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.
The food, caloric, vitamin, and mineral intakes noted below are taken from the average recommended guidelines provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its subsidiaries.1 They are general guidelines and do not replace the recommendations provided by your doctor. Additionally, any specific health or nutrition concerns that you have should be discussed directly with your doctor.
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.
A common disease found in people 50 and older is type 2 diabetes. Dietary fiber is beneficial for slowing down the release of sugar into the bloodstream, which decreases and stabilizes blood glucose levels. Fiber is also important for digestion, lowering cholesterol and helping maintain a healthy weight. It will help promote regular bowel movements as well. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that males 51 and older consume 28 grams of dietary fiber each day and females 51 and older should consume 22.4 grams. Plant foods (beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains) are the best source of fiber and tend to be nutrient dense as well—a win-win!
It’s also important to visit your dentist for routine check-ups and cleaning. Speak with your doctor or dentist if you notice dental pain, sores in your mouth, or other oral health problems. To keep your teeth and mouth healthy, brush your teeth at least twice a day. If you have dentures, rinse them after meals, brush them daily, and soak them overnight.
In addition to the food groups, think about your fluid intake so that you can avoid the potential complications of dehydration. In seniors, thirst sensations often become weaker, so make a conscious effort to consume the amount of fluids your doctor recommends. For some seniors, that means consuming a minimum of nine to 12 cups of fluids per day. Those fluids can include liquids like water, tea, pure fruit juice, and milk. To help yourself consume that amount, drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up, always have a glass or bottle of water with you, and include a glass of water or a cup of tea with your meals.
High blood pressure may become an issue around age 50. Taking table salt away is one step towards a heart-healthy diet. Try seasonings such as garlic powder, onion powder, dill, paprika, pepper, citrus and fresh herbs instead. There are many low-sodium and sodium-free alternatives you can cook with that add a great deal of flavor and little or no salt to foods. Be aware of the sodium content of favorite sauces, condiments, and packaged and prepared foods as well. The easiest way to closely monitor sodium intake is to prepare home-cooked meals using fresh ingredients.
As we age, our bones weaken due to decreased mobility and mineral loss. Increasing vitamin D and calcium intake to three times per day is appropriate to prevent osteoporosis or to keep the condition from worsening. Many foods, such as cereal, bread and juice, are fortified with both these important dietary components to promote bone health. The National Osteoporosis Foundation also recommends enhancing the calcium content of recipes by adding two to four tablespoons of nonfat powdered milk. Each tablespoon contains 50 mg of calcium, which can help you reach your total daily recommendation.
Your metabolism slows down. This happens naturally, but it becomes more pronounced if you don’t get as much exercise as you should. When your metabolism slows, your body doesn't burn as many calories, which means you need to eat less to stay at a healthy weight. As a result, the foods you eat should be as nutrient-rich as possible. Most women with average activity levels need about 1,800 calories per day. Men with an average activity level need about 2,300 calories each day. You’ll need fewer calories if you’re sedentary, more if you are very active.
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.