Senior Health: Healthy Diets for Seniors

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Time and time again we are reminded that our unhealthy diets consisting of processed foods containing high levels of sodium, sugar and fat are responsible for the ever increasing levels of obesity, diabetes and other serious health problems. While this worrying trend continues, many seem reluctant to change their eating habits and lifestyle in order to counter the obesity problem.

A balanced diet is important at any age, but particularly as we get older. As we age our bodies undergo many changes, including our metabolism. Generally speaking, one’s metabolism slows with maturity which means we are unable to burn off excess calories as we once did. Carrying additional weight can create other health related issues such as arthritis, skeletal disorders and osteoporosis. Diabetes has also been linked to obesity and is particularly common in seniors, among other age groups. Undoubtedly, a well balanced nutritious senior diet helps to avert unwelcome disorders and illnesses. Nevertheless, it is perfectly acceptable to enjoy occasional treats as long as we eat these food types in moderation.

Specific Dietary Recommendations for Seniors

You can find specific recommendations from government websites like Nutrition.gov. However, a summary of well balanced senior diet is one that includes:

  • A minimum of five servings of vegetables and fruit per day- preferably fresh, although frozen fruit and vegetables are also highly nutritious.
  • A minimum of six servings of complex carbohydrates which can be found in bread, rice, cereals and pasta.
  • A minimum of 2 servings of dairy products such as cheese and milk, to provide sufficient levels of calcium.
  • At least two servings of either poultry, meat or fish for required levels of protein.
  • Plenty of fiber based products which can be found in a range of foodstuffs such as bran, other cereals, fruit and vegetables.

Ensuring that the senior diet contains of all of these foodstuffs will make certain that all the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates are included within one’s diet. A balanced diet, of course, promotes optimal health which means that many health related issues can be avoided in later life. Although sodium occurs naturally in many foodstuffs and is not necessarily harmful to health, excess amounts can lead to increased blood pressure. As such, one should avoid adding additional sodium, or salt as it is more commonly known, to meals or recipes. You can increase the flavor of meals by adding herbs and spices which may further enhance health due to some of the nutrients they contain. Any saturated fats contained within some foodstuffs are not broken down within the body in the usual way. Consequently, fatty deposits sit within the arteries and are considered to lead to health issues in the long term. Therefore, saturated fats have been linked to heart disease, diseases of the gallbladder and some types of cancer.

In contrast to a health enhancing diet, a poor diet which is lacking in essential vitamins and minerals can cause ill health and general feelings of lethargy. This is a particularly dangerous scenario for seniors, who need to take regular but gentle exercise to ensure flexibility of the joints and muscles. Seniors who cannot summon the energy to move around and take exercise are at increased risk of obesity.

A well balanced, well thought out senior diet can help individuals to enjoy their retirement years, and live a fulfilling and rewarding life. Many seniors enjoy all types of hobbies and interests because they have taken the time to care for themselves properly. Once you have considered your dietary needs it is not difficult to implement and adhere to this new lifestyle. In fact, thinking carefully about what and how you eat also introduces new experiences. Instead of eating the same old tried and tested foods it is quite possible to discover new and delicious dishes which you haven’t previously considered. Retirement is all about trying the things which you have never experienced before. Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised by the results!

About Susan Day

Susan Day is a mother to two beautiful daughters and a grandmother to one adorable five year old boy. She is determined to live an active, happy life well beyond here current 70 years of age!