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Nutrition for Older Adults

While taking the right medication and exercising regularly is important, the way you eat has a huge impact on your body as well! No matter your age, proper nutrition is essential but keep in mind older adults have unique dietary needs that they should watch out for.

Special Dietary Needs

Aging can change how our bodies work, which means that the food we eat also needs to change. Everyone wants to eat healthier, but what that means will vary depending on your body. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D has a large health impact on older adults. It’s most known for impacting bone health, but new research suggests that it could have an effect on many other illnesses that commonly affect older people, ranging from depression to cancer. Either way, keeping up with Vitamin D intake will help your overall health! One thing to remember is that as you age, the amount of Vitamin D you need increases, so make sure to supplement your current diet with more Vitamin D. There are many ways to add Vitamin D to daily meals. Many cereal and dairy products are fortified with it, and other foods like eggs and fish are great natural sources of it as well. Alternatively, taking a Vitamin D supplement can also be effective.

Fiber 

Eating fiber has many benefits. Getting enough fiber can decrease the risk of heart disease and colon cancer, and it’s great for keeping the digestive system moving! To make the most out of fiber intake, you should increase your fiber intake slowly, drink plenty of water, and spread your fiber foods out over multiple meals. When it comes to finding foods with fiber, there are plenty of options. It can be found in fruits and vegetables, as well as in beans, whole-grain breads, and nuts and seeds!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

We’re often told that eating fats is bad, but omega-3 fatty acids are essential to health. They help keep the body working properly and can prevent diseases. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids can help the immune system and decrease the risk for heart disease and stroke. It can also reduce inflammation and even help protect against memory loss. The most common source of omega-3s is in fish. Salmon and tuna are some simple options that can be easily added to any meal! However, be careful to avoid types of fish with high mercury content, and remember to cook the fish in a healthy way. Chia seeds and walnuts are also good sources of omega-3s if you can’t eat fish. Supplements are also an option, but it’s recommended to get most omega-3 from food rather than supplements.

Ways to Improve Nutrition

Knowing what nutrients to watch out for is one thing, but knowing how to add them to a diet is another! Here are some easy steps to help.

  1. Start with different parts of the diet. Since medications or physical limitations like the ability to cook or chew food can be a factor in diet changes, it’s easier to start with other aspects of nutrition. One of the biggest barriers to eating healthy is “empty calories,” like chips and candy, as well as foods with high amounts of saturated and trans fats. Avoiding these foods can help improve health before adding anything at all. Similarly, drinking more water will prevent dehydration and help the body function.
  2. Improve lifestyle. If you’re someone who doesn’t have much of an appetite, adding more physical exercise to your daily routine and making sure that your foods have lots of different colors and textures can help you have more of a desire to eat. Additionally, meals are a great way to help you feel connected to your community while improving nutrition. If you have a special connection to your local church or any other community organizations, it could be beneficial to organize group meals.
  3. Check for medical issues. Seeking the advice of a doctor or nutritionist is always a good idea. Doctors or medical specialists may be able to help if you have trouble chewing or swallowing, and nutritionists can provide advice on the best foods or supplements to add to your daily routine. If any medication you take causes a decrease in your appetite, doctors may be able to recommend different medications or supplements as well.
  4. Find supplements and foods. Depending on your needs, you may prefer to add some nutrients in the form of supplements instead of foods. The types of food you enjoy may also affect your decisions, so try to find recipes that can incorporate these nutrients into your diet.

Eating healthier is important for staying healthy, so any step towards a healthier diet is great. Everyone has their own needs and tastes, but luckily, there are many delicious options out there!

Additional Resources

Nutrition As We Age: Healthy Eating with the Dietary Guidelines

Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors

Healthy Meal Planning: Tips for Older Adults

Healthy Hive

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