As you age, it becomes more important to ensure that you are getting adequate exercise and eating a balanced diet on a regular basis, as failing to do so could lead to a number of health problems such as high blood pressure, risk of heart disease, weak bones and malnutrition.
Nutrients such as fiber, vitamin D, calcium, potassium and vitamin B12 are essential to the healthy lifestyle of a senior citizen. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the foods that provide these invaluable nutrients and understand what makes a healthy diet.
By doing so, you can live a longer and healthier life. Finally, it is important to be aware of common myths about nutrition and aging in order to ensure that you avoid these common misconceptions. To learn more about the diets that are recommended for senior citizens over the age of 50, review the information below.
The Cost of Malnutrition
It is important to maintain a healthy and balance diet as an adult, but this is even more crucial as a senior citizen. Failing to eat the right amount of food or failing to include certain nutrients in your diet can cause malnutrition, which can cause serious havoc on your body, contributing to factors like:
- A weakened immune system and an increased risk of infections.
- Increased muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, which can eventually lead to falls, fractures and breaks.
- Inadequate wound healing.
- An increased risk of death.
- An increased risk of hospitalization.
- A lack of appetite, which can cause malnutrition to grow worse.
It is worth knowing that malnutrition can be caused by a lack of many different foods or nutrients. For example, dietary restrictions that limit the intake of protein or fat may help to manage some medical conditions, but they can also contribute to inadequate eating and poor nutrition.
What to Eat as a Senior Citizen
A healthy diet can keep your body stronger, improve your mental health, keep your metabolism working right and increase your energy levels. It is recommended that a good portion of every meal include colorful fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are full of essential vitamins and antioxidants. While fresh fruits and vegetables can become expensive, studies show that when it comes to nutrients, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as good as fresh. Fruits that give the most nutrients include:
- Blueberries and raspberries.
- Dark cherries.
Additionally, you cannot go wrong with dark and leafy vegetables like:
- Swiss chard.
- Sweet potato.
It is recommended that you include three servings of dairy. Milk and certain other dairy products can provide you with vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient. Great dairy products that you can introduce to your diet include:
- Nonfat or low-fat milk.
Whole grains are an essential part of a balanced diet for senior citizens as they contain an abundance of fiber and B vitamins. Whole grains are easy to find and can generally be found in:
- Brown rice and wild rice.
If you are a meat eater, it is best that you stick to lean protein such as poultry and fish throughout your normal routine. While eating fattier meats such as pork and beef on occasion is not a terrible idea, eating them regularly can result in higher levels of cholesterol due to the saturated fat within the meat.
It is also recommended that you avoid large portions of meat and try to eat an amount similar to a deck of cards in size. If you do not eat meat or if you are looking for additional protein for your diet, you can find protein in foods such as:
- Soy and peanut butter.
- Dairy products.
Oily fish are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve your overall health. Omega-3s can reduce joint pain, reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your risk of depression. The best types of fish that are full of Omega-3s include:
It is recommended that you intake two servings of fatty fish each week in order to maximize the health benefits that Omega-3s provide.
Supplements to Include Within Your Diet
As a senior citizen, it is important to pay extra attention to specific vitamins and nutrients that are most important later in life. It is recommended that you supplement your diet and ensure that your diet includes nutrients such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folate. Often, you can find all three of these essential nutrients in cereals that contain added vitamins. You can also get vitamin B6 in whole grains and organ meat, such as liver. B12 is most commonly found in lean meats such as poultry and in some fish. You can get folate in dark greens, beans and peas.
As mentioned previously, vitamin D and calcium are incredibly important for maintaining strong bones, which can reduce the risk of fractures and breaks during a fall. In addition to dairy products, you can find calcium in dark green and leafy vegetables such as kale and broccoli. Your body absorbs vitamin D when you are outside in the sun.
Fiber is great for digestion and it also helps prevent diabetes and heart disease. Beans, whole grains and vegetables all provide a great source for fiber. Potassium is a commonly overlooked nutrient and, when lacking, you may have raised blood pressure. Potassium can be found in potatoes, yogurt and bananas.
Myths Regarding Food and Nutrition for Senior Citizens
There is a lot of misinformation out there and common myths regarding food and nutrition for senior citizens. One of the most common misconceptions is that once you reach the age of 60, your metabolism will slow down and you will need fewer nutrients. This is false. In fact, as you age, your body is actually less efficient at making and absorbing some nutrients, making it even more imperative that you maintain a healthy diet if you want to achieve healthy aging.
Another common myth is that senior citizens do not need to worry about obesity, which is also not true. Excess weight is a growing problem for all age groups, even senior citizens. The culprit is a lack of exercise and consuming more calories than are needed. Obesity increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes. This leads into another common misconception: that only overweight senior citizens have poor diets and lack nutrients. As stated previously, senior citizens often need more nutrients due to the decline in nutrient product and absorption. Poor diet can increase risks to a number of chronic diseases, even if you are not overweight.