It’s no surprise that the process of aging changes our bodies in a variety of ways, some of which we can see and others we cannot. However, what most people don’t know, is that as we age our dietary needs change as well. Because of this, many older adults accidentally put themselves at risk of becoming malnourished. Consuming a well-balanced diet helps strengthen the immune system, and ultimately allows our bodies to fight off diseases and illnesses. When we under-nourish our bodies, we can negatively affect its ability to protect us. Understanding what our bodies need can ultimately keep us out of the hospital, and live healthier, longer lives.
How do our Needs and Habits Change?
Calories and Appetite
It is not uncommon for older adults to eat less as they age. Most older adults might not be as physically active as they were in their younger years, which means they don’t necessarily need to eat as much as they once did. However, undereating can cause a wide variety of health problems.
Food sensitivities can also affect a person’s appetite, making it difficult to consume the appropriate amount of food each day. Some older adults might experience food sensitivities especially to foods like onions, peppers, dairy, and hot spices. If these are causing discomfort or pain after eating, they might need to be eliminated from your diet.
Even while monitoring your food and nutrition, medications can interfere with the nutrients your body is able to absorb. If you are taking a variety of medications, talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about supplements you can add to your diet.
Unfortunately, as we age our immune systems can weaken, making our bodies more vulnerable to illness and disease. However, we can strengthen our immune systems by consuming different types of food and nutrients.
What’s Diet got to do with it?
As our dietary needs change, it’s especially important that we give our bodies the nutrients they need to keep us healthy and active. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has provided a list of nutrients especially important for older adults:
Anti-Aging Foods that Sustain and Protect
Changing our diets to meet our needs as we age can decrease our risk of illness and disease, but it can also slow down different aspects of the aging process, from physical appearance to energy levels. These foods, according to Dr. Oz, are packed with powerful nutrients that will keep you feeling and looking young.
Youthful Skin and Hair
It’s no surprise that as we age, skin damage that has been accumulated over our lives becomes visible. Sun spots, wrinkles, and skin thinness is very common in older adults. However, there are certain foods that help promote healthy skin and hair.
Healthy Joints and Anti-Inflammatory
Many older adults experience pain in their joints or develop arthritis, which can make daily tasks uncomfortable and painful. These foods work in different ways to minimize joint pain and inflammation.
Free radicals in the body can eventually accumulate, increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Antioxidants work to defend your cells from the damage caused by free radicals.
Tips for Choosing Healthy Foods
The key to living a long and healthy live is choosing healthy food habits. For many older adults who live in retirement communities or nursing homes, meals are usually prepared by staff and eaten in the dining room or restaurant. However, no matter who prepares your meals, you always have the choice to choose healthy options. The National Council on Aging has provided these tips for staying healthy while eating out.
Maplewood Senior Living knows how important diet is when it comes to healthy aging. That’s why our food service staff uses organic and local food whenever they can. By growing our own produce at our farm in Easton, CT and partnering with other local farms in our communities, we can ensure that our residents have healthy and nutrient-dense options available at each meal. You can learn more about our dining experience here, or see it for yourself and schedule a tour here.
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