What diet should a low-income senior follow?
1. Vegetables and Fruit
A diet rich in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables provides a wide range of nutrients and fibre. Sugar and salt are high in canned products, so choose low-sugar, low-salt products instead.
Oats, whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, cereals, and whole-grain brown rice are excellent sources of vitamins and fibre. The nutrients in whole grains are greater than those in refined grains.
3. Milk and Dairy
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are excellent sources of protein and calcium. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products whenever possible. Rice and soy milk that contain vitamin D are also excellent choices.
4. Meat and Alternatives
Protein is vital for building and repairing tissue and for supplying energy. It is recommended that seniors consume protein-rich foods, such as seafood, eggs, lean meats, poultry, nuts, seeds, and beans.
5. Oils and Fats
Fat is necessary for giving you energy, keeping you warm, and allowing you to absorb specific vitamins, but you should choose healthy unsaturated fats in moderation. If a diet is within recommended dietary guidelines, replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats may reduce the risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats are found in avocado, fatty fish, and most nuts, seeds, and oils derived from plant sources like canola, olive, safflower, sunflower, and peanuts.
• Special Considerations for Senior Nutrition
Seniors need a lot of nutrients commonly lacking in their diets.
It is recommended that seniors consume plenty of calcium-rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, milk and dairy products, canned salmon with bones, and soybeans. Women in particular need to consume calcium for bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Calcium also supports healthy muscle, blood vessels, and nervous system function.
2. Vitamin D
People who don’t appear to have malnutrition can still suffer from a deficiency in vitamin D. Fish liver oils, cereals fortified with vitamin D, and milk products fortified with vitamin D are all excellent sources. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, vital for bone health. In addition, it helps manage blood pressure and hormones and improves the functioning of the nervous and immune systems.
A senior’s diet must also contain potassium. This substance keeps the heart, muscles, and nervous system healthy and balances acids and bases in the body. Potassium can be found in various fruits and vegetables, including citrus, bananas, cantaloupes, prunes, broccoli, peas, potatoes, and squash. Nuts, meat, and fish are other good sources of potassium. Dried apricots might be a good choice for those who enjoy dried fruit because they have more potassium than fresh apricots.
4. Vitamin B-12
Meat, fish, poultry, milk, and fortified cereals contain vitamin B-12, which is required to make red blood cells and maintain nerve health. In older adults, natural vitamin B-12 in food may be challenging to absorb, and they may need supplements. Synthetic B-12, such as cereals and some dairy products fortified with vitamin D, is more readily absorbed.
A decline in magnesium absorption occurs with aging. Chronic diseases and some medications may also affect magnesium levels. As an essential mineral for muscle and nerve function, it regulates blood pressure and glucose levels. Fortified cereals and green leafy vegetables are good sources of magnesium. The best sources are almonds or cashews roasted in the sun, spinach, plain yogurt, black beans, brown rice, and shredded wheat cereal.
6. Dietary Fiber
Fibres help the body digest food and encourage more frequent bowel movements to help eliminate waste. Fibre may also lower the risk of developing heart disease. Fruits, vegetables, whole-grain loaves of bread and cereals, beans, nuts, seeds, peas, and lentils contain fibre. If you wish to obtain additional fibre, consume fresh fruits and vegetables rather than juice. Adding fibre slowly into your diet will prevent constipation.
• Foods to Watch for in a Healthy Senior Diet
The consumption of too many calories can result in overnutrition. Consuming nutritious foods and avoiding foods with excess sodium, sugar, and fat are essential for older adults.
Sodium is necessary for maintaining fluid balance and maintaining strong muscles and nervous systems, but too much sodium can result in high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. CDC recommends that seniors restrict sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg daily. Instead of salt, use herbs and spices to season foods. Watch sodium levels in processed foods.
Foods like cake, cookies, candy, sodas, and alcohol full of calories but have little nutritional value should be avoided. Sugar adds empty calories, so be careful when using sweeteners like honey and syrup at the table and verify that ingredients are not loaded with sugar.
There are several types of added sugar, including glucose, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, molasses, and organic cane sugar, regardless of how healthy they sound. Sugar consumption should not exceed 50 grams per day for seniors.
3. Saturated and Trans Fats
Body fat gives the body energy and aids vitamin absorption, but some types are unhealthy. Trans and saturated fats raise cholesterol levels and put people at risk for heart disease and stroke. Check animal products such as butter, fatty meats, and dairy products for saturated fat. Saturated fat can also be found in the fat content of cakes, cookies, snacks, pizza, and burgers.
To limit saturated fat intake, older adults should choose lean cuts of meat, remove the skin from poultry, consume low-fat dairy products, use olive oil for cooking, and consume more vegetables and whole grains. There are trans fats in sure desserts, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, hard margarine, and coffee creamer. Avoid trans fats as much as possible.