Adequately nourishing an older body is different and can be more challenging than it is for younger people. That’s because aging involves physical changes that can affect how the body uses nutrients.
While the underlying mechanism is not fully understood, age related changes reduce the amount of lean body mass (muscle) and increase fat mass in the body. 1 Fat tissue requires far fewer calories to maintain than muscle tissue does. This means the overall number of calories needed daily drops. Weight gain, particularly in the belly, may occur if intake isn’t adjusted.
On the other hand, some struggle with not eating enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 85% of all adults over 60 years of age are on at least 1 prescription medication. The majority of which are used to control a chronic condition such as high blood pressure. 2 Side effects of many of these medications, including reduced saliva production and appetite, constipation and nausea can interfere with good intake.
In both cases, reduced consumption means that to meet nutrition needs, increasing the nutrient density of meals is critical. Nutrient density simply means increasing the amount of nutrients in each bite of food. Changes you can make in your diet to increase nutrients include:
- Reducing the use of ultraprocessed foods which tend to be lower in overall nutrient content and higher in sodium. These are also sometimes referred to as “empty calories”.
- Cooking more at home. People who cook more of their meals at home tend to eat fewer calories, fat and sugar than those who don’t. 3 Eat Fresh is a website that features inexpensive, easy and nutrient dense recipes. Recipe servings can be scaled up or down in the site.
- Preserving muscle mass (as much as possible) is important for healthy aging. Physical activity and eating adequate protein are key to this. Including a lean protein source (lowfat meat, beans, lentils, tofu, lowfat dairy) with each meal will help.
- Including more fruits and vegetables in any form (fresh, frozen, canned) will increase the amount of fiber and micronutrients (vitamins/minerals) in the diet.
- Some nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D are needed in higher amounts among older people than their younger counterparts. Two to three servings of foods such as dairy, tofu, almonds can help with the calcium while some daily sun exposure will help with increasing vitamin D levels.
Arthritis & Exercise
People who have arthritis may find that exercise is very beneficial for relieving pain and joint stiffness. People with arthritis who exercise may find they experience less pain than those who do not exercise. As always, seek medical advice before beginning any new exercise program. There are many types of exercise that can be beneficial for someone with arthritis. Some of the best types are: stretching, walking, Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates, water exercise, cycling, or strength training.
A ½ cup of cooked asparagus is an
excellent source of folate and vitamin K
and a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and thiamin. A ½ cup of cooked asparagus is about six asparagus spears. Asparagus is also a source of vitamin E. This vitamin is an antioxidant that protects your body’s cells and helps keep your immune system, skin, and hair healthy.
Look for firm, bright green asparagus with tightly closed tips. Avoid limp spears.
Wrap the ends of asparagus spears in a damp paper towel. Put in a plastic bag. Keep in the refrigerator for up to three days.