Whether we like it or not, we can't stop the aging process. We are getting older each and every day. As the body ages, it changes, and its metabolism inevitably slows down. Many older people are not as active as they once were, which means fewer calories are required to provide the energy required for their daily activities.
It is very easy for adults to have an imbalanced diet. Diet is something we should all think about; but it is especially important for older people to carefully consider what they are eating. Signs in older people that indicate they are not getting proper nutrition can include a loss of energy and a noticeably weakened immune system. In cases of unusual changes in behavior, nutrition should also be considered as a contributing factor.
Thankfully, there are solutions to this widespread problem.
Tips to Ensure a Balanced Diet
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Research has proven that omega-3 fats reduce the risk of contracting cancer, arthritis and heart disease. These healthy, monounsaturated fatty acids reduce inflammation and, by doing so, aid in good health. Fish like salmon, halibut, sardines and tuna are excellent natural sources of these healthy fats. Some seeds and nuts are also natural sources, such as flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts. It is recommended that aging adults incorporate at least two of these sources into their diet every week. In special circumstances, a nutritionist may also advise some older adults to opt for omega-3 supplements. Keep in mind that many food items like breads, pastas, cereals and dairy products are now enriched with omega-3s.
- Calcium & vitamin D: Calcium is a vital mineral that keeps bones strong and healthy, and the need for it actually increases as a person ages. Calcium also helps lower blood pressure. Adults over fifty must consume the equivalent of four cups of milk a day to obtain enough calcium. If your loved one is not fond of dairy, they can always opt for alternative sources like leafy green vegetables (collard greens, broccoli, and kale), figs or salmon.
- Lower sodium intake: Sodium increases the possibility of high blood pressure, so it should be limited as much as possible. A diet low in sodium will assist in good health, and the best way of doing this is to read nutrition labels and buy fresh produce and meat. Many canned, frozen instant and pre-made food products are extremely high in salt. When possible, opt for reduced sodium, lower sodium, or no salt added versions.
- Hydration matters: Older people do not get thirsty as often as younger people. However, they do require the same amount of fluids. It is important to ensure that your loved one is drinking enough throughout the day. Dark urine is a clear warning sign of dehydration.
- Ease into changes: Older adults can have trouble understanding and accepting the need for change, so if your loved one must adjust their eating habits, it will be necessary to make the shift gradually. It is very much a slow and steady process. Try to share meals with your aging loved ones at least one or twice a week, if possible. You are not just making sure they eat their vegetables without dousing them in salt; you are also keeping them company. Meals are best enjoyed with other people. Do not draw attention to dietary changes or make them feel special for the wrong reasons, though. Mealtimes spent together are also excellent opportunities for introducing new foods.
- Add nutrients with smoothies: Smoothies are a very useful way of adding more fruit into a person's diet. Ingredients like wheat germ can be easily included in a smoothie for added protein. They are very easy to make and digest and can be enjoyed at any time. Custom ingredients can be added to increase the content of certain vitamins and minerals that your loved one may not be getting enough of. Spinach, for example, is an extremely nutritious ingredient that can be easily blended with fruits like oranges and apples. Your loved one probably will not even be able to taste the leafy greens in the drink, but if they prefer a sweeter taste, you can add one tablespoon of honey. The possible combinations are limitless and can be customized to suit any palate and dietary requirements.
If you have any doubts about an aging loved one's diet or whether they are getting enough nutrients, then it is essential to consult with their doctor. It is very easy to assume the dietary habits you stuck to all your life will be perfectly suitable as you age, but this is not the case. Unfortunately, as the body changes, so does its ability to extract nutrients from food, hence the need for more targeted food types.
The body of a 60-year-old does not function like the body of a 30-year-old. Therefore, adults should be aware that the diets of their aging relatives must be more complex in order to keep them healthy.
Try to support them to the best of your abilities. Help them choose healthier food options that contain essential vitamins and minerals. Enhancing their diet will help to preserve and even improve their overall health.
Jefferey Morgan writes for the site Nuique.com, which offers vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements. He has great experience in writing about health and fitness related issues and holds a deep knowledge of this field.