Thursday, April 16, 2009

Nutrition for Older Adults

Nutrition for Older Adults
Adapted from the American Dietetic Association:

Older adults need the same nutrients — protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals and water — as younger people, but in different amounts. Getting enough may be challenging if health problems limit food intake.

A few nutrients may require special attention: protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, iron, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B12, zinc and water.
As people age, most use less energy, or calories, than they did in younger years. That’s because the body uses energy at a slower rate, and many older adults live less active lifestyles.
Although calorie needs vary depending on activity level and age, many older adults need about 1,600 calories daily. Chosen carefully, those 1,600 calories can be nutrient-packed and can supply the minimum recommendations from the MyPyramid Food Guide.

The following daily servings add up to about 1,600 calories:

· Bread group - six servings
· Vegetable group - three servings
· Fruit group - two servings
· Dairy group - two servings
· Meat group - two servings
· Fats/oils group - use sparingly
Keep in mind the “5-a-day” guidelines. Eat 5 servings of vegetables or fresh fruits each day.
Older adults need at least five ounces, or two servings, of protein a day. However, for some elderly people, protein-rich foods such as meat or poultry may be hard to chew. In addition, some may not buy meat, poultry or fish because they can be more expensive than other foods.

Below are some recommendations for protein consumption:
· Choose tender cuts of meat; chicken, turkey or ground meat
· Have teeth, gums and/or dentures checked regularly if chewing is a problem
· Include dairy products–milk, cheese and yogurt supply protein, too
· If money is an issue, stretch meat, poultry and fish in casserole dishes or eat them in small portions. Consider other, less expensive protein sources, such as eggs, beans and peanut butter

Iron and vitamin C
Iron deficiency is a common nutrition problem as we age and often leads to anemia and its symptoms: fatigue, weakness and poor health. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron from plant
sources. Consuming vitamin C with iron-rich foods will enhance the body’s ability to absorb iron.

A few tips to avoid iron deficiency:
· Choose iron-enriched cereals, beans, whole-grains, lean meat and poultry
· Enjoy a vitamin C-rich fruit or fruit juice at meals
· Add a little meat, poultry, fish or beans to pasta or rice dishes

Other nutrients
Vitamin A
, found in dark green leafy and yellow and orange vegetables, helps eyes adjust to dim light and protects skin and other body tissues.
Folate helps the body make red blood cells and can lead to anemia if intake is low. Good sources include leafy, green vegetables, fruits, beans, enriched grain products, wheat germ and some fortified cereals.
Vitamin B12 works with folate to make red blood cells. Too little vitamin B12 can also lead to anemia, and in some older adults, is linked to neurological problems. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy foods are all good sources.
Zinc, from foods such as meat, seafood, whole grains and milk, helps the body fight infections and repair body tissue.
Fluid intake
Older adults need plenty of fluids: eight to 12 glasses a day. Food provides some water, but drinking at least eight glasses daily is advised.
Eating plans and activity levels are different for each person. To develop a plan that’s right for you, contact a registered dietitian.