How Dietary and Nutritional Needs Can Change With Age

We all know that the quality of the food we put into our bodies is important. From the onset of life, it’s crucial to ensure that a healthy diet is followed, but eating properly is also incredibly important as we get older. We’re more likely to suffer from medical conditions as we age. The cumulative effect of poor eating habits can also start to cause problems as we reach our 40s and 50s and beyond.

The good news is that it’s never too late to change to a better dietary and nutritional regime, whatever your age or state of health.

Doing so can bring some huge benefits in a relatively short time. Focusing on diet can also have a huge influence on the wellbeing of much older individuals.

Elderly couple preparing food

How Our Dietary Needs Change as We Get Older

As we age, a lot of changes take place in the body. Muscles begin to waste, the gut doesn’t perform as well as it used to and many people will begin to be affected by a variety of different medical conditions, ranging in severity.

One big problem is that, as we get older, our stomach produces less acid, which in turn makes digestion less efficient. This means individuals don’t get the right vitamins and minerals absorbed from normal food intake which they need to stay healthy.

We also tend to eat less as we get older which can compound the lack of nutrients we are getting.

Being aware of these problems and having a strategy to deal with them can make a big difference to overall wellness as we move into our autumn years.

Quality Over Quantity

Older people don’t move as much as younger ones and don’t need to take in so many calories. They do, however, require a good supply of nutrients for the reasons stated above.

It’s essential to think about the quality of the food we consume daily.

In other words, older people should be eating healthy whole foods such as grains, vegetables and fruits as well as oily fish and meats that are lean and nutritious. These contain important vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy bodily function.

The Importance of Protein

After the age of 30, we start to lose muscle mass – a staggering 3-8% for each decade that follows. While exercising regularly can maintain that muscle strength, it’s also critical to make good food choices.

Consuming more protein makes a difference. According to research, for men and women between 70 and 79, adding extra protein to their diet led to a 40% lower loss of muscle mass

The Importance of Fiber

  • As we get older, our digestive system becomes more sluggish. That can lead to problems such as constipation, especially over the age of 65.
  • Other common conditions such as inflammation of the stomach wall can be reduced by including lots of fiber, things like fruit and vegetables, in the diet.
  • Regular bowel function can also help prevent serious medical conditions such as bowel cancer.

Focus on Bone Health

One problem that older people have to face is bone health. Conditions such as osteoporosis are common in the elderly because they absorb less calcium and vitamin D through their diet. These two substances work together to make sure our bones remain healthy and strong throughout life.

Foods such as dairy products and dark greens contain plenty of calcium and should be added to the daily diet.

Vitamin D is produced naturally if the individual spends time in the sun. Many older people, however, are vitamin D deficient, particularly during winter, and may need to take a supplement. It is an important element and is essential for calcium absorption as well as supporting the immune system.

Maintaining Brain Function

Another major challenge many will face as they get older is maintaining brain health. Including more vitamin B12 in the diet can boost red blood cells and help maintain a healthy supply to the most important organ in the body.

  • It’s a vitamin that is found in proteins such as eggs, fish and meat. Other foods are available that are fortified with B12.
  • B12, however, is often less readily absorbed in older people so taking a supplement can also help.

4 Important Nutrients to Add to Your Diet

A balanced and nutritional diet will give most older people all the nutrients they need to maintain their health. Some provide even more important benefits.

  • Potassium plays a complex role in our bodily functions, including maintaining energy levels. It is found in foods such as dark, leafy greens.
  • Omega fatty acids have long been known to help with heart health and could potentially boost brain power as well as help with joint mobility.
  • Iron helps with many important bodily processes including supporting the immune system that helps fight disease.
  • Magnesium plays an important role in boosting energy levels and could even help fight depression.

Hydration and Weight Loss

Along with food, good hydration is also essential, as we grow older. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is something we all should try to do.

Finally, as mentioned before, older people often tend to eat less, which can make getting the right nutrients more of a challenge. If an individual is starting to lose weight, it’s important to start looking at their diet and ensure they are getting all the right food in the right quantities.