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Five Reasons Seniors Have Different Nutritional Needs


Posted on March 18th, 2016

It's no secret that our bodies change as we age. But some changes are less apparent and call for extra attention to ensure that we give our body what it needs to stay healthy. Seniors have different nutritional needs than children, teens and even middle-aged adults, and addressing these differences may help older adults increase energy, resist illness and disease, and manage chronic health problems. Here are five changes to take note of:

  • Metabolism slows down. After age 40, metabolism starts to naturally slow down and becomes even more pronounced with less exercise. What this means is that the body doesn't need as many calories to maintain its current weight. If you continue to eat as you always had throughout your younger years, you may gain weight. Eating nutrient-rich foods and watching calories can help maintain a healthy weight and ideal energy level.

  • Less lean body mass. Older adults generally have less lean body mass which may contribute to a compromised immune system, less efficient wound healing and frailty. To help address this physiological change, seniors may want to consider including more high-quality protein in their diets.

  • Digestive system changes. The digestive system slows with age and produces less saliva and stomach acid making it harder for the body to absorb important vitamins and minerals such as B6, B12 and folic acid. These nutrients help with mental alertness, memory and circulation, so look to create a healthy meal plan that includes them and/or talk to your doctor about possible supplements.

  • Weakened senses. Some older adults experience a weakened sense of taste, typically beginning with a diminished taste of saltiness and bitterness. If this happens, watch your salt intake and instead reach for herbs, spices and olive oil to season food. Certain antibiotics as well as medication for cholesterol and blood pressure may also affect taste and appetite. Aging may also cause a loss of thirst so sufficient hydration is important.

  • Decreased bone density. Seniors may experience a decrease in bone density and should include adequate amounts of vitamin D and calcium to help slow the development of osteoporosis. The National Institute on Aging outlines the recommended intake of calcium and other vitamins and minerals for people over 50.

 

Be sure to consult your health care provider before altering your diet or for guidance about a specific nutritional item or medical condition.

This article has been provided for educational purposes only and is based on the most reliable information available on the date of publication.


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