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.
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.
The National Institutes of Health lists taste disorder as one of the conditions that might interfere with a healthy diet for seniors. Taste disorders might cause people to lose their appetite. It may be tempting to use sugar or salt to make food more appealing, but the NIH recommends flavoring food with herbs and spices instead. Of course, as with all diet recommendations, ask your doctor for guidance about nutrition for seniors – particularly you.
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.
Certain medications can affect how food tastes, according to the National Institute on Aging. Ask your doctor to suggest other options if the medications you take affects your appetite. Some medications can also interact with certain foods and nutritional supplements. If you’re taking a medication, it’s wise to check with your doctor or pharmacist to find out whether you need to make any changes to your diet.
Probiotics are good bacteria that are naturally found in the gut. Antibiotics are commonly prescribed to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other infections, but these medications kill both good and bad bacteria and can negatively affect the GI system. To maintain healthy gut flora and help the digestive system recover more quickly after taking these medications, take a daily probiotic supplement and eat foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi.
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.
While one highly publicized study suggested that those who are moderately overweight have slightly longer lifespans, other studies, such as this one at Oxford University, associated being moderately overweight with a decreased lifespan. The overweight, or obese, are said to experience lifespans 10 years less than average according to the Oxford study.