Why Is It Important?
As people age they need to maintain a careful diet that includes protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy fruits and vegetables. Proper nutrition is essential in longevity, quality of life and thinking ability. Older adults need 1200 mg of calcium a day, 1.5 to 2 servings of fruit, 2.5 cups of veggies, 6-7 ounces of whole grain and .5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Sodium, cholesterol and sugar should be limited.
According to the National Institute on Aging:
Women over 50…
• Not active – need 1600 calories per day
• Somewhat active – need 1800 calories per day
• Very active – need 2000 calories per day
Men over 50…
• Not active – need about 2000 calories per day
• Somewhat active – need 2200 calories per day
• Very active – need 2400 to 2800 calories per day
As age increases it is very important to have enough fiber in the diet to keep the bowels regular; lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes; improve skin health; aid in weight loss and boost immune system and overall health. Women over 50 need at least 21 grams of fiber a day and men need at least 30 grams.
As people age their metabolism slows, their digestion changes, their senses are dulled and they may take medications that change appetite and tastes. Loneliness and depression, death or divorce and living on a limited budget can also affect diet.
Malnutrition is a serious health issue in older adults caused by eating too little food, taking in too few nutrients and having digestive problems related to aging. Malnutrition causes fatigue, depression, weakened immune system, anemia, weakness, as well as digestive, lung, heart and skin problems. Different difficulties older adults struggle with that can lead to malnutrition are loss of appetite, difficult chewing or dysphagia, dry mouth, an aversion to “healthy food,” and not being able to shop or cook their own food.
To prevent malnutrition older adults should:
• Eating nutrient packed foods such as avocados, sweet potatoes, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables, eggs and fish
• Having flavorful foods available
• Snacking between meals
• Eating with company as much as possible
• Getting assistance with food preparation
• Consulting your doctor
Senior meal delivery plans such as “Meals on Wheels” are also options.