Eating As You Age
All body systems decline as you age, and all of these changes can adversely affect overall nutrition. You lose lean muscle mass, which includes the mass of your cardiac muscle.
Your metabolic rate declines, you have reduced body water, and your body fat increases, especially around the trunk, where the vital organs are. Osteoporosis can become severely debilitating as bone density decreases, especially in postmenopausal women.
Because people become less active and their muscles aren’t worked very hard, calorie intake needs to be adjusted. The trick is to get the same amount of nutrients in fewer calories. This makes getting a proper diet difficult for the elderly. Diminished senses can make matters worse.
Eyesight deteriorates, and loss of clear vision can make the elderly timid around the stove. They are less likely to read menus, recipes, and labels clearly.
Hearing loss often results in a reluctance to ask questions of waiters or grocers, which in turn results in less shopping and dining out. Diminished sense of taste makes food less appetizing, and dietary restrictions on sodium and sugar don’t help.
Many elderly find themselves eating alone and tend to skip meals as appetites decrease and preparation becomes more difficult. Poorly fitted dentures frequently cause pain, which makes eating unpleasant. Coupled with bland, mushy preparation, malnutrition can become a serious problem among the aged.
This is a time of life when good nutrition can drastically improve the quality of life. Seeking out quality meals should be a priority. Take advantage of frozen or premade meals with easy preparations. Seek out local organizations that deliver meals.
To combat the bland diet, experiment with new food, textures, and flavors by sampling international and exotic cuisines. Try some of the many salt substitutes to add flavor back into your food.
In addition to extra calcium, regular exercise is vital to maintaining bone strength. Walk, swim, or lift weights at least three times a week. Look for fitness classes geared toward seniors at the local YMCA, senior center, or recreation department.
Choose foods high in nutrients but low in calories. Sixty percent of calories should come from complex carbohydrates. Be sure to get adequate fiber and water, and choose low-fat dairy and protein sources. Increase calcium by eating two to four servings of nonfat or low-fat dairy foods every day.
Women may need a calcium supplement. Milk enriched with vitamin D is especially important for housebound seniors, or those that do not venture into the sunshine often. Zinc is an important nutrient for slowing muscular degeneration, and vitamin C is important for calcium and iron absorption. Lack of vitamin B