Nutrition plays a critical role in the overall health and vitality of humans especially in seniors. Seniors need to consume certain types of food in appropriate amounts to stay healthy. Because of the structural and functional changes associated with aging, elderly people must adhere to a selective diet plan. What are healthy diets for seniors? Why do seniors need a selective diet plan? Are there daily nutritional requirements for seniors?
This article will answer these questions and lots more concerning the health nutrition of seniors.
NUTRITIONAL NEEDS OF SENIORS
The nutritional needs of the aged can be divided into general and specific. General nutritional needs are for all seniors and not individual-based. For instance, all seniors require intake of calcium containing milk and multivitamins to prevent the onset of bone diseases and to reduce the oxidative stress of aging. However, specific nutritional needs are diet restrictions or special diet requirements based on the presence of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, goiter, chronic kidney diseases etc. To clarify further, diet restriction of salt and sugar is mandatory in hypertension and diabetes mellitus while special diet containing iodine is needed in goiter.
SPECIFIC DIETARY RESTRICTIONS FOR SENIORS
Seniors with medical conditions need daily dietary restriction and a diet plan to stay healthy.
Here are some medical conditions and the required dietary restriction:
- Hypertension: Reduction of salt intake or sodium containing processed foods like condiments used in cooking.
- Diabetes Mellitus: Restriction of sugary beverages and ripe fruits.
- Heart diseases: Reduction of trans and saturated fatty products like butter and margarine.
- Liver diseases: Cessation of alcoholic beverages is advised.
WHAT TYPE OF FOODS DO SENIORS NEED?
Foods can be calorie based or nutrient based depending on the type of class of food taken. For example, carbohydrates, proteins and fats are calorie based while vitamins and minerals are nutritive. Seniors do not need lots of calorie-based food because they are not involved in any strenuous activities unlike young ones. However, they require lots of multivitamins and minerals to maintain the body’s metabolic processes and to replace the depleted stores of these nutrients. Excessive intake of calorie-based foods causes the conversion of unused calories to fats and this increase the blood level of cholesterol which deposits in the heart and blood vessels leading to heart diseases and other complications.
DIETARY ADJUSTMENTS FOR SENIORS
Malnutrition in seniors can set in when the right type and amount of food is not consumed consistently. A balanced meal for seniors should have the combination of these nutritive foods highlighted below.
Bright coloured fruits are ideal for seniors. Green leafy vegetables contain vitamin B required for metabolism. The fibre content of vegetables helps to reduce episodes of constipation because it promotes easy bowel emptying. Fruits contain vitamin C and minerals needed to boost the immunity of seniors to combat minor ailments like upper respiratory tract diseases caised by viruses. This is essential because seniors have relative immunocompromised state- meaning reduced immunity due to aging and this makes them susceptible to diseases.
Low fat dairy products are recommended for seniors because of lactose intolerance and risk of elevated blood cholesterol. Seniors must avoid taking creamy milk because of the high amount of bad cholesterol contained.
Seniors are expected to consume lean amount of proteins like red meat and significant quantity of fish like salmon and mackerel. They should eat more animal proteins such as fish and meat because they are more absorbed than plant proteins like legumes so animal proteins However, seniors should eat both sources of proteins to get the right amount of essential aminoacids.
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE
Recommended daily allowance (R.D.A.) is the amount of nutrients and calorie intake per day required for the maintenance of good health- This can be affected by the health status of seniors due to varying physiological demands. For instance, seniors with mal-absorption diseases in the intestine will need additional amount of these micronutrients .Here are some essential vitamins and minerals with their respective recommended daily allowance:
- Vitamin A: The recommended daily allowance is 900mcg and 700mcg for men and women respectively. Intake must not exceed 3000mcg per day.
- Vitamin B1: There is no age related requirement but daily supplement intake is necessary for seniors with a history of alcohol abuse and those on loop diuretics for treating congestive heart failure.
- Vitamin B6: Daily recommendation is 1.5-1.7mg per day.
- Vitamin D: Recommended daily intake is usually 400IU but there is no strict adherence to this because it can be absorbed from exposure to sunlight.
In conclusion, seniors have a responsibility to keep to dietary adjustments recommended by their doctors. These adjustments are individual based even though general dietary restrictions for seniors must be kept. Seniors must avoid salt intake, fatty foods and alcohol to improve their health outcomes and reduce morbidity among them.