IMPROVING YOUR GOLDEN YEARS
For any individual, eating healthy is important. But for seniors, eating healthy is essential for maintaining mental acuteness, managing of chronic health problems as well as building a resistance to future illness and disease. It also promotes quicker recuperation time, higher energy levels and boosts the immune system.
On top of which, as your body ages, its nutritional requirements undergoes changes. These changes include:
Our senses of taste and smell diminish with age, so this sometimes causes older people to salt and season their food much more heavily than is nutritionally healthy. You should use healthier alternatives like herbs and olive oil to season food instead.
As you age, you generate less saliva and stomach acid due to a slowing digestive system, making it more difficult for your body to absorb certain vitamins and minerals.
Also, as people age, they may also be unable to tolerate types of food which they could before. Their diets may also become restricted due to health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, while others may have trouble chewing or swallowing. Prescription medications and some illnesses can also negatively influence your appetite.
Once you pass the age of 40, your
metabolism slows. Thus, we tend
to eat less, which in turn results in
a lower intake of essential nutrients
In general, seniors should aim to meet the following calorie requirements. A woman over 50 who is:
• Not physically active requires 1600 calories a day
• Somewhat physically active requires 1800 calories a day
• Very active requires 2000 calories a day
A man over 50 who is:
• Not physically active requires 2000 calories a day
• Somewhat physically active requires 2200-2400 calories a day
• Very active requires 2400-2800 calories a day
PREVENTION & INTERVENTION
Good eating habits early in life can help to promote physical and mental well-being in the senior years. For older people, eating right can help to minimise future illnesses and ailments. Here are some diet essentials for seniors.
There is no way to form strong teeth and bones without calcium and is especially important for the elderly in preserving bone density and preventing fractures. Calcium is also important in regulating cholesterol, maintaining the nervous system, aiding muscle function, and balancing the proteins in the body.
Supplementing calcium in a senior’s diet is important because your body needs calcium from the food you eat. If there isn’t enough in your diet, calcium will be taken from the store of calcium in your bones, depleting your supply. Unfortunately, every time you sweat, urinate, and have a bowel movement, you lose calcium. To ensure that you get enough from your diet, take a supplement.
As we grow older, our bowels, like other body parts, do not function as well as they used to. Fiber can solve problems like constipation and provide other benefits like helping prevent diabetes, heart disease, and stone formation in the gall bladder and kidneys. Some studies suggest that regular fiber may also help prevent breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer.
However, many elderly people, especially those with dentures, do not want to eat the seed-filled or crunchy foods that are typically high in fiber. Instead they go for soft, slippery food that is easily chewed, but is often high in fat and zero in fiber.
About 65-75% of the body’s iron exists in the blood as hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen to tissues in the body. Myoglobin, the compound that carries oxygen to muscle cells, also requires iron. In addition, iron is involved in reactions within the body that produce energy.
The elderly are always at risk of iron deficiency. Seniors should consume adequate amounts of ironrich foods and also try to incorporate foods with vitamin C in their diet. By eating these foods, the absorption of iron can be increased and prevent anaemia and fatigue.
Omega 3 fatty acids are largely beneficial for your body, but cannot be made naturally by the body. As you age, your risk for heart attack and stroke increases as blood vessels narrow and stiffen. Adding Omega 3s to your diet can help you lower this risk by lowering blood fats and decreasing plaque buildup in the artery walls. They also have the ability to help decrease blood pressure.
Studies also suggest that these beneficial fats lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other conditions that cause mental deterioration. There is also ample evidence showing that omega 3 essential fatty acids play an important role in easing inflammatory diseases of the joints, kidneys, gut and skin.
Vitamin A is well known for its vital role in promoting healthy vision. It is also known as retinol because it produces pigments in the retina. Thus, this is especially important for older people who are prone to vision problems.
Vitamin A also helps form and maintain healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissues, mucous membranes, and skin. It stimulates several immune system activities, is known to enhance the function of white blood cells, increase the response of antibodies to antigens, and has antiviral activity.
Lots of seniors don’t get enough B vitamins like B12, an important vitamin which helps break down food and converts it into energy. After age 50, the stomach produces less gastric acid making it difficult to absorb vitamin B12.
This vitamin also helps strengthen the immune system, maintain healthy blood cells, prevent the formation of blood clots, improve nerve function and (researchers say) helps prevent lung cancer.
Seniors need more of this vitamin daily, as vitamin C is water-soluble and is quickly discarded by the body. Vitamin C is essential to keep the heart and gums healthy, skin youthful and to help the body absorb iron.
It also helps to lower blood pressure and prevent inflammation of the arteries that might lead to a heart attack. It plays a key role in building healthy collagen, which is an integral component of bones, ligaments, blood vessels, and tendons. It strengthens the immune system and speeds up healing of wounds.
Vitamin D is essential in helping the body absorb calcium in order to keep bones strong. It is also responsible for maintaining a healthy nervous system, decrease inflammation in the body and can also lower the risk of developing cancer of the prostate, colon, breast, and rectum.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we get mostly through sun exposure. However, most older people tend not to go outdoors often enough. Also, as our skin ages it becomes less efficient at synthesising vitamin D from sun exposure. And since not many food are rich in vitamin D, many find it necessary to take supplements.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage. It also has the ability to lower blood pressure, ease leg cramps, and strengthen the immune system.
Vitamin E has also been said to help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, dissolve blood clots and aid skin healing and recovery. It helps aging skin by reducing and preventing age spots, and is often considered an anti-aging skin supplement when formulated in high concentrations.
Zinc is an important trace element involved in antioxidant reactions. It can boost your immune system and has been reported to be effective in fending off bad colds.
Zinc helps in the healing of wounds, tissue repair, growth, energy conversion and sexual development. It also regulates blood sugar, blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels, preserves vision, boosts immunity and repairs wounds.