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Nutrition in old age: This is important!

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 283 views

Age brings many physical changes. For example, the energy turnover decreases, but the need for nutrients remains high. A balanced and healthy diet in old age is therefore particularly important in order to avoid obesity and deficiency symptoms. Read here how this can be done.

Nutrition in old age: the best tips

Regular meals are important for seniors and the very old. They provide structure in everyday life and can bring joie de vivre. However, the body changes with age: the muscle mass decreases – the energy consumption decreases accordingly. Most older people therefore gain weight over the years and eventually become overweight.

On the other hand, there are also older people who have little appetite and therefore lose a lot of weight. Altered sensory perceptions, such as a diminished sense of taste and smell, and difficulty chewing are reasons for this.

The nutrient requirement for vitamins and minerals, on the other hand, does not change with age. Older people in particular should therefore eat particularly nutritious, high-quality foods.

Learn more about healthy foods here .

We have put together various tips on how seniors and very old people can eat a healthy and balanced diet.

stimulate appetite

Not only do hearing and sight deteriorate with age, but the sense of taste also dwindles – and with it the desire to eat. Some older people lose a lot of weight as a result.

In order to stimulate the appetite, the dishes should be prepared from fresh ingredients, intensively seasoned with fragrant herbs and presented in an appetizing way.

Also, avoid ready meals if possible. It is helpful to cook ahead of time and freeze part of it. So you don’t have to stand at the stove every day.

Lots of small meals

With age, the rate at which the stomach expands slows. The emptying of the stomach also no longer works as quickly.

Multiple meals throughout the day are easier for older people to manage. Three smaller main meals a day and two snacks in between are ideal. If you are overweight, these should not only be nutritious, but also calorie-conscious.

fiber

Older people are more likely to suffer from constipation. Therefore, high-fiber foods are important. This includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and oatmeal. They stimulate digestion.

You can do this:

  • Drink a glass of water with each meal so that the fiber in the intestines swells and promotes digestion.
  • Get regular exercise. Gymnastic exercises are a good way to do something for the body at home.
  • Plan fixed times for going to the toilet, for example after breakfast , even if nothing is happening. Gradually, your gut clock will respond. Always go to the toilet when you feel an urge.

Fruits and vegetables every day

It’s harder to chew with third teeth. Even with well-fitting dentures, the chewing pressure is reduced by two-thirds. This makes it difficult for older people to eat fruit and vegetables. Nevertheless, they should consume at least 400 grams of vegetables and 250 grams of fruit every day.

It is best to have at least one salad on the daily menu that is easy to chew. Steamed vegetables and spicy vegetable soups are also good for people with dentures.

Soft, bite-sized fruit is also good to eat, such as bananas, grapes, berries or soft pears. A glass of fruit or vegetable juice a day supplements the intake of important nutrients – especially for people with chewing problems.

People who are overweight should only drink a little fruit juice, as these are not very filling but are high in sugar.

carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are an important source of energy. What matters is which carbohydrates you choose.

The so-called complex carbohydrates, which are mainly found in wholemeal bread, pasta, brown rice, carrots and potatoes, are recommended.

On the other hand, avoid simple carbohydrates in the form of sweets or pastries. They drive up the blood sugar level and often trigger cravings afterwards. If you consume more energy than you need during the day, unhealthy fat deposits will quickly develop on your stomach.

Find out more about high-carbohydrate foods here .

high-protein diet

Protein-rich foods are important for maintaining muscle mass. Older people in particular should therefore cover their protein requirements.

Consume dairy products every day – if you are overweight, preferably low-fat versions. Alternatively, legumes contain a lot of protein. A meal of sea fish, if possible twice a week, ensures the need for omega-3 fatty acids .

Two to three small portions of meat per week are sufficient. Many older people have problems chewing. Tender, fine-grained pieces, such as poultry, are particularly suitable for them. On the other hand, avoid processed meats like sausage, which tend to be high in unhealthy fats.

You can find out more about protein-rich foods here .

Drink regularly

The sense of thirst also decreases with age. This is why older people often drink too little. Possible consequences include confusion and indigestion, disorders of the cardiovascular system or kidney function.

It is best to keep a drinking diary. This way you can quickly see whether you are drinking enough liquid. As a guideline, the German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends around 1.5 to two liters of water or unsweetened tea per day for adults. On the other hand, avoid alcohol and sugary drinks such as sodas.

If you find it difficult to drink enough, put your daily ration in a room where you spend a lot of time in the morning. This constantly reminds you to drink and you drink enough liquid throughout the day.

Healthy Fats

Unsaturated fatty acids are also important for the heart and blood vessels in old age . Walnuts, rapeseed, salmon or mackerel, for example, contain high-quality vegetable oils.

Saturated fats , on the other hand, should be reduced. They are found in fatty animal products such as butter , lard and sausage. Trans fats , which are often found in industrially manufactured foods – for example in baked goods and frozen pizza – are particularly risky .

You can find out more about unsaturated fatty acids here .

Which physical changes with age have an influence on nutrition?

Typical physical changes that aging brings include:

decrease in muscle mass

Energy requirements decrease with age. The reason is, among other things, that the muscle mass decreases steadily, which also consumes energy at rest. Accordingly, the body fat percentage increases in many older people. This often has a negative effect on the weight.

In fact, according to the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, 82.5 percent of 70 to 79-year-old men and 80.3 percent of women in this age group are overweight or even suffer from obesity.

If you tend to be overweight, adapt your diet to the reduced energy requirements. Rely on low-calorie, but nutritious and tasty food.

Older people can also counteract the loss of muscle mass with sports such as Nordic walking or gymnastics. This is also important because lack of exercise can lead to muscle wasting (sarcopenia). This reduces the strength to cope with the challenges of everyday life.

decrease in bone mass

In men and women, the maximum bone strength is usually reached between the ages of 30 and 35. From the age of 40, around 0.5 percent of bone mass decreases. The decrease increases the risk of osteoporosis. This effect increases in women especially after the menopause . The reason for this is a decreasing estrogen production.

Foods with plenty of calcium and vitamin D are therefore important. Dairy and soy products, fresh fruit and vegetables, and grain products are all good choices.

Regular exercise also improves bone quality in older people. A walk in the sunshine also fills empty vitamin D stores.

Body water percentage decreases

The human body consists mostly of water. It is around 60 percent for middle-aged adult men and between 50 and 55 percent for women. With age, the water content in the body decreases. Seniors often also take dehydrating medications that reinforce this process.

Since older people also have a decreasing sense of thirst and often drink less, this has a further negative effect. This becomes particularly dangerous when there is a fever or diarrhea and there is a risk of dehydration.

It is therefore important that seniors drink at least 1.5 liters a day.

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