How Your Nutritional Needs Change as You Age
Eating healthy becomes especially important as you age.
That’s because ageing is linked to a variety of changes, including nutrient deficiencies, decreased quality of life and poor health outcomes.
Luckily, there are things you can do to help prevent deficiencies and other age-related changes. For example, eating nutrient-rich foods and taking the appropriate supplements can help keep you healthy as you age.
This article explains how your nutritional needs change as you age, including how to address them.
How Does Aging Affect Your Nutritional Needs?
Ageing is linked to a variety of changes in the body, including muscle loss, thinner skin and less stomach acid.
Some of these changes can make you prone to nutrient deficiencies, while others can affect your senses and quality of life.
For example, studies have estimated that 20% of elderly people have atrophic gastritis, a condition in which chronic inflammation has damaged the cells that produce stomach acid.
Low stomach acid can affect the absorption of nutrients, such as vitamin B12, calcium, iron and magnesium.
Another challenge of ageing is a reduced need for calories. Unfortunately, this creates a nutritional dilemma. Older adults need to get just as much, if not more, of some nutrients, all while eating fewer calories.
Fortunately, eating a variety of whole foods and taking a supplement can help you meet your nutrient needs.
Another issue people may experience as they age is a reduction in their body’s ability to recognize vital senses like hunger and thirst
This could make you prone to dehydration and unintentional weight loss. And the older you get, the harsher these consequences may be
Ageing is linked to muscle loss, thinner skin and reduced stomach acid.
Your ability to recognize hunger and thirst may also be reduced as you age.
Needing Fewer Calories, but More Nutrients.
A person’s daily calorie needs depend on their height, weight, muscle mass, activity level and several other factors.
Older adults may need fewer calories to maintain their weight, since they tend to move and exercise less and carry less muscle
If you continue to eat the same number of calories per day as you did when you were younger, you could easily gain extra fat, especially around the belly area
This is especially true in postmenopausal women, as the decline in estrogen levels seen during this time may promote belly fat storage
However, even though older adults need fewer calories, they need just as high or even higher levels of some nutrients, compared to younger people.
This makes it very important for older people to eat a variety of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meats. These healthy staples can help you fight nutrient deficiencies, without expanding your waistline.
Nutrients that become especially important as you age include protein, vitamin D, calcium and vitamin B12.
We should eat more wholegrain foods in general but as we age many of us do less activity and more relaxing so the better our eating habits the less chance of staking on those extra pounds of fat on the waist line that come from poor eating habits.
You Can Benefit From More Protein
It’s common to lose muscle and strength as you age.
In fact, the average adult loses 3–8% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30.
This loss of muscle mass and strength is known as sarcopenia.
It’s a major cause of weakness, fractures and poor health among the elderly
Eating more protein could help your body maintain muscle and fight sarcopenia.
One study followed 2,066 elderly people over three years. It found those who ate the most protein daily lost 40% less muscle mass than people who ate the least
You May Benefit From More Fibre
"Remember the saying, we are what we eat" - We Choose what we eat, so lets do it with some effort and understanding.
Constipation is a common health problem among the elderly.
It’s especially common in people over 65, and it’s two to three times more common in women.
You Need More Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most important nutrients for bone health.
You May Need More Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin also known as cobalamin.
It’s essential for making red blood cells and maintaining healthy brain function.
Unfortunately, studies estimate that 10–30% of people over age 50 have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12 from their diet.
We can get many to most of these nutrients and vitamins from a healthy well balanced diet, you'll find they can be obtained from a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meats.
As we age we are more pronte to dehydration, though at any age most of us do not get enough fluids, especially water.
Water makes up about 60% of your body. As you go up in years, not only does your body lose water, but your sense of thirst starts to fade.
That means it will take you longer to know when you're low on fluids.
Water is food for your health in lots of ways. It cushions your joints, helps control your body temperature, and affects your mood and how well you focus.
Make eight glasses of water each day your goal.
Diet isn't all we need to change as we age, we should ensure we always get enough sleep and make our days active, at least try to get a good 30 minutes of phyiscal activity be it walking, gym training, cycling, or swimming any of these would be ideal.