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Nutrition and Aging
Mar 21, 2018
It’s National Nutrition Month so we thought it would be a good time to chat about nutrition and aging. As we age, our body goes through a host of changes. Some may be more gradual than others and are influenced by various factors such as life events, illness, genetic traits and socioeconomic factors. Many of these changes effect our relationship with food, and the need for a well-balanced diet to stay healthy becomes increasingly important.
What changes are experienced as we age?
Sensory changes. As we age, many of us experience sensory changes such as a decline in vision, hearing, smell and taste. Often times, these changes can affect our nutritional intake and overall health. A loss in sight can affect our ability to read labels, operate kitchen equipment and our ability to grocery shop. When we experience changes in smell and taste, our food preferences change and it’s likely that we’ll eat less overall
Metabolism changes. As people age, lean body mass is lost. Our metabolic rate declines as we lose total protein tissue. Simultaneously, our total body fat tends to increase with age. The excess fat tends to linger around our mid-section and deposits around the vital organs. In the more advanced stages of aging, weight often declines. This can also be particularly harmful if one experiences injury or illness. With a lower reserve of fat, it’s much harder to bounce back
Bone density changes. Bone density is lost as we age. Menopause can accelerate the loss of bone density and can cause osteoporosis
Digestion changes. Perhaps the most direct affect on your nutrition is the slowing of the normal action of the digestive tract. Digestive secretions can lessen with age, and older adults are much more likely to experience constipation. Our ability to generate new protein tissue lessens due to changes in the kidneys, lungs and liver. Our immune system’s response to disease can slow as well
All these changes can sound very overwhelming, but as mentioned before, many are gradual and happen over time. It’s important to be aware of the changes your body is going through and be proactive about making healthy choices so that you can be your healthiest self. How might you go about coping with the changes we experience as we age?
If food no longer smells or tastes good, we’re much less likely to eat it. Try adding seasonings like lemon juice, pepper and fresh or dried herbs. Focus on using low sodium seasonings. Add variety to your meals by choosing foods with different textures and colors. Stick to buying produce that’s in season as it will have the best flavor. Eating smaller meals throughout the day is more beneficial as it can help increase appetite and stimulate the senses
If you have osteoporosis, exercise is incredibly important. Sign up for yoga or group fitness classes (such as training sessions at Fitness Together)! Make sure to eat a diet that is high in calcium. Supplements may be needed if calcium and Vitamin D are not enough through diet alone
Constipation can increase as we decrease our fluid and fiber intake. Make sure to focus on drinking 8+ cups of water a day and eat foods high in fiber such as fruits, veggies and whole grains
Choose more nutrient-dense foods and less processed foods that contain higher calories and less nutrients. As we age, it’s even more important that our diet contains enough calcium, fiber, iron, protein and vitamins A, B12, C, D and Folacin. Fat, sugar and sodium intake should decrease. Make sure to vary protein sources and try different preparation methods to get variety in your diet
Did you know that Fitness Together has a nutrition plan? If not, you can learn more about it here: https://fitnesstogether.com/nutrition
It’s certainly not easy getting older, but taking proactive steps to live a healthier lifestyle will give you a better chance to enjoy life at any age!