For the elderly, the benefits of eating healthy include higher energy levels and a better immune system, but many don’t realize that as individuals age, their nutrition needs change, too.
“Factors like the amount of calories, nutrients and drug interactions with food need to be considered for older adults,” says Dennis Lemanski, D.O. primary care physician and chief medical officer at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.
Dr. Lemanski offers some important nutrition tips for the aging population:
- At least 55 percent of total calories should come from complex carbohydrates like grains and cereals to maintain a healthy blood sugar level and improve vitamin absorption.
- Protein in the form of lean meats, eggs, fish, dried peas and beans and nuts prevents muscle loss and keeps the immune system healthy.
- Calcium and vitamin D are essential to battling bone density loss. These nutrients are found in dairy products and dark green vegetables.
- Drinking enough water is especially important for elderly individuals. Elderly adults tend to have a lower water content of the body than average which increases the risk for dehydration.
- It is important to be aware that medications may interact with food differently, causing a range of side effects as well as impaired absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Older adults tend to require fewer calories due to less physical activity and energy expenditures although a family doctor or nutritionist should be seen for any special considerations such as specific energy needs, a particular deficiency or questions about medication interactions with the diet.