Remain Fit Forever:Nutrition for the Elderly

-Elita Joshi, Nirvana Wellness Center

As we get older, we generate less stomach acid and saliva, making it difficult to digest certain vitamins and minerals.

We all know that our body system changes as we age and for that we will need extra nutrients for nourishing and aiding our body in its day to day functions. We can see physical changes such as slower metabolism and digestion, weakened senses, and a weaker immune system. An elderly person should be eating foods that are high in vitamins and minerals, foods that are more nutrient-dense than calorie-rich, especially if they using less energy on a daily basis. With slow metabolism and less physical activity you will be likely to gain weight if you continue to eat the same amount as when you were younger. Your sense of smell and taste diminish too, which will affect your appetite. As we get older, we generate less stomach acid and saliva, making it difficult to digest certain vitamins and minerals which are essential for our body to function properly.

First, let’s look into precautionary diet measures one can take for the usual health problems we see in the elderly, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart diseases, etc.

Reduce salt (sodium) intake to help prevent water retention and high blood pressure. Season meals with garlic, herbs, and spices instead of salt.

Add fiber. Increasing your fiber intake from foods such as raw fruits, veggies, whole-grains, and beans will help avoid constipation and lower the risk of chronic diseases, besides making you feel fuller for longer.

Avoid unhealthy carbs. Foods such as white flour, refined sugar, and white rice that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and short-lived energy. Choose complex carbs such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for long lasting energy and also to stabilize insulin levels.

Avoid adding extra sugar and artificial sweeteners, and look out for hidden sugar. Added sugar can be hidden in foods such as bread, pre-packaged meals, canned foods, sauces, and fast foods. To reduce overindulgence of sugary foods and snacks, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, and try increasing sweetness to meals by using naturally sweet fruits.

Include good fats such as olive oil, avocados, salmon, walnuts, flaxseed, etc. These fats help to reduce the bad LDL cholesterol levels by raising good HDL cholesterol levels, thus protecting our body against heart diseases

Foods to include
Fruits and veggies: Choose whole fruits rather than juices for extra vitamins and fiber. Try to incorporate a variety of color-rich fruits like berries and melons. Choose antioxidant-rich dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, bitter greens, and colorful vegetables such as carrots, squash, tomatoes, zucchini, capsicums, and yams.

Adequate calcium intake: To prevent osteoporosis, bone fractures, and maintain bone health. Dairy sources: milk, yogurt, and cheese. Non-dairy: tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale.

Protein: Fish, beans, peas, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, seeds, lean cut meats.

Vitamins: As we age, our body finds it difficult to absorb vitamins such as B12 and D, which are essential to absorb calcium. Get it from adequate sun exposure and food sources such as fatty fish and egg yolk or from vitamin supplements (consult your doctor).
Water: Keep yourself well hydrated with water to avoid UTIs and constipation, common in the elderly.

Lastly, we need a good diet combined with regular moderate exercises such as walking, swimming, or dancing to have a healthy well balanced lifestyle.

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