It’s often difficult to understand why some people pass away at age a young age and others live well into their nineties. The body works in mysterious ways but being proactive at any age is key. I like to share a quote with my patients that I read at a hospital while I was still in college: “Medicine is sick care. Nutrition is health care.” People of all ages should consider this quote while striving to increase their own health and quality of life and that of their loved ones.
Sometimes good nutrition for seniors can be easier if someone else does the cooking. If you’re finding it difficult to prepare healthy meals for yourself, talk to a family member, friend, or your doctor.  There may be services available to help make sure you’re getting the nutritional food you need. For example, Meals on Wheels is available across the United States and in other countries. The service may be available where you live.
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.
When we reach our fifties, it’s common to notice a change in daily energy levels. This is normal to an extent, but a vitamin B12 deficiency may also be to blame. If a person tests as B12 deficient, daily supplementation is key. Feeling lethargic obviously isn’t ideal, but accepting a slump in energy can lead to decreased mobility and activity, which contribute to osteoporosis, heart weakening and alterations in bowel movements. Overall health is all one big, interconnected circle, so it’s important to do what’s needed to stay active and maintain a high quality of life. Dietary sources of B12 include beef liver, mackerel, sardines, red meat, yogurt and fortified cereals.
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.
Concerned about coffee? A study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics has concluded that daily coffee intake as part of a normal lifestyle is not associated with dehydration. Furthermore, current research suggests that regular coffee consumption may protect against cognitive impairment and decline later in life. This being said, it is good to keep in mind that water is the gold standard for hydration, and should make up a majority of fluid intake.
Eating guidelines provided by nutrition experts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are based on decades of research into health. Educational tools such as MyPlate communicate the components of a healthy diet in a simple way that anyone can understand. Unfortunately, most eating guidelines do not provide for the nuances and special nutritional needs of seniors:
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