happy senior couple cooking healthy mealAs your body changes with age, so do your nutritional needs. When you reach middle age, it’s common to notice shifts like a slower metabolism or feeling groggy after eating carbs.

Nutrition guidance for older adults focuses on reducing risks for chronic diseases and optimizing health. What you eat complements medications and other lifestyle habits to keep your muscles and bones strong, while slowing the development of osteoporosis.

Keep the following factors in mind to support your evolving health.

Nutritional Basics for Older Adults

After age 60, it’s advised to limit red meat and sweets. Instead, focus on more nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, lean proteins, fish and low-fat dairy, while cutting down on saturated and trans fats, sugar and sodium.

Within this broad picture:

  • Consume foods high in nutrients and low in calories
  • Keep empty calories – candy, chips, soda, alcohol – to a minimum
  • Drink water throughout the day and know if a certain medication increases dehydration risks

Essential Nutrients

While your doctor may recommend taking supplements, make sure your diet is rich in:

  • Calcium: Older adults require more calcium to support their bones and reduce risks for high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes. It’s advised to get at least 1,200 mg per day through fish, leafy greens and fortified products.
  • Vitamin D: Together with calcium, vitamin D works to support your bones. Get at least 800 IU per day through fish, eggs, fortified foods and supplements.
  • Fiber: Manage constipation and other digestive issues by adding fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains to your diet.
  • Protein: Seafood, soy, dairy and beans offer protein, while also providing a source of fiber, calcium and vitamin D. Too little protein can impact muscle mass and strength.
  • Vitamin B12: Studies have linked vitamin B12 deficiency with higher dementia risks. As the body absorbs less of this nutrient with age, your doctor may recommend taking a supplement while increasing your intake through poultry, eggs, dairy, seafood and fortified foods.
  • Potassium: In addition to bananas for potassium, vegetables, beans and dairy products are sources that can also keep your blood pressure under control.
  • Hydration: Getting enough liquid keeps your body’s cells hydrated and aids in digestion. As older adults are less likely to sense thirst, it’s important to drink water throughout the day.

Other Considerations

After age 65, you may need to modify your diet further based on the following factors:

  • Weight gain and calories. Older adults are more prone to weight gain due to a slower metabolism and declining physical activity. To maintain a healthy weight and limit risks for arthritis and diabetes, plan to increase your physical activity level or reduce calorie consumption, under the guidance of your doctor.
  • Your sense of taste and smell. Both senses lose their sharpness with age, so eating can become purely practical. Make sure you’re consuming enough calories, even if you don’t experience joy from eating, and season food with herbs rather than salt.
  • Swallowing food and drinks. Older adults may develop a tight esophagus due to decades of damage from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In addition to managing GERD, you may want to consume softer foods, eat slower or have more liquids with your meals.
  • Cooking and food preparation. Injury recovery can affect how easily you prepare and eat meals. During short-term rehabilitation, discuss alternative approaches with an occupational therapist.

Are you concerned about nutritional changes with age? The medical team at Avon Health Center can address your worries after an injury or surgery. To learn more, contact us today.