to support your skin will have both cosmetic and health benefits!
Smoothies are a very useful vehicle for adding more fruit and vegetables into a person’s diet. They are very easy to make and digest and ingredients can be added to customize the nutrition content of each frozen drink. For example, spinach and kale are nutrient-dense ingredients that can be easily blended with fruits like oranges and apples. Although they may change the color of the beverage, leafy greens usually do not affect the taste of the final product. The possible combinations are limitless and can be customized to suit any palate and dietary requirements.
What makes seniors' nutrition such an important topic? Isn't food just…food? Well, you might be surprised. Your food choices can have big impacts on your well-being. For instance, healthy eating habits can improve your energy levels, boost your immune system, and make you feel great inside and out. For some older adults, they can even help restore feelings of youthfulness.
This article will give you the tools you need to weigh the pros and cons of diet plans you're considering. First we offer a series of questions whose answers will help you size up any diet's safety, efficacy, and practicality. And then we'll ask you to think about yourself, quizzing you about your likes and dislikes, your habits, and your lifestyle, so you can eliminate diets you just won't get along with.
We advise that those who are in the process of selecting a senior living community for themselves or a loved one, experience at least one meal at each community they are considering. It’s important to taste the food and be there in person to feel out the dining experience. Mealtimes are also a good time to visit senior living communities because they provide a great opportunity to meet residents.