Healthy eating is the crux of our existence. To maintain energy and a good quality of life, adequate nutrition is essential. A healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle are necessary at all ages, but as we age the nutritional requirements change due to the changes happening in our physical and mental body.
Changes that occur in with age
There are mainly 3 types of changes that occur as we age – Physiological changes, perceptual changes and age-related conditions. The nutritional needs and senior diet plan are devised based on these changes. By following suitable dietary recommendations,elders can stay in the pink of their health even at a very advanced age.
- Lower Metabolism – The metabolism rate starts to drop as soon as a person crosses the age of 40. And it is also seen that people become less active as the years pass by. When there is a drop in metabolism the body will need lesser calories.
- Slower digestive system –Seniors often have a slow digestion because of the decrease in the production of saliva and stomach acid. This makes it hard for the system to process certain types of nutrients and minerals which then needs to be taken as supplements.
Changes in the way our sense organs function can alter food habits. For example smell and taste stimulates us to eat certain types of food. But the loss of these senses can cause a person to developrepulsion for food. Often we hear elders complain about not being able to enjoy the dishes that they once loved to eat. When food doesn’t taste as good as they used to, we tend to eat less which can weaken the system.
Age-related illnesses and conditions
Illnesses and medications can adversely affect the appetite of healthy food. Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high pressure are some of the common conditions elders have to deal with. These negatively affect a person’s appetite causing them to eat less.
The dietary recommendations differ for each person as it is influenced by genetics, age, and health factors. However, there are some common nutrients and diet requirements that every senior needs and that includes –
- Choose whole carbs instead of refined ones – Most of us are used to eating carbs three times a day and seniors don’t have to give up on them entirely. Switch refined carbs for whole carbs such as brown rice, and use whole wheat Atta for making chapatis. The high-fibre content in whole foods will help prevent conditions like constipation and provide the body with sufficient energy.Whole carbs in small portions can also help in managing diabetes.
- Include More Calcium–Bone density decreases as we age which requires us to
increase calcium intake. Seniors need to take milk and curd to improve bone density which otherwise can lead to bone fractures and osteoporosis. Non-diary sources of calcium include almonds, kale, green leafy vegetables and tofu.
- Eat Healthy Fats–Fats are packed with calories which can keep us feeling fuller for a long time. Consuming healthy fats can satiate hunger and prevent a person from frequent snacking. Some of the options for healthy fats include fatty fishes such as sardines, anchovies and herring. Walnuts, avocado, olive oil and flaxseeds are other options.
- Reduce Sugar –Sugar is not good for the system, and you can reduce the use gradually with healthier alternatives such as honey and jaggery.
- Drink up –Since our body is three-fourth fluid, we need to keep it hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can prevent age-related conditions such as drymouth, irregular bowel movements and constipation.
Senior health tips in a nutshell
As mentioned above the mind and body gets subjected to numerous changes, sometimes drastic ones, as we age. The best way to ensure a happy and healthy life is by slowly adapting to these changes. Get involved in mild physical activities, satiate your cravings (in small portions), spend time with near and dear ones, especially children and practice holistic therapies such as meditation and yoga.