Aging and dietary changes in Seniors

As we age, our dietary needs change. The foods that make up a healthy diet of a younger individual may not work as well for older adults and vice versa. By remaining up-to-date with trends and research, seniors can get ahead of the curve and stay healthy for years to come.

Here are a few of the dietary changes that adults face as they age.

Less activity, slower metabolism

Our metabolism slows up to 5% per decade. And for people who are less likely to be active, that percentage can raise significantly.  

This means that seniors who want to maintain their weight can’t continue to eat the same meals they did before because they are much more likely to gain weight faster. This factor alone can change their entire dietary structure.

Changes in nutrient absorption

Although seniors require less calories because of their slowed metabolism, they actually need more of certain types of nutrients. As we age, our body’s ability to absorb and utilize certain nutrients, such as vitamin D, calcium, and B12, decreases. Studies have shown that a nutrient-rich diet helps seniors maintain their physical and cognitive condition.

According to National Center for Biotechnology Information: “In almost every dietary survey conducted over the past few decades, older adults have inadequate intakes of some essential micronutrients:”

  • Vitamin E
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin B
  • Calcium

Seniors should focus on eating foods that include many of these nutrients, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, fatty fishes, and whole grains. A good rule of thumb is that, the more complex of a diet, the better it is in terms of overall nutrients.

Medications affect dietary requirements

Certain medications can affect our digestion and nutrient absorption even more. They can also bring on side effects, such as loss of appetite, or stomach issues that can lead to excess nutrient loss.

After surgery or sickness, some adults may need to up their nutrient (especially protein) intake in order to help supply the necessary energy that healing requires and to supplement the medications in their task. You should speak to your doctor about this.

Increased dental issues

Due to changing diets (less calcium, more sugary foods), seniors are more susceptible to dental issues. And because Medicare does not cover dental insurance, many seniors simply forgo dental coverage in favor of saving money.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • About 2 in 3 adults ages 65+ have gum disease
  • 13% of 65 to 74-year olds have lost all their teeth
  • 26% of those aged 75+

On top of this, older adults are more likely to develop cancers of the mouth (oral or pharyngeal). By staying on top of dental health, seniors can catch early onset symptoms of other diseases as well.

The best thing you can do to maintain your health as you age is to focus on maintaining a nutrient-rich diet. By doing this, you can reduce inflammation, slow further disease, and stay healthy and strong for years to come. For more information, check out these healthy eating tips for seniors from the National Council on Aging.

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