Nutrition for Older Adults
By Editorial Staff
The older body has unique nutritional requirements. It really boils down to four things: eating quality food, choosing the proper supplements, limiting alcohol consumption, and considering natural alternatives to prescription drugs.
Our bodies change considerably as we age. While many of these changes are obvious, some are not. The nutritional needs of an older body are very different from a younger one. As young people, we could work long hours, eat poorly, and otherwise neglect our bodies - and still keep going. As mature adults, our bodies just won't tolerate that kind of abuse.
Our bodies are now more sensitive to what we feed them. When we provide our bodies with the right nutrition, they respond well. When we don't, it can cause serious problems. Neglect your body long enough and you are almost certain to be the victim of a serious, if not life-threatening, ailment.
There are essentially four areas to consider when looking at caring for the older body nutritionally: eating quality food, choosing the right nutritional supplements, reducing alcohol consumption, and using extreme caution with prescription drugs.
As a mature adult, your days of living on sugar and junk food should be behind you. If they aren't, your diet may be preventing you from enjoying the optimal health you desire. At this age, what you eat has a tremendous impact on your health and how you feel:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables help give you the nutrients your body needs, provide simple carbohydrates for energy and also aid in digestion.
- Eating protein every day in sufficient amounts will give you the consistent, "slow-burning" energy you need for the day's activities.
- Consumption of seafood once a week has been shown to improve cognitive skills and reduce memory loss.
- Intake of complex carbohydrates (sugars) should be reduced to a minimum. While these will give you instant energy, they also will leave you flat after the "sugar high" and can contribute to unwanted weight gain.
- Preservatives and MSG can cause reactions that are more severe than when you were young. This is also true of restaurant food. Be sure the food you are eating is freshly prepared.
Obesity/Overweight: Sadly, less than 40 percent of older Americans are the weight they should be. A quarter of all men and half of all women over age 65 in America are considered overweight. Obesity is associated with diabetes mellitus, hypertension, coronary artery disease and several forms of cancer (breast, colon, uterine). It is important to note that body shape may be more important than body mass: Central or truncal fat (i.e., around or above the waistline) is more closely associated with cardiovascular diseases, stroke and diabetes than fat centralized around the hips.