Senior Nutrition Essentials:
A Recipe for a Happy Life

We all want to eat the foods we love, but sometimes our age requires us to make lifestyle changes. That’s because the natural aging process causes physiological changes in the body that make it more difficult to get the nutrients we need to maintain health and wellness. It’s also why older adults are more vulnerable to chronic illnesses.

If you are over the age of 65, there are several foundational guidelines that you can and should follow as part of your overall health and wellness plan. Remember, even small changes can put you on the right path toward healthy aging and longevity.

Nutritional Guidelines for Older Adults

Healthy aging starts with the food we put into our bodies and a balanced and varied diet. Adding more nutrients to your diet and a greater variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants will have your body and brain thanking you, and your doctor, too!

Let’s start with the official recommendations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americansstates that older adults should be eating food fortified with essential nutrients to help combat age-related changes in metabolism, bone, and muscle mass. Nutrient-dense foods and beverages are also recommended as a key strategy for meeting nutritional guidelines in people aged 60 and older.

Here are some basic nutritional guidelines for older adults to follow according to the National Council on Aging:

  • East more whole foods
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Eat lean protein
  • Eat whole grains
  • Stay hydrated

Due to changes in cellular activity, older adults may have additional challenges absorbing nutrients, leading to nutritional deficiencies. People with memory impairment also struggle to get a sufficient amount of nutrients in their diet, leading to unwanted weight loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia symptoms.

If you live in Florida or other warm climates, find out which foods can help hydrate older adults.

Dietary changes and an increased intake of nutrients can help mitigate some of the challenges associated with aging and nutrition.

Nutrients and Senior Health

Virtually every metabolic activity in the body requires micronutrients for activity and energy, including the brain. Older adults sometimes need more to maintain health.

Vitamins serve different purposes in the body, which is why we need so many different types of food. Some are better at keeping cells healthy while others may protect you from infection and disease. Of the 13 essential vitamins, older adults need them all!

    • Vitamin A (retinol/retinoic acid/carotenoids
    • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
    • Vitamin D (calciferol)
    • Vitamin E (tocopherol)
    • Vitamin K
    • Vitamin B1 (thiamin)
    • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B7 (biotin)
  • Vitamin B9 (folate)
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

Most vitamins are found naturally in food, but varies, so dietitians generally recommend an assortment of foods for seniors to get essential nutrients.

Older adults also need more of certain minerals in their diets to support healthy aging, specifically calcium, magnesium, and potassium. For detailed guidelines related to nutrient intake, the National Institute on Aging published this website on recommended amounts for older adults.

Antioxidants and Senior Health

You have probably read more in the media lately about the protective powers of antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent cell damage and reduce oxidative stress, which is linked to chronic disease.

Many dietitians recommend eating the rainbow, or a variety of food colors to get a wider range of nutrients in your diet. That’s because eating a variety of colors helps older adults get a wider variety of disease-fighting antioxidants to provide even more protection against chronic disease and illness.

Super Foods and Senior Health

With recent emphasis on healthy aging and longevity, you may have noticed a new and improved food group deemed “superfoods.” While they’ve been farmed forever, we’ve only recently began to understand the power of these foods to fight disease. Superfoods do exactly as you would expect—supercharge your energy and your mind. In academic journals, dietitians refer to them as nutrient-dense, minimally processed, and usually plant-based foods:

  • Dark leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
  • Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts
  • Blueberries
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Greek yogurt
  • Avocados

Alcohol and Senior Health

It is important to understand how aging affects the ability to metabolize alcohol and associated health risks. Health problems and medications may mean you must drink less alcohol or stop it completely.

As we age, life changes such as losing a spouse and friends, or loss of independence, can cause depression and anxiety and lead to alcohol use. Yet aging lowers the body’s tolerance for alcohol. As you age, it may take less alcohol to feel the effects, increasing the risk of injury.

So how do you know how much alcohol is safe for you? Talk with your doctor about your medications, medical conditions, and other risk factors.

Supplements and Senior Health

Older adults tend to consume less dietary protein and vitamin B12 and often take supplements to meet daily nutritional requirements. Always make sure to start by talking with your doctor about your health risks and any nutritional deficiencies you may have to determine if you can benefit by taking supplements.Some common supplements for seniors include:

  • Calcium – to prevent osteoporosis and bone loss
  • Vitamin C – to promote immune health and speed up healing in the body
  • Vitamin B6 – to promote growth of red blood cells, improve mood and brain health
  • Vitamin B12 – to help keep blood and nerve cells healthy
  • Vitamin D – to help the body absorb calcium for healthy bones and teeth

Some supplements can interact with medications or cause unwanted side effects, so be sure to talk to your doctor before adding supplements to your diet. Most importantly, remember that whole foods are always preferable over supplements.

Read more about recommended supplements for healthy aging.

Nutrition for Life

As we age, maintaining a healthy diet and nutrition can be challenging, but not impossible. It takes planning, effort, and time, which is why many people prefer dining services in senior living. Senior living prioritizes the unique nutritional needs of older adults. Wherever you live, mindful decisions about nutrition will lead to a happier and healthier life. Learn how assisted living and memory care at Sonata Senior Living prioritize diet and nutrition in older adults and schedule a tour today.

Sources

https://www.ncoa.org/article/the-8-best-superfoods-for-seniors
https://health.gov/news/202107/nutrition-we-age-healthy-eating-dietary-guidelines
https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/vitamins-and-minerals-older-adults
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/do-you-need-a-daily-supplement

Note, information provided on this page is for informational and educational purposes. The information provided should not be considered a substitute for individual medical assessment, diagnosis or treatment by your medical provider or physician. If you or someone in your care has a medical problem, contact your doctor or mental health provider.

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