As people age and the need for long term health care insurance looms on the horizon, their diets more often than not require some degree of adjustment. These changes result from a slowed digestive system, poor health, poor dental health, or changes in senses of taste and smell just to name a few.
So what should seniors pay special attention to when it comes to their dietary needs? One of the most important points is ensuring that they are getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals.
In addition older persons should up their intake of:
- Calcium: While especially important for women so as to fight against the bone disease, osteoporosis, men also need calcium for bone health. Current research states that seniors should ideally be consuming at least 1500 milligrams each day.
- Protein: This is vital to the health of the elderly. Protein sources that are easy to prepare and digest include salmon, tuna and poultry. Seafood has the added benefit of providing omega-3 fatty acids.
- Antioxidants: The benefits of antioxidants are still being revealed, but everyone needs antioxidant-rich foods. Great sources of these free radical fighting enzymes are cranberries, blueberries, gala apples and artichokes.
- Fiber: Since the digestive systems of most seniors tend to slow down with age, dietary fiber is important for regularity. Fruits, vegetables and some cereals provide ample servings of dietary fiber.
- Fluid: Water intake is always necessary but becomes even more important as we age.
The MyPyramid food guide provides excellent information on creating the right diet for seniors. Best of all it can be used to individualize the needs of each person when used online at http://www.mypyramid.gov/.
While ensuring that they eat foods rich in certain nutrients, seniors should also reduce or eliminate the following from their meals:
- Sodium (table salt): It is now advised that less than one teaspoon of salt be consumed per day. To compensate and still have tasty meals other spices can be added to food when cooking. Most senior citizens are more at risk for developing high blood pressure and water retention issues. High salt consumption contributes to these conditions. Avoiding pre-packaged food is a good way to restrict salt intake in the diet.
- Oils and fats: Since activity level is reduced later in life it is important to cut down on the amount of fats and oils consumed.
- Sugar: Less sugar should also be consumed as one ages. Excessive consumption of sweets leads to obesity and all the myriad of diseases associated with being overweight.
Most food choices should be easy to chew and swallow. This is partially because older person produce less saliva which serves to moisten food as we chew. The meals of seniors should be nutrition rich especially since most will eat smaller amounts as their appetites decrease. Ultimately, the best diet for senior citizens calls for eating foods from the six major food groups.
June 21st, 2009
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