Important Nutrition Facts for Seniors
Our bodies need different things at different points in our life, and to help combat new weaknesses we may encounter as we age. In addition, you may find that you’re unable to chew or digest certain foods as well as you once could, requiring an adjustment in how, in addition to what, you eat. So continue reading to learn everything you need to know about nutrition in your golden years!
Vitamins & Minerals: What You Need
Sometimes it can be hard to include all of the essential vitamins and minerals you need into your daily diet. While it may be easy to opt for a supplement, consider adjusting your diet and food choices to incorporate these vitamins and minerals naturally. Your taste buds will thank you!
Believe it or not, one of the most important things you need as you grow older is water. As you age, your body may become increasingly prone to dehydration and your sense of thirst may become a bit dull, further intensifying the problem. You may want to post a note in your kitchen reminding you to have a glass of water whenever possible, or set a few reminders on your phone.
In terms of vitamins, it’s incredibly important to increase your intake of Vitamin B and Vitamin D. After the age of 50, your stomach will produce less gastric acid, which then makes it hard to absorb Vitamin B-12, an essential component in keeping your blood and nerves healthy. Foods such as milk, red meat, and fortified cereals contain high levels of B-12 and can easily be incorporated into your daily diet. Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium and boosting muscle growth – so you definitely want to make sure you’re getting enough of it! Most of our Vitamin D comes from the sun, but as we age our bodies become less effective at synthesizing this vitamin, so it’s crucial to add more into your diet. Foods such as salmon, mackerel, or other fatty fish, fortified cereals, and milk are excellent sources of Vitamin D – and are tasty, too!
One of the most important minerals to include in your daily diet is calcium, which is necessary for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. As you age, your bones are at risk for becoming brittle, and bone loss and osteoporosis are serious health problems for many seniors. In order to make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet, increase your intake of certain foods such as milk, yoghurt, dark green leafy vegetables (such as kale and collards), soybeans, and calcium-fortified foods (such as some cereals and orange juices). If you are truly worried about your bone health and fear falling or otherwise injuring yourself, consider investing in a medical alert system that can connect you with emergency services should something happen to you.
Eating for a Healthier You
In addition to increasing your intake of certain vitamins and minerals, there are other healthy eating habits that you should adopt as you enter your senior years. First and foremost, you should estimate your daily caloric needs. Unlike you kids and grandkids, it’s likely that you do not need the full 2000 calories for women or 2500 calories for men that we often see recommended by doctors and healthcare professionals. In fact, unless you are very active, you will only need 1600-1800 calories if you are a woman and 2000-2200 if you are a man.
After understanding your caloric needs, you should then break down the calories by food group in order to make sure you’re getting the proper proportion of calories from fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, etc. When deciding on what grains to include in your diet, opt for whole grains, which can be found in whole wheat breads and pastas, that will be fiber-rich and therefore help you stay regular. Try to choose lean proteins such as skinless chicken breasts and extra lean ground turkey, opting to include at least one serving of protein from fish each week. Whenever possible, include fresh (not frozen) fruits and vegetables in your diet for a delicious fresh taste that is also high in essential vitamins and minerals!
Dealing with Sensitive Teeth and Digestion
One of the more frustrating adjustments to your diet that you might have to make as a senior is changing what and how you eat in order to accommodate more sensitive teeth and/or digestion. If you have dentures or are worried about the strength of your teeth, you will likely want to stay away from very crunchy or tough foods. If you find your digestion to be a bit more sensitive as you age, whether that means a tendency to get heartburn or indigestion after eating spicy foods or a change to your bowel movements based on the amount of fiber or protein you’re eating, you will also have to make adjustments to the kinds and amounts of foods you eat.
But don’t despair! Cutting back on crunchy foods and/or spices doesn’t mean you have to eat porridge morning, noon, and night! If you’re teeth are becoming more sensitive, try cutting out very hot or cold foods, or at least moderating their temperature. For instance, allow soup to cool to a more lukewarm temperature before eating it, or let your ice cream melt a bit before taking that first bite. If you now wear dentures or have weaker teeth than you once did, consider blending up or cooking certain foods such as crunchy fruits and vegetables, as well as switching to different cuts of meat if you find you can no longer chew through a grisly steak.
For those starting to suffer from indigestion, if may be necessary to cut back on spicy foods such as chili, as well as to refrain from putting spices such as paprika, chili flakes, and curry powder in your foods. If you aren’t ready to cut them out completely, try using a sparing amount in your cooking and testing to see if your indigestion occurs, gradually working your way up to a level of spice that keeps your taste buds and your tummy happy!
There are several things to know when dealing with your body’s changing dietary needs as you age. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of how to easily adapt to healthy habits so that you can continue to live a long and happy life!