What is a Healthy Diet for Seniors?

What is a Healthy Diet for Seniors?

healthy diet for seniorsSenior Citizens, folks aged 65 and over, will make up 20% of the population in the United States by 2030.  The oldest of the Baby Boomers are already 70.  Knowing what is a healthy diet for seniors can help prevent diet deficiencies from causing health and lifestyle quality issues.

Health care spending will rise over 25%

due to increased health costs for our seniors, unless we take some steps.

A study found that 43% of those admitted to intensive care are malnourished, in 1995.  Most of those required the longest stays and most extensive and expensive rehabilitation.

How can we prevent malnourishment and the health risks associated with it in Seniors?  How can we help our older generation have quality of life in their later years?  What is a healthy diet for Seniors, and how can they get it?

 Aging Brings New Nutritional Needs

Beginning at age 30, we start to lose muscle, so that many seniors have lost 25% of their muscle mass and often replaced it with fat.  The metabolism slows over age 50, and fewer calories are needed.  Yet the nutritional needs remain, and in some cases increase with age.

To replace and maintain muscle mass and energy, older folks need more protein and certain minerals and vitamins.  On the link I put here, we have a review of top protein powders, with one recommended for seniors.  Body chemistry changes make absorption of Vitamin B12 and magnesium more difficult.

Often immune systems do not work as well as when they were younger.  In younger years, you can get away with grabbing a bagel or muffin and a cup of coffee for breakfast.  In later years, that can lead to malnutrition and debility.

What are some of the challenges to be met in designing and maintaining a healthy diet for Seniors?

As a person ages, the sense of taste and smell get less acute.  This loss of taste and smell can be made worse with medications.  One cause can be a zinc deficiency, which is pretty common worldwide.

When you cannot taste or smell your food, it is less likely to be enticing to eat.  Taste sensations come mostly from the smell of the food.  The tongue itself has tastebuds that distinguish salt, sweet, sour, bitter and umami or savory.  Every other flavor we taste comes from our olfactory nerves involved in the smell of the food.  taste goes away with a cold seniors lose taste and smell

Think when you have a cold and lose some of your ability to breathe. And smell.  When you can't taste much, you tend to eat only because your stomach is rumbling, not because of the draw of the food itself.  This can happen with Seniors.

Little kids have very acute tastebuds.  That is why babyfood is so bland.  Aging modifies our tastebuds, so we enjoy flavors.  But in old age, sometimes that gets extreme.

Loss of taste and smell is an indicator of lower life expectancy.  It is not known whether the loss is indicative of the end of life coming, or whether the loss impacts diet and health, and death comes sooner as a result.

One thing to watch out for if you or a loved one experiences a loss of smell or taste sensitivity is not to rely on the old stand-by sniff test to see if food is still good.

Instead, a good idea is to label food with dates so that you throw out anything past its use by date.  And make sure there are good smoke detectors installed.

 

Weight Impacts for Seniors

Senior citizens, like the rest of us, can be skinny, fat or just right.  See this post on losing your belly fat, if this is an issue.metabolism and nutrition for senior

Skinny or underweight seniors have a special set of challenges to watch for.  Constipation is one.  It is important to eat foods high in fiber and to hydrate regularly for all ages, especially for the skinny ones.

It is probable that those who are skinny are not eating enough fiber.  Sources of fiber are fatty nuts and seeds, vegetables and fiber-rich carbohydrates.

If you have not been eating enough fiber, start to build up slowly so as not to upset your system with rapid changes.  Smoothies are a healthy and tasty way to add nutrition.  See our Best Blender Review for Best Blender information.

And be very sure to drink water.  I recommend 8 8 ounce glasses of water every day.  That may seem like a lot, but once you start to drink more water, your body starts to crave it.

You get thirsty more often.  It gets easier and easier.  (It also means you need to find a restroom more frequently!)

Adding the trace mineral Magnesium to a glass of water helps hydration a lot.

Underweight seniors also risk decreased immunity, lower body temperatures, increased incidence of osteoporosis, decreased muscle strength and poor memory.

The overweight or obese have risks of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and type 2 diabetes as well as some cancers.

And those who are just right need to eat healthy to keep that way and to maintain their best possible health and wellbeing.

Can A Supplement Help?

Definitely a supplement can help.  I do not think for most people it is necessary to have 15 different supplements to take.

Yes Seniors need Vitamin D and calcium for healthy bones and teeth.  They need antioxidants to prevent free radicals from robbing them of health.  Free radicals and antioxidants are normal in the human body.

But environment and life styles accumulate more free radicals as a person ages. They can rip and tear at the body's cells, harming DNA, causing aging symptoms and disease.

Important antioxidants come from foods such as berries and green tea, some studies show.  It is good to have more than you can eat, since free radicals are so excessive as we age.

Centrum silver multi vitamin and mineral supplement for SeniorsMinerals such as selenium, Vitamins C and E and Iodine in kelp are good antioxidants.  Magnesium is a very important and often lacking mineral.

Sodium is important to the health of our blood, muscles and nerves.  The amount a typical senior should have a day is about 2/3's of a teaspoon, or 1500 mg.  Potassium is needed to help sodium work better and we get that from fruits from vines like tomatoes and bananas as well as green leafy vegetables.

My favorite of all the supplements out there is one that encompasses all of the needed supplements for seniors, Centrum Daily Multivitamins & Minerals.  It does not have good magnesium, but it has everything else that is needed for a senior's supplement.

I recommend taking one tablet a day to get 100% if your diet is not giving you enough from your fresh fruits and vegetables.  The tablets are not large and they're coated, so they're pretty easy to swallow.

If you need to crush them, you can get a small pill crusher to help you out. What I like about this product is that it is from natural foods, not a laboratory concoction of chemicals.

There are some really great green superfood powders that help get a lot of the nutrients we all need.  Some of them do not even list the ingredients.  Be careful and take a look at our reviews before you buy.  A few that are reviewed here give a lot of the trace minerals we all need.  Knowing and implementing what is a healthy diet for seniors can help the later years have a high quality of fulness and contribution.

Seniors have challenges to maintaining health due not only to the increased nutritional demands but also to the effects of aging on their eating a proper diet.  Supplements are a help, as are smoothies.  Get a good vitamin and mineral supplement.  Get the hydration, including Purity Products Ultimate H A 7.  Your body and life are worth taking care of.  Do it, please!

 

10 comments on “What is a Healthy Diet for Seniors?”

  1. WMP says:

    This is a very informative blog post, I learned a few new things in this blog post. You said as a person ages their sense of taste and smell becomes less acute. I did not know this, and a loss of taste and smell is an indicator of low life expectancy, I had no idea. You said that seniors should avoid using sweeteners to enhance the taste of their food, they must also be careful with their salt intake as well, right?

    1. If you think about how very sensitive to taste babies are, it makes sense that people lose sensitivity as they age.  Way back when baby food was first made commercially, the manufacturers made it taste good to adults.  Later on, they learned to remove the extra seasonings and make it for the children’s sensitive tastebuds.  

      You make a good point about salt.  Really everyone needs to be careful with salt intake.  Unless you are on a low-salt diet, about 1500 mg (or about 2/3 tsp) is the recommended intake level for seniors.  It is good to cultivate a habit very early of using herbs and spices instead of either salt or sugars for added flavor.  Not only do they improve and enhance flavor, but they are good for you.

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. John Rico says:

    Hello there! My mom and dad is getting older and I’m worried for their health. I found your article very informative and interesting. My dad and my mom has maintenance for their health issues and supplements for their vitamins. Do you think adding vegetables and fruits on their diets will make them stronger? I really appreciate your response.

    1. Josh Bourgey says:

      I do think so, John.  I am going to write a blog shortly on vegetable powders that can help too.  I use one,  every day, to add to my own intake of healthy vegetables and fruits.  It is a help, but not a substitute for the actual foods that give needed fiber as well as vitamins and minerals.  Thank you for visiting.

  3. jessie palaypay says:

    I did not realize that a lot of seniors live on poverty level. Its really disturbing for me to hear.

    As far as the challenges to eating healthy with the rising cost of “health foods” in the market, would starting a sustainable garden planting healthy fruits and vegetables be a feasible idea as people reach their golden years?

    1. Thank you for visiting, Jessie.  A garden is always a good way to make sure you have healthy fruits and vegetables, so long as the senior has the land and the physical capacity for it.  And for any of the rest of us. 

      Senior poverty level is very disturbing to me as well. 

      Josh has just written a post reviewing protein supplements that are good values, and I am going to put a link to it in the blog.  It is an efficient and moderately inexpensive way to get needed protein for seniors.

  4. Tara says:

    Hi Annie,

    Thank you for this informative article on a healthy diet for seniors. That is great that Centrum Seniors covers the majority of the needs with a good diet. I am at the end of my thirties and it is so true that I have to work harder than my younger days to try to keep up, I miss my teenage metabolism where I could eat anything I wanted and was “too skinny”. I sometimes can get in the habit of drinking lots of water, but I am so easily drawn back to caffeine to help me stay awake long hours. Also, that’s interesting that both under and over weight seniors have different health challenges, it is important to aim for balance or moderation.

    1. Hi Tara,
      I remember when my metabolic clock changed a bit in my 30’s as you say. Wait until your hormonal changes in your 50’s! The challenge increases for many!
      It’s such a good idea to get into healthy habits now, and to be aware of the needs of older folks so you can check in with parents and other loved ones, don’t you think?
      Thank you for your comments, and for visiting!
      Warm wishes,
      Annie

  5. Gary says:

    I’m not a senior, but I have less than a decade before I become one. I have certainly lost some acuteness in my senses of smell and taste. I put the reduction in sense of smell down to regular nasal congestion and the loss of taste down to my taste buds essentially being burnt out. I remember an uncle telling me that the only thing he could taste were very hot curries. We all figured he’d just killed his taste buds with foods that overstimulated them to death.

    Anyone with a bad cold or flu knows that your appetite goes way down when you’re sick. And it’s down to a blocked nose preventing smells from reaching the olfactory nerves. Food just tastes bland and unappetising. I hadn’t realized that as we get older, we’re all headed to that bland food taste experience.

    I’ve started switching to a Mediterranean-style diet in recent weeks. Salad is much more palatable during Summer months than Winter. Even though I use Olive Oil in dressings, it’s a good oil, not the saturated fat or palm oil (otherwise known as Tree Lard) that’s used in so much processed food. I don’t use salt in food at all. And I drink green tea for its antioxidant effects. While I’m still overweight, my head doesn’t feel like it’s full of cotton wool any more and I have a lot more energy. All the sugar in processed foods and confectionery may give you an instant hit but it dulls you in the long term. There’s even evidence now that high sugar levels may play a role in Alzheimer’s.

    Thanks for the great post.

    1. Hi Gary,
      And thanks for visiting and for your great comments.
      It’s great that you’re paying attention to your health and diet.
      Two things you may want to consider…I agree with you about oils..If the olive oil we can buy here in the US were pure, that would be a good thing. But it is unregulated and way too often adulterated with the bad stuff. Avocado or coconut oil are safer for the very reasons you cite. See this article on belly fat, especially near the end, for more info.
      The second thing to make sure about is to drink enough water…most of us don’t.
      Thanks again.

      Warm regards,
      Annie

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