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nutritional needs aging

How Our Nutritional Needs Change From Aging

In the aging process, our nutritional needs change as our bodies slow down. We become more prone to muscle loss, thin skin, and produce less stomach acid. Stomach acid is essential for the absorption of vitamins and minerals, which contributes nutritional deficiencies.

The reduced need for calories also presents a struggle, because seniors need to get just as many nutrients, but take in less calories than they used to. Thankfully, there are ways to combat each of these challenges.

More Protein

Muscles tend to diminish in size, contributing overall strength to decrease as well. Also known as sarcopenia, it causes weakness and an increased chance of falls. Eating more protein assists in maintaining muscle and combatting sarcopenia. 

Simple ways to incorporate more protein in your diet include foods like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, lean proteins such as fish and chicken. Light resistance training also works to boost muscle growth, and would go hand in hand with protein rich meals.

More Fiber

As we age, our digestive system tends to not function as smoothly and be subject to constipation. This is from moving around a lot less and taking medications with constipation as a side effect. Another benefit of a high-fiber diet is prevention against diverticular disease. This condition forms small pouches along the colon wall which then become infected or inflamed. 

To add more fiber to a diet, consuming fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans) will help. Eating a salad or a vegetable soup before a meal is a good strategy that helps include not only more fiber, but possibly less calories.

More Vitamin D and Calcium

These two nutrients are the key to preserving bone health. Calcium maintains healthy bones, while vitamin D works to assist the body in absorbing calcium. Studies have shown that aging seniors tend to absorb less calcium and produce not as much vitamin D, which is why consuming more of it is important.

Most people know that vitamin D stems from exposure to sunlight. But how does that cause it to be created? The human body actually makes this vitamin from cholesterol in the skin. Our skin becomes thinner as we age, which in turn makes it harder for vitamin D production to occur.

Taking supplements with vitamin D and calcium can help, but eating certain foods rich in these nutrients allows for a more natural consumption. Vitamin D can be found in fish such as salmon and tuna. Calcium is often known for being sourced from dairy products, but can also be in green leafy vegetables as well. 

Vitamin B12

This vitamin is essential to preserving brain health and red blood cell production. B12 deficiency stems from the reduced ability to absorb this nutrient. Vitamin B12 is taken in from the proteins in food we eat such as eggs, fish, meat and dairy. Stomach acid must separate B12 from these food proteins in order to obtain it. 

Vitamin B12 is important for brain health, and in turn good for preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

Drink More Water

The human body is comprised of roughly 60% water. Hydration is important at all ages, so why is this even on the list? That’s because aging causes thirst receptors to become less sensitive. Seniors don’t detect thirst as well.

The kidneys work to help the body conserve water, but lose function over time. Dehydration in elderly can lead to the reduction of cell fluid, which hinders the ability to absorb medicine. This can cause other medical conditions to worsen.

Carrying a water bottle during the day and ensuring one to two glasses of water are drank with every meal will ensure that enough water is consumed.

Nutrition, A Conscious Effort

Some seniors find a sense of decreased appetite. Changes in hormones, life circumstances, medication side effects, hindered taste and smell, all have an impact on hunger cues. By consciously being aware of what the body needs the most and making an effort to provide the best for it, seniors can continue to find themselves feeling happy and healthy.

At The Kensington, our dining menu provides the full experience of appealing not only visually, but especially in taste. Vibrant dishes from our in-house chefs bring flavor and variety, while also providing well-balanced nutrition.

For special diets, we can easily accommodate. Quality ingredients are used to build and prepare each meal, so our residents can experience the best. 

If you have questions about our dining menu or assisted living and memory care neighborhoods, give us a call today

Additional Recommended Reading

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