Today I’ll finish off this three-part series on the troubles seniors face with nutrition. I’ll be covering what your primary needs are, how your nutrition needs change as you age, and where you can go for assistance.
Seniors have different nutritional needs than other people. Even if you’re in great shape, it’s still important to pay attention to your changing needs. You need to be able to understand what your body is telling you so you can stay strong, healthy, and high functioning. Don’t let a number determine how you feel!
When you get older, your bones and muscles require certain vitamins and minerals that are needed in higher doses than they were in your youth. This is because the nutrients are either metabolized quicker, causing stores to deplete faster, or because you’re simply eating fewer nutrients. You need to fend off deterioration.
Your body may also become more susceptible to injury or infection, so getting the proper nutrition can help reduce these health risks. It’s also important to remember that you don’t need to eat a lot to get all the important nutrients you need-you just need to focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods.
One of the more important nutrients you need as you age is vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin. It is what gives the body access to the energy from the food you eat. It also helps cells produce energy, while playing a role in vision strength and skin health.
You only need a small amount of this per day. Good sources of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) are mushrooms, meat, spinach, soybeans, almonds, and eggs.
Vitamin B6, also called pyridoxine, can help boost your immune system and regulate your blood sugar levels. It can also reduce your risk of heart disease by keeping an amino acid called homocysteine low, which has been linked to artery clogging and heart disease. Vitamin B6 is important for seniors because, as a person ages, they have an increased risk of a vitamin B6 deficiency.
Vitamin B6 is mainly found in high-protein sources like meat and fish, and can also be found in vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans.
It’s also important for seniors to ensure they are getting adequate amounts of protein in their diet. Protein helps maintain muscle mass and provide your body with many of the essential amino acids it needs to function. As a person ages, their body becomes less efficient at processing protein and less able to hold onto protein stores, therefore, it’s essential to refill them.
Good sources of protein are beans, nuts, meat, and fish.
Potassium and calcium can both help keep your bones strong and help prevent osteoporosis and other bone troubles. Furthermore, potassium has been linked to reductions in high blood pressure. You want to aim for about three servings a day of each from food sources.
Get calcium from your usual sources-like milk, cheese, and dairy products-and also from great vegetables: broccoli and kale. If you want to increase your potassium intake, then eat more bananas, prunes, plums, and potatoes with skin.
Vitamin D is another key player in bone health and should therefore be a priority for seniors. The “sun” vitamin helps maintain bone density and prevent osteoporosis. The best source is the sun, but depending on where you live and your mobility, it can be harder to get sunlight than you might think. Therefore, purchasing foods fortified with vitamin D is the best option if you’re not getting the sun you need.
Good food sources of this vitamin are fortified cereal, milk (either whole or fortified milk), fortified juices, salmon, tuna, and eggs.
Lastly, be sure to include fiber in your diet because it has numerous health benefits. If you’re buying fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you should be covered in this department.
Affording groceries, even when buying produce, can sometimes be too much to manage for some seniors. You can check out the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program or the Emergency Food Assistance Program for more resources.
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