Nutrition has a lot to do with aging. Problems with nutrition as people age increase as chronic diseases and impaired organ function damage digestive functions, along with the processing of nutrients. Food may not be absorbed, metabolized, or excreted properly, and the nutrients in the food won’t be absorbed. It is estimated that 80% of senior citizens have a chronic disease. Nutrition can prevent chronic disease and help people recuperate from it.
One factor misunderstood in nutrition is that caloric demands change as we age. We have a higher percentage of body fat, and less lean muscle. The decreased activity that often accompanies aging decreases the calories burned. You have to figure out how to keep up the nutrition while decreasing the calories. To do this, you choose foods that are heavy in nutrients. Protein, for instance, is necessary at all ages, even though it may change because of restrictions.
It’s pretty east to reduce the overall fat intake as we age, and getting no more than 30% of our daily caloric intake is fat. Carbohydrates should, ideally, be about 60% of the calories we consume, with most of those being complex. We also become more tolerant to glucose as we age, and we need to eat fewer refined carbohydrates to ease the stress on our systems. We also need more dietary fiber and plenty of water to maintain the good bowel function. Fiber also helps to keep inflammation down in the intestines. Dietary fiber comes from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes.
One of the most essential considerations is the intake of water. Enough water will help your kidneys function better. Recommendations are for 5 to 8 glasses a day. Often as people age they don’t realize they’re thirsty. They become dehydrated. You should drink before you begin to feel thirsty. Elderly people should have plenty of fluid included in their diets.
Also with age people lose their sense of taste and smell. Often, the only thing an elderly person can taste salt and sugar, and they don’t want food they can’t taste. Also, as people age, they may lose their vision and have impaired cooking. You may not know how to read the prices on food or nutrition labels. You may even forget how to cook, or be afraid to. While these may not be complete losses, they can affect your ability to maintain a healthy diet.
As we age, we also have a change in our needs for electrolytes, potassium, and sodium. These can be affected by the drugs we take for heart problems and other chronic diseases. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body, but older people often have a deficit in this. You may get a vitamin D deficiency since you don’t take as many dairy products, or get vitamin A toxicity. So, maintain a wide selection of items in your diet, especially of foods with a lot of calcium in them.