Eating right does not stop being vital once we grow old. We must always try our best to stay fit. Especially as we grow older, there are certain nutrients our bodies require more than others. And providing those nutrients to our body for maintaining our good health is vital.
WHO reports indicate that older adults suffer from a majority of diseases because their diet is not proper. A proper diet is essential for a healthy life, and for adults who are older than 65, it becomes even more crucial.
To get a clearer perspective, we can turn to how prostate cancer, colon cancer, and cancer in the pancreas is linked with fat in food. Similar associations are seen with degenerative diseases like osteoporosis and diabetes – diet-related issues, particularly micronutrients, can be the cause of these. Micronutrient deficiency is common among older adults due to the limited variety in diet or less food intake.
Some nutrients that are important for the elderly are listed below in this article, along with their sources.
Calcium and vitamin D
Women especially become vulnerable to bone loss by the time they’re in their 50s since the process accelerates then. Women who have had their menopause are at higher risk because estrogen helps maintain bone mass.
For maintaining bone health among older adults, vitamin D and calcium are crucial. The older population must try to include three servings of calcium-rich foods (or beverages) that are low in fat. You could simply choose fat-free dairy products and add them to your daily intake. Calcium is abundant in other sources too, like fortified fruit juices and cereals, canned fish with soft bones, dark green leafy vegetables, and fortified plant-based beverages.
For vitamin D, one can consider fatty fish like salmon, fortified foods, fortified beverages, and eggs. Beef liver, tuna, mackerel, cheese, milk, yogurt, and milk are some other vitamin D rich sources.
Vitamin D helps in the reduction of chronic pain and prevents heart disease. It may even reduce the risk of cancer. The primary source of vitamin D should be sunlight, but the ability to synthesize it starts going downhill with age.
Vitamin B12 is an essential part of maintaining health, and many adults above the age of fifty are unable to absorb enough of it. Vitamin B12 can be found in fortified cereal, certain fish and seafood, and lean meat. For a supplement, one can go to consult a dietitian or doctor. Vitamin B12 deficiency, even if it is mild, carries with it the risk of dementia for older adults. However, by the time an adult is in the 50s, the stomach acid required for absorbing vitamin B12 starts declining. Taking supplements may, thus, be necessary for some people, so getting tested for any such deficiency is highly recommended.
Vitamin A and carotenoid family
A diverse group of more than six hundred pigments that occur naturally is referred to as the carotenoids. Compounds like green leafy vegetables, carrots, and other red, yellow, and orange plant compounds are natural sources of these. In direct dietary intake, humans can rely on tomatoes or processed products of vegetables. Beta Carotene, unlike lycopene, can be converted to vitamin A. Carotenoids are potent antioxidants, and half of them are considered vitamins because of their provitamin A activity. Sources of preformed vitamin A include egg yolk, fortified milk, fish, and organ meats.
Another necessary vitamin, vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, can commonly be found in citrus fruits. It’s water-friendly and other sources include raw leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, melons, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers. The result of Vitamin C deficiency is scurvy, and proper intake is crucial as humans cannot synthesize it.
Dietary fiber lowers the risk of heart disease and reduces the chances of getting Type 2 Diabetes. One must regularly eat food that is loaded with fiber. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and peas, whole-grain bread, and cereals can all provide sufficient dietary fiber.
The risk of high blood pressure can be lowered by consuming the required amounts of potassium, and reducing salt intake, to limit sodium. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and beans can provide potassium. Replace added salt with herbs or spices for a healthy diet.
The ability to build muscle mass starts declining over the age of 70s. The requirement for protein continues to grow, but one starts losing appetite. Losing muscle mass heavily impacts the immune system. For increasing lean body mass, one can turn to good sources like chicken, beans, almonds, and beef. Or start taking supplements like protein powders and pills. Whey protein powder is a prevalent supplement for protein.
Omega-3 fatty acids are closely associated with brain benefits like improved blood flow, increased growth of the brain cells, better mood, and enhanced memory. The most abundantly found omega-3 fatty acid is DHA and is found in the membranes of the brain’s cells. With age, the ability to absorb DHA starts declining and negatively affects brain function and memory retention. Flaxseed oil, salmon, edamame, and walnuts are some excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and necessary supplements should be taken with prior consultation with the doctor.
The deficiency of thiamine can result in a syndrome called beriberi, which involves weight loss, impaired sensory perception, weakness, emotional disturbances, and heart failure. Sources of thiamine include cereals, whole grains, fortified bread, lean meats like pork, peas, dried beans, soybean, and fish. Large amounts of dairy products, vegetables, and fruits, though not high in thiamine content, can prove to be significant sources.
Your system grows increasingly vulnerable to bacteria with age. An unhealthy gut fails in absorbing nutrients, and the purpose of taking supplements is defeated. Probiotics are a way of getting good bacteria again. You can reintroduce your body to good bacteria by consuming sources of probiotics in foods like kefir, kimchi, dark chocolate, and yogurt.
Iron has some crucial roles to play in our body. Haemoglobin, responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood, is produced by iron. Without sufficient iron consumption, the oxygen supply to body tissues is limited, and as a consequence, one feels lethargic and tired. Anaemia is the name of iron deficiency.
Sources of iron include tofu, beans, lentils, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, and fortified cereals. Too much iron in the body can be lethal, so consulting a doctor and getting tested before switching to any supplements is always recommended.
Magnesium is crucial for heart health and keeps the immune system and bones strong. However, the body loses its ability to absorb magnesium with age. The absorption of magnesium can also be reduced to some of the medicines that older people take.
Consuming foods that provide magnesium, like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nuts is a good idea.