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Why Dietary Moderation is Particularly Important for Seniors

February 3, 2020

The dietary challenge facing seniors can be boiled down to this: They need fewer calories, but more nutrients than ever before. More calcium. More fiber. More Vitamin B12. More Vitamin D. More potassium and iron and Omega-3 fatty acids. And more water. Especially that.

That’s why moderation matters, though there are those who wonder whether that’s even the right word to describe the proper approach to the diets of those age 65 and over. Rather, it’s a matter of improving dietary quality, as opposed to merely monitoring portions, as the latter implies continued intake of all foods is just fine. That’s simply not the case, as one can still be overindulging on the wrong things, or underindulging on those things that might be of benefit.

Whatever the case, the challenge is considerable. One study showed that one in four seniors suffers from poor nutrition, meaning they are at risk of being underweight or overweight, which in turn will leave them vulnerable to various diseases. The World Health Organization has determined, in fact, that the majority of maladies suffered by seniors can be directly attributed to improper diet.

The website listed several factors that might contribute to seniors eating poorly, headed by a decreased sense of smell and taste and the side effects of medication. Lagging dental health, depression and memory loss were also mentioned, as were matters like a desire to cut costs (leading to the purchase of cheaper, and often less nutritious, meals) and the simple inability to find transportation to and from a supermarket. drilled down even further, noting the many ways our diets must be adapted to the changes our bodies undergo over time:

  • We lose anywhere from three to eight percent of muscle mass each decade after the age of 30, leading to a need for more protein.
  • Constipation is a major problem among seniors, as is diverticular disease, often because of the use of medication and/or a decrease in activity. That results in a greater need for fiber.
  • Seniors absorb less Vitamin D from the sun because their skin is thinner, which in turn curtails their ability to absorb calcium. Vitamin D can be found in fish, and calcium is common in dairy products.
  • Some 10 to 30 percent of those over the age of 50 have a decreased ability to ingest Vitamin B12, which is crucial to red blood cells and brain function. Eggs, fish, meat and dairy products can forestall these problems, as can supplements.

Other crucial nutrients mentioned by Healthline were potassium and Omega-3 fatty acids (for heart health), magnesium (for muscle and nerve function) and iron (to forestall anemia). And water intake becomes more and more crucial as we age, since our bodies are less apt to detect when we are veering toward dehydration.

There are those who recommend following the AARP’s MyPlate for Older Adults to determine proper portion sizes. Others spell out the daily requirements as follows:

  • Just under one gram of protein — 0.8, to be precise — for every kilogram (i.e., 2.2 pounds) of body weight;
  • Five servings of fruits and vegetables;
  • At least three ounces of whole grains (whether from cereal, bread, rice, pasta, etc.);
  • Three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy.

Sugar intake should be moderated. Same for the use of alcohol and tobacco. Thirty minutes of daily exercise are recommended, and that can be divided into smaller chunks of time.

The point is, an intelligent dietary approach is essential among seniors, as it greatly impacts quality of life and longevity.

Categories: General