Every age has unique nutritional requirements. Though a nutritious, balanced diet is significant at every age, it is even more crucial during old age.
The body encounters several changes during this time. Your appetite starts to fall, the digestive system starts acting differently, and your metabolism also slows down. Such changes and lack of proper diet can make you weak and prone to many diseases. Therefore, it is important that your body gets sufficient nutrients to deal with these changes.
As India celebrates Nutrition Week from 1st to 7th September, we all must understand the importance of proper nutrition for a healthy living. Old age is a sensitive period of life that must be dealt with caution and care.
Nutritional needs for elderly
Fiber: Fiber helps in proper digestion and prevents constipation, the most common problems of old age. Apart from this, fiber contributes in keeping the heart healthy by maintaining cholesterol levels, maintaining body weight and in protecting the body against Type-II diabetes.
You can find good amount of fiber in:
- Vegetables and fruit
- Whole grains
Calcium: Calcium, as we all know, is important for healthy and strong bones. Lack of calcium in the body can cause brittle bones subsequently making them prone to fractures. Apart from strengthening the bones, calcium is also vital for blood clotting and muscle contraction.
These are reliable sources of calcium:
- Dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese
- Leafy vegetables and fruits
Vitamin D: Apart from calcium, Vitamin D is also significant for bone health. It supports the body in absorbing calcium and maintaining bone density. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to several chronic diseases and in old people; it can increase the risk of falling.
Eat the following for surplus intake of Vitamin D:
Vitamin B12 : Vitamin B12 helps in maintaining healthy nerve cells and formation of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) and DNA. With age, it becomes difficult for people to absorb B12, therefore, everyone should have food which is rich in B12 and can also try having B12 supplements after consulting a doctor.
Food rich in Vitamin B12 are:
- Fortified cereals
- Milk and milk products
Water: During old age, the sense of thirst decreases and regular medications lead to dehydration. Hence, plentiful water intake becomes more crucial. Fiber absorbs a lot of water, therefore, if you are eating fiber rich food you must also drink ample amount of water to stay hydrated. Eight glasses of water in a day is the appropriate quantity.
Carbohydrate: Carbohydrates are essential for the smooth functioning of all the systems of the body. Proper intake of carbohydrate is important to have sustainable energy throughout the day.
Find high amount of carbohydrate in:
- Low-fat dairy products such as low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese
- Vegetables such as leafy veggies, carrots and sweet potato
- Fruits such as banana, berries, and oranges
- Whole grains such as wheat, corn, barley and oats
- Milk and milk products
Protein: Protein is a must have in older age as it successfully keeps your muscles strong and prevents them from wear and tear. It prevents Protein Calorie Malnutrition (PCM) and boosts immunity. But because the digestive powers in elderly decline, it is crucial to consult a doctor to know the appropriate dosage as excess protein might not be that healthy with growing age.
Foods high in protein are:
- Paneer, Soybean, Quinoa, Chia Seeds
According to reports issued by World Health Organization (WHO), older people are more prone to malnutrition mainly because aging causes a drastic drop in appetite. Many diseases that commonly affect elderly, such as osteoporosis, are caused majorly because of deficiency of essential nutrients. Therefore, it is essential that all the above mentioned important nutrients must be consumed by old people regularly to have a healthy aging process.