When it comes to nutrition and seniors, this part of the topic is essential to understand. Certain vitamins and minerals are critical for good physical and mental health. And, as you age, some become more important than others. Check out the most vital ones below, and learn how much of them to consume, what the best food sources are, and what to watch for as potential signs of deficiency.
It’s ideal for seniors, at least some of the time, to eat with others. Seniors living alone can visit senior centers where meals are available along with activities and company from people in their own generation. Senior communities are also a good solution for seniors unable to prepare meals. Common dining rooms and careful attention to nutrition is one of the primary benefits of living at a senior community, and many seniors experience dramatic health improvements when they move to a senior community for the simple reason that they are eating well again for the first time in years.
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.
This is a common stereotype regarding senior living communities, but A Place for Mom employees often dine at senior living communities and experience meals ranging from good to excellent. In fact, some extremely talented chefs work at senior living communities, and many communities provide food and dining experiences which could be called “luxury.”
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.
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.
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!
Omega-3 fatty acids—There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). It's recommended that all adult men and women consume 1.6 grams or 1.1 grams of ALA, respectively, each day. Both men and women should consume 500 mg of EPA and DHA per day. Some of the best food sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
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.