PROPER nutrition is important for maintaining a healthy body and mind in the elderly.
Unfortunately some elderly are malnourished.
Even with access to food, older adults may still suffer from inadequate diets and nutritional deficiencies.
Being aware of the risks and following a well-balanced diet can help older adults stay healthy.
Several factors may contribute to nutritional deficiencies in the elderly.
Some have limited access to food due to financial constraints or physical disability.
Depression, loss of appetite or forgetfulness can also lead to a decreased intake of food and malnutrition, especially if the person lives alone.
Additionally, medical conditions or medications for older adults can increase nutritional needs or decrease the body's ability to absorb nutrients.
Protein-calorie malnutrition, or kwashiorkor, occurs when individuals do not consume enough calories and protein.
Although it is relatively rare in developed countries, a study in the US estimates that 50% of older Americans do not get enough protein in their diets.
Consuming enough protein helps older adults meet their overall calorie needs, and inadequate protein contributes to a weakened immune system, muscle wasting and delayed wound healing.
Good protein sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and nuts.
Many protein foods also provide vitamins and minerals that are important for older adults.
Vitamins and minerals
The elderly are at risk for deficiencies in several micronutrients, such as calcium, zinc, iron and vitamins D, B-12 and E.
These deficiencies often result from a combination of increased need and inadequate intake.
A well-balanced diet, including lean protein and dairy, will generally provide adequate amounts of these nutrients, but research shows that vitamin B-12 in older adults may be an exception.
Aging decreases the body's ability to absorb B-12 in the small intestine, which may lead to a deficiency.
Often, older individuals take B-12 injections into the muscle to prevent deficiency.
Much of the elderly population is deficient in dietary fibre. Dietary fibre contributes to bowel health and management of blood glucose and cholesterol.
Additionally, high-fibre diets may decrease the risks for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and diverticular disease in older adults.
Depending on calorie intake, older individuals should aim for at least 21 to 30 grams per day of dietary fibre.
Good sources are fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrain products.
We need to ensure we don't fall into the fail-safe of 'Tea and Toast'.
It may put some food in your belly, but it won't give you the 'Fuel For Life' our bodies crave.
If you live alone then prepare a meal for two and have the second half for lunch or dinner the next day.
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