Nutritional Needs of Healthy Seniors
aggie Kuhn, the elder rights activist quoted - "Old age is not a disease; it is the strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses." True to her words, growing old is a golden phase of life that one needs to enjoy. To make the best out of this phase in life, staying healthy becomes very important. As a person ages, certain nutrients are vital to staying healthy. Understanding these nutrients and how it can help you stay healthy is important.
Here are some nutrients that you need to keep an eye on.
- Calcium and Vitamin D - Calcium and Vitamin D is crucial for good bone health, and elders can definitely benefit from an extra helping of these nutrients. Food is a preferred source for maintaining calcium balance because there are other essential nutrients that are found in high-calcium foods.1 For those who are receiving less calcium from their diet, the intake of calcium supplements can help bridge the gap. Vitamin D deficiency is also commonly seen in elders and Vitamin D supplements can help in overcoming this deficiency.2Include calcium-rich foods, such as fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, and milk and curd, in your diet.
- Iron and Vitamin B12 - Iron carries oxygen around the body and plays an important role in making hemoglobin. Although elders do not need much iron, certain factors may increase the risk of developing iron deficiency. Including iron-rich food in the diet can help combat this risk. Vitamin B12 keeps the brain and nervous system healthy. As a person grows old, it becomes difficult for the body to absorb Vitamin B12 from food and therefore elders must consume more Vitamin B12 rich food. However, growing old may also dampen the urge to eat more, making dietary supplements as the only choice to receive the right amount of nutrition. Brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, cashews, sunflower, and pistachios are a good source of iron. Also, a glass of orange juice at mealtime aids in better absorption of iron. Similarly, Fortified breakfast cereal, low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese and eggs are a good source of Vitamin B12.
- Fiber- Fiber helps bowels move regularly and lower the risk of constipation. Some food sources rich in fiber are - popcorn, lentils, dried fruits, potatoes, and nuts. A high-fiber diet reduces the risk of chronic disorders such as heart attacks, obesity, and cancer.
Here are some guidelines that can help you stay well:
- Let your physical activity determine your food intake - Increase your meal size if you are physically active. Similarly, if you are not a very physically active person, reduce your meal size. This way, what you eat helps you stay fit.
- Eat a well-balanced meal- Be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner, include fiber-rich food, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. They are essential for your health and can keep numerous ailments at bay.
- Boost your protein intake - Proteins are the building blocks and helps make new cells and keeps the muscles healthy. A good serving of proteins every day can help you stay healthy. A light snack of sprouts can go a long way in keeping you fit.
- Avoid oily and junk food - Fat is a nutrient that helps absorb the other nutrients required to stay healthy. Fat also insulates the body keeping us warm. Junk and oily food contain saturated fat (unhealthy) that leads to high cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart-related ailments. Therefore, make sure that your fat intake is moderate.
- Use salt in limited quantities- As you age, adding more salt in your food can lead to - water retention in the kidney, high blood pressure, and heart-related ailments. It is therefore wise to reduce salt as you grow older. Avoiding processed and canned food also reduces excess salt intake.
- Avoid sugar-rich food - Just as one should reduce the salt intake, sugar intake must also be monitored and moderate. Biscuits, cakes, and pastries, sweets must be consumed in moderate quantities, and only if you are a physically active person.
- Exercise- Make exercise a part of your daily schedule. A walk around your neighborhood, yoga, or any physical activity that can be counted as an exercise is good for you and helps you stay healthy.
- Stay hydrated - Dehydration is common when you get old. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water and juices to avoid tiredness, dizziness, and constipation. 6-8 glasses of water are good enough.
As a general rule, elders need to schedule a doctor visit once a year, which includes a visit to the dentist, ophthalmologist, and the family doctor. During these visits, feel free to discuss any health concerns that you may have, based on which your doctor will suggest a further course of action. Getting old does not mean one needs to have a restricted life. You can still enjoy life to the fullest. As I see, a person is only as old as they think. So, stay young at heart and follow the given guidelines to stay young - physically too.