Can you believe that you eat about 30,000kg of food during your lifetime, the weight of about six African elephants?
The question is, are these elephants healthy enough, or are they going to put us in trouble after we hit 50?
One of the most critical issues in old age is healthy nutrition and paying attention to the amount of food we consume. Aging is a natural phenomenon that is associated with physiological changes.
Aging can also be associated with a decrease in physical and mental strength, physical activity and an increase in chronic diseases. It seems that improving nutrition can significantly prevent or reduce the severity of these effects. For this reason, we will discuss the best foods for seniors to have a healthy lifestyle.
The Importance of Elderly Nutrition
It is essential to pay attention to the nutrition of the elderly because of changing nutritional needs. A person who follows proper nutrition principles for the elderly will spend their remaining years with health, vitality, and comfort and less vulnerable to common diseases such as high blood pressure, high blood fats, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Proper nutrition for the elderly and appropriate eating habits effectively prevent these diseases, so if they follow the principles of nutrition for the elderly, they are less at risk of various diseases, which will improve their quality of life.
Foods High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The elderly typically suffer from chronic diseases, reduced mobility, and mental health problems. A proper diet plays an essential role in the health and longevity of the elderly. Consumption of omega-3 is necessary for the general health of the elderly and to prevent the progression of diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids regulate all of the body’s physiological functions, including the cardiovascular, nervous, immune, visual, bone, and skin systems. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids improve memory and learning function in the elderly with cognitive impairment.
Osteoarthritis or arthrosis of the articular cartilage is another common disease of the elderly that has no cure but can be relieved with recommendations. The omega-3s in fish oil reduce the signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis and prevent the disease from progressing. Fish oil reduces the effect of enzymes that kill cartilage; hence it can reduce the need for anti-inflammatory drugs. Omega-3s can even prevent osteoarthritis at an early age.
Alzheimer’s and amnesia are also significant problems for the elderly. Older people develop Alzheimer‘s disease by developing plaques in the brain caused by abnormal beta-amyloid protein accumulation. These plaques are toxic and damage brain cells, eventually leading to Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies show that fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids inhibit the production of these proteins in brain cells. Omega 3 also boosts memory and effectively treats Alzheimer’s disease.
Seniors with diabetes are more likely than others to develop cardiovascular disease. Doctors believe that fish oil lowers blood triglyceride levels in patients with diabetes and controls their diabetes.
Calcium & Elderly Nutrition
As an essential nutrient and constituent of 93% of minerals in the body, calcium is necessary for the survival of organisms. Given that about 33% of this substance is in the bones, we need to consume a certain amount daily to strengthen the bones and prevent osteoporosis.
Studies show that calcium can lower blood pressure. Unfortunately, the statistics indicate that as we grow older, we consume less calcium. The body’s need for calcium is so essential that it begins to reabsorb it from the bones if you do not get enough calcium. It makes your bones fragile and brittle, leading to osteoporosis.
Studies show that calcium can lower blood pressure. Unfortunately, the statistics indicate that as we grow older, we consume less calcium. The body’s need for calcium is so essential that it begins to reabsorb it from the bones if you do not get enough calcium. It makes your bones fragile and brittle, leading to osteoporosis. Calcium also plays a role in:
- Muscle contraction
- Proper functioning of the cardiovascular system
- Adjusting the amount of cholesterol
Our digestive system slows down due to aging. Aging also thickens the gastrointestinal tract walls, leading to a slower contraction rate that may lead to constipation. Seniors need foods rich in fibre. These foods can enhance digestion by moving food through the digestive tract. Studies show that foods rich in fibre can reduce the risk of heart disease. Some fibre sources include nuts, wholegrain cereal, brown bread, wholegrain bread and pasta, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables.
Although water-soluble and insoluble fibre helps the body differently, their mixture has an essential effect on weight loss and fighting constipation. Many seniors try to eliminate obesity to lose and balance their weight, but the number of obese people increases. Experts believe that fibre is essential for weight control because high fibre foods are very filling and take up more space in the stomach because they absorb a lot of water.
Researchers at Tufts University have created a food pyramid for seniors that show the importance of drinking water. In this pyramid, drinking eight glasses of water daily is next to physical activity in significance to health. Aging reduces our body’s ability to conserve water, so you don’t feel thirsty as often. However, your body still needs water.
Lack of water consumption leads to dehydration, which causes drowsiness and confusion, so it is essential to stay hydrated. If you take the recommended high fibre diet, you need to drink a lot of water because fibre absorbs plenty of water. To not get overwhelmed by the quantity, you can put the water in small bottles and drink it throughout the day instead of storing it in a big container.
Iron & Elderly Nutrition
Iron is an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in the body. It produces hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron deficiency is less common in the elderly than in other people but is more common in people who eat low-energy foods or have a history of malnutrition.
Older men and women need the same amount of iron, and the recommended daily allowance is 7 mg. Egg yolks, meat, fish, liver, legumes, dark green leafy vegetables such as parsley, beet leaves, coriander, and dark green are the best iron sources.
Vitamin B6 deficiency is expected in the elderly for various reasons, as its metabolism increases and its absorption decreases with age. On the other hand, in the elderly, the intake of this vitamin decreases due to insufficient meat consumption. Recommend that you consume rich sources of this vitamin daily, including meats, liver, milk, eggs, legumes, and whole grains.
Zinc consumption is low in the elderly. Besides, older people may have less zinc absorption than younger people. Some factors, including medications taken in middle age, such as iron and calcium supplements, can impair zinc absorption or increase its secretion in the urine, leading to zinc deficiency. For this reason, zinc supplements are usually prescribed for these people. Liver, meat, milk, legumes, and wheat are rich sources of zinc. Some zinc deficiency symptoms are similar to those that occur naturally with old age, such as decreased taste and a variety of dermatitis.
Magnesium plays an essential role in many physiological functions. It keeps your heart healthy and strengthens your immune system and your bones. Aging reduces our body’s ability to absorb magnesium. Some medications that seniors are taking decrease the absorption of magnesium. Whole grains, nuts, fresh fruit, and vegetables are the best sources of magnesium.
Nutritional Concerns for the Elderly
Nutrient deficiencies can cause severe problems for the elderly, including:
- Weakened immune system
- Decreased energy levels
- Feeling weak and dizzy
- Prolonged wound healing time
- Increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Increased risk of stroke
- High blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Feeling sad and even depressed
It is necessary always to pay attention to your diet to avoid problems. These nutrients play a vital role in the health of the elderly and ensure your quality of life. Share your dietary do’s and don’ts with others, and let us know if you have any questions in the comment section.