A guide to healthy eating for older adults

Eating the right type of food, staying fit and having a healthy lifestyle are important no matter what your age. As you get older your body has different needs, so certain nutrients become especially important for good health. This blog post will help you to understand some basic facts about the foods we eat which in turn will help you to select the right kinds of foods in the right amounts to stay healthy and fit. So if you are above 50 years or nearing the half century mark, take note of these dietary tips!
Old age is neither a disease nor a disorder; it is a biological process that everyone goes through. A little care is all you need to enjoy the aging process. Age-related health problems like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, joint pains, dementia and cancers can be controlled and even prevented by modifying your diet.

Special Nutrient Needs for Older Adults

Calcium and Vitamin D
Older adults need about 600mg of calcium and 400IUof Vitamin D on a daily basis to help support bone health. It is advisable to increase the intake of calcium-rich foods like milk, milk products like paneer and curd, green leafy vegetables and sesame seeds. Low-fat milk and milk products made from low-fat milk should be used. Exposure to sunlight should be part of your daily agenda; if you are unable to go outdoors regularly, you might want to discuss vitamin D supplementation with your doctor.

Iron and Vitamin B12
It is common that seniors do not get enough iron and vitamin B12 because of poor nutrient absorption in the body. Anaemia or reduced haemoglobin is a nutritional problem in old age caused by low iron and/or vitamin B12 levels leading to weakness, tiredness and breathlessness. You should include green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, jaggery, rice flakes, millets, fortified cereals, milk products, lean meat and seafood in your daily diet to prevent deficiency.

Regular intake of 40gms of fibre-rich foods will help to lower your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Eating whole-grain bread and cereals, and more beans and peas along with fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure fibre intake.
Tip: the skin is often the most fibre-rich portion so avoid peeling if possible. If you’re worried about dirt and chemicals, soak the whole vegetable/fruit in warm salt water for 30 minutes before eating, chopping or cooking.

Sodium and Potassium
Reducing sodium (salt) intake to 2500mg/day reduces your risk of high blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free milk and yoghurt are good sources of potassium, which you may consume liberally. Also, preparing food with minimal salt, avoiding the salt shaker during meals and refraining from buying packet foods are great ways to keep away the excess salt.

Foods that are low in saturated fats and trans fat will help in reducing your risk of heart disease. Most of the fats you choose should be polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which you get from vegetable oils like sunflower oil, rice bran oil, olive oil etc. Oil intake per day should not exceed 25gms (4-5teaspoons).

Many degenerative age-related diseases and disorders cause dehydration in older persons. Older adults should keep in mind that they need about 30 ml/kg (1800 to 2000 ml) of fluids per day. Fluids refer to all liquids consumed such as milk, juices, soft drinks, soup, tea and coffee. However, tea and coffee should be taken in moderate amounts only.