The Importance of Senior Nutrition
Senoirs are especially vulnerable to the effects of poor nutrition, and have special dietary needs.
Jun 05, 2009
According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, 87 percent of older Americans have a chronic disease that can be improved through nutrition. Without proper supervision, many millions of older Americans exist in a nutritional twilight zone, struggling with the daily challenge of eating—and often not eating well-balanced meals or any meals at all. We will focus on simplicity for all staff involved in delivering nutrient dense food to our client’s.
As we age our caloric needs decrease, but body fat may increase. One of the most noticeable changes is that we lose lean body mass (muscle) and gain body fat. Between the ages of 30 and 80, lean body mass declines by about 15% in people who are sedentary. Because of these changes, we need about 10% fewer calories as each decade of life passes. However, our nutrient needs generally stay the same.
Eating well is important at all ages. Health issues and physical limitations sometimes make it difficult for seniors to get the nutrients they need for a balanced diet. Poor nutrition and malnutrition occur in 15 to 50 percent of the elderly population.
The following symptoms of malnutrition can easily be mistaken for illness or disease:
· weight loss
· loss of appetite
Many seniors do not eat like they should because of:
· financial hardship
· physical limitations
· dental issues
· medication side effects
· decrease in senses – taste and smell
· poor transportation
A 1990 survey by Ross Laboratories found that 30% of seniors skip at least one meal a day, while another study found that 16% of seniors consume fewer than 1000 calories a day, which is insufficient to maintain adequate nutrition. Loneliness contributes to decreased food intake. Elderly would rather eat something convenient and unhealthy than cook for themselves and then eat it alone. Skipping meals is not healthy, and may cause your metabolism to slow down or lead you to eat more high-calorie, high-fat foods at your next meal or snack.
Eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk for many conditions associated with aging, including anemia, confusion, infections, hip fractures, hypotension, and wounds. Elderly are at an increased risk for deficiencies and their intake must ensure an adequate intake of the following:
· vitamin B6
Seniors need nutritious food since they are eating less than they should. We need to encourage whole, unprocessed foods that are high in calories and nutrients for their size. This will help ensure that they are getting all the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain proper health. Some examples include:
· healthy fats (nut butters, nuts, seeds and olive oil)
· whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat bread, oats and whole grain cereals)
· fresh fruits and vegetables (canned and frozen are also good choices)
· protein-rich beans, legumes and lean meat and dairy products
The following are specific recommendations to ensure that elderly get the most from their diets:
Increase antioxidants and fiber in the diet
As our own bodies’ natural antioxidant systems become less effective, we must increase our intake of antioxidant and potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, such as artichokes, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cranberries and plums.
Many seniors do not get enough dietary fiber. Fiber improves irregularity and helps stabilize cholesterol levels. Good sources of fiber include beans, oats, oranges, raspberries and green peas. Eating lots of fruits (such as pineapples and cherries) and vegetables gives you a compound called brome lain, which could alleviate joint pain.
Protein and B12 is especially important as we age
Protein is another macronutrient that elderly do not get enough of. A report completed by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that people over age 60 require 14-17 grams of protein for every 30 lbs. of weight. A 150 lb. person would require 70-85 grams per day. A 4 oz. chicken breast is 30-35 grams of protein.
The body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 declines with age (found mostly in meats), so it makes sense to consume foods rich in both protein and vitamin B12, such as salmon, sardines, albacore tuna, sardines and flounder. The added bonus to these foods is that they are a source of omega-3 fats (as are walnuts, avocados and seeds), which may help improve brain function and reduce inflammation.
Senior diet is often deficient in calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B6
Planning is needed to reach the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D for bone health, and vitamin B6 for energy metabolism and heart health. Riboflavin deficiency in the elderly is actually quite common, almost 24% do not meet the RDA for this vitamin; approximately 10% do not meet the RDA required for vitamin B6. Foods rich in these nutrients include bananas, yogurt, chicken, spinach, fortified cereal, milk, beans, fish (yellow fin tuna and snapper) and whole grains.
Limit sodium intake
Elderly have a diminished sense of taste and smell. This could be why they readily add salt to their meals. The new dietary guidelines suggest limiting our sodium intake to less than 1 teaspoon per day to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure. These individuals should try adding Turmeric (curcumin - a compound in curry that may protect against Alzheimer's disease), Mrs. Dash® salt-free seasonings, and other herbs and spices to meals.
Don’t forget hydration
The thirst sensation decreases as you get older and elderly may not notice that they are less thirsty. It’s important to encourage plenty of water and water-based fluids. This includes low-fat milk, decaffeinated coffee and tea and sports drinks. Water-based foods like fruits, vegetables and soups are nutrient dense options.