During the past few weeks I have been writing about food storage, best before dates and expiry dates and I am sure I had everyone scrambling to clean their refrigerators and cupboards. Today I am going to review food and nutrition for seniors on a broader scale, particularly with reference to the issue of malnutrition and the fact that 40 percent of Canadian seniors do not get enough calories and protein on a daily basis.
As people age they lose body mass (namely muscles) and consequently caloric requirements decline while vitamin and mineral requirements remain the same or even increase. Foods consumed by seniors need to be energy dense so that every bite is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Many seniors fail to recognize this and put themselves at risk for malnutrition. Seniors who are at most risk for malnutrition are those who live alone, are over 70 years of age, are housebound, have a poor appetite, are on a tight budget, drink more than 6 cups of coffee or tea per day, or fail to eat foods from all four food groups.
Seniors can improve and maintain their health by concentrating on getting enough key vitamins and minerals. Some prime examples are:
• Vitamin B12 absorption lessens with age due to changes in the stomach. Vitamin B12 is typically found in meat, fish, eggs, Swiss cheese, and milk
• Increased vitamin D is needed as people age because the skin produces less, and sun exposure usually declines, particularly in the winter months. Vitamin D is found in sardines, salmon, herring, margarine, and milk.
• Calcium is needed to keep bones strong and prevent osteoporosis. It is naturally found in most dairy products, green leafy vegetables, canned salmon, and tofu. Check labels for cereal and juices that are fortified with calcium.
• Zinc is a mineral that can keep the immune system working. It is found in oysters, turkey, lima beans, bran cereal, nuts, milk, and red meat.
Some suggestions for enhancing the nutrients in your food without investing a great deal of time and energy are:
• Hot cereals – add some dried fruit and nuts for variety
• Sweet potatoes mixed with regular potatoes
• Soups made with milk – grate some cheese on top as well
• Yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit
• Eggs prepared any way
• Canned tuna or salmon added to pasta or salads
• Grate some cheese on vegetables
Some other aspects to consider with respect to eating “well” is to ensure that your teeth are well cared for or that your dentures are properly fitted. It has been shown that poor chewing is the basis of much malnutrition amongst seniors. Remain active and avoid having other people do things for you. Continue to use your brain and your body – it will help you stay younger longer. Maintain a positive outlook. Try to avoid fats, sugars and refined foods. If you are suffering from pain seek the advice of a health practitioner as pain, besides being a warning sign, is extremely debilitating and the cause of a host of other health problems. Allow yourself the odd treat – you deserve it!
A final thought for the day… “Overweight is something that just sort of snacks up on you”.