Good nutrition is an important part of healthy living for seniors—here’s why:
As we age, our nutritional needs change. Just as a toddler’s diet will vary greatly from that of a teenager, seniors also need a different diet than the average adult.
However, senior nutrition doesn’t always get the care and attention it deserves. Nutrition at any age has a direct impact on our overall health and well-being. For seniors, the right foods can also help with memory loss, loss of energy, anxiety, and other symptoms of aging.
The Risks of Malnutrition in the Elderly
As you age, your metabolism slows down. You don’t get as much exercise, so you don’t need as many calories. And when you cut back on eating, you’re also cutting back on the opportunity to take in enough nutrients.
Some sources estimate that at least one in four older adults is malnourished. Malnutrition can weaken your bones and muscles, put you at risk of being overweight or underweight, and even leave you vulnerable to illness or disease.
When elderly patients suffer from chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, one of the first things most doctors recommend is changing their diet. The right nutrition can be powerful in helping seniors have a better quality of life, and it’s essential to understand exactly which foods will give them the greatest health benefits.
Special Nutritional Considerations for Seniors
Lack of appetite and changes in metabolism and digestion can lead to a decrease in food intake. When this happens, it’s more important than ever that seniors get the right nutrition to make up for the lower calorie intake.
Here are some of the core foods to include in a senior’s diet and why they’re essential:
A poor diet directly impacts memory and may increase a senior’s likelihood of developing memory-related diseases like Alzheimer’s. Foods like leafy green vegetables, oily fish, berries, coffee, dark chocolate, and dark-skinned fruits are known to have positive effects on memory.
Seniors experiencing memory problems should stay away from processed meats and cheeses, microwave popcorn, white bread, and other white carbs. These foods are proven to have a negative impact on the brain, and ultimately—the memory.
Foods That Reduce Anxiety
Foods like Brazil nuts, legumes, fatty fish, eggs, seeds, and dark chocolate have all been shown to reduce anxiety. Foods that are rich in magnesium, antioxidants, theanine, and omega-3s can also be effective at reducing jittery feelings.
Foods That Promote Energy
Energy loss is a major symptom of getting older, but eating the right foods can increase energy levels. Bananas, eggs, sweet potatoes, apples, yogurt, and hummus can all promote healthy energy, plus, they deliver essential nutrients like vitamins, complex carbs, and healthy fats.
How to Encourage Proper Eating
As a caretaker for the elderly, one of the best ways to encourage healthy eating is by working with them to develop meal plans. Use the above food suggestions for guidance, then find ways to incorporate those and other essential foods into their diet.
In-home caregivers can also assist in preparing healthy meals and tracking the patient’s diet to ensure nutritional gaps are filled.
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