Essential Nutrients Needed For Seniors
As people get older, it can become more of a challenge for them to get the right amount of nutrition they need. The number of calories that seniors need declines with age, which means that it becomes more important to get as many nutrients from their meals as possible. However, even this can be a challenging process. Scientists have noted that as people age, it becomes harder for the body to absorb some nutrients. In addition, it can become harder to chew or digest food, and there is a decline in the ability to taste what they eat. The good news is that there are ways to get these essential nutrients incorporated into a daily meal plan. Here are some of the primary nutrients for seniors.
Calcium is one of the most necessary nutrients for overall health. It serves as a building block for bone health as well as overall health in general. The body as a whole can’t produce calcium, which is lost due to skin, hair, nails, and other elements of the body. Not getting enough calcium from food means that it has to take it from bones, which, if done constantly, can make them weaker and easier to break. Calcium is easy to get from external sources, such as dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese. It is available in non-dairy products as well. Kale, almonds, broccoli, and edamame are all excellent sources of calcium.
Much like calcium, Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient. It helps in the creation of red blood cells and DNA and helps maintain proper nerve function. As people get older, the recommended daily amount of B12 suggested is similar to younger people, but the absorption of the vitamin decreases. Lack of vitamin B12 leads to numerous issues, such as anemia, fatigue, and stomach problems. Doctors suggest that people over age 50 should consume fortified foods to increase B12 intake. This can be done through fortified cereals, as well as via lean meats or fish. B12 can also be increased through a supplement or a multi-vitamin.
Dietary fiber is a carbohydrate that the body cannot break down to a digestible level. It is a key factor in digestive health and has numerous health benefits. It prevents constipation, plus reduces the risk of heart disease. The problem is that seniors, much like many people, don’t get enough fiber. A lack of fiber can lead to weight gain and blood sugar imbalances. Doctors say that many people only get half the recommended amount of fiber per day. There are many ways to add fiber to a diet, including adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Supplements can be added as well.
While not considered as much as other nutrients, potassium carries a number of health benefits. For seniors, potassium helps regulate fluid balance, which is the amount of intercellular fluid or water in your cells. It also provides boosts to the nervous system, maintains kidney function, and can help regulate blood pressure for those that suffer from hypertension. Similar to fiber, potassium is a nutrient that many people, especially older ones, don’t get a sufficient amount of. This can lead to a deficiency, which causes higher blood pressure, lower calcium amounts in bones, and a higher risk of kidney stones. Potassium is prevalent in fruits and vegetables, as well as beans and dairy products with lower fat content.
Protein is an essential nutrient. In addition to helping grow and repair muscle (the average adult loses a percentage of muscle mass every decade after age 30), it aids in cell growth for skin, hair, nails, and internal organs. Protein also helps with maintaining physical function in older citizens. A lack of protein in a diet can lead to loss of muscle mass, among other disorders. Finding ways to add protein to a meal plan is easy. Many types of meat from animal sources are high in protein. It is also prevalent in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. For those that prefer vegetarian meal options, there are increasing numbers of plant-based protein options available.
There are a lot of options to consider when planning out meals for seniors. As their needs change with age, tailoring food options with the right amount of nutritional benefits is key. Speaking with a medical professional can not only help what foods to incorporate into a diet but if there are other methods to gaining needed nutrients, such as supplements. Knowing the right foods to add for seniors helps fight off potential nutrient deficiencies and stay healthy.