In our article entitled What Should Good Nutrition Mean to You? we looked at the concept of healthy eating and how you can implement these principles. As we get older, our bodies change fundamentally. We become more susceptible to diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis. In addition, our energy requirements diminish. So, you may be wondering what foods older adults should be eating? Read on to find out!
How much energy does an older adult need?
In 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture issued the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – Key Recommendations for Older Adults. This document describes how you should calculate how much energy an older adult should be taking in on a daily basis:
- Daily, adult men – over the age of 18 years – should be consuming 3 067 kcal/day.
- The figure for women in the same age bracket is 2 403 kcal/day.
The report suggests that when people reach 19, 10 kcal/day for men and 7 kcal/day for women is taken away. The Recommend Daily Intake (RDI) reduces by this amount every year.
What should the diet of an older adult look like?
The same report makes a number of recommendations in terms of dietary recommendations for older adults.
Limit sodium intake
Older adults should limit their intake of sodium – in other words, salt. This is because it increases blood pressure and a high blood pressure level could result in a heart attack. It is especially important for older adults to reduce their salt intake because, as a group, they are at an increased risk of high blood pressure.
Watch the types of fats you eat
For years, ‘fats’ was almost considered a swear word. We banished all fats from our diets – the bad ones as well as the good ones.
As we know, a higher intake of bad fats puts us at a higher risk of diseases such as coronary heart disease and the like. Good fats – such as those found in avocados and nuts – have been found to have benefits in reducing the harmful effects that bad cholesterol has on us.
As older adults are at an increased risk of coronary heart disease – approximately 4 out of 5 people who die of this disease are over 65 – older adults need to take extra precautions in terms of limiting their intake of bad fats.
Wholegrains are better than refined carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates – such as white rice and white flour – cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar and a quick drop after this. The result of this is that you are left feeling tired and hungry. Wholegrains – such as wholewheat bread – keep you blood sugar stable. This means that you feel energised for much longer and are left feeling fuller for longer.
As older adults have a decreased energy requirement, any excess calories that they take in will be stored as fat. As wholegrains keep you fuller for longer, it is a good idea for older adults to consume these as they will feel fuller for longer and will thus decrease their energy intake.
Don’t stop exercising
As we mentioned previously, as you age your risk of contracting diseases that affect your bones and joints increases. However, to prevent these diseases from occurring, you need to keep active during your older years.
If you’ve exercised regularly throughout your life, keep on doing this. But, most importantly, listen to your body. If you feel pain in a joint when you perform an exercise, stop it immediately. If you carry on with it, you risk doing permanent damage to your body.
Introduce low-impact exercises into your routine. For example, water aerobics is one such exercise modality. It gives a good workout as you’re working against the resistance of the water. However, it is kind on your joints.
Pilates is another great exercise type to do. It’s an isometric exercise and focuses on muscle groups while avoiding the joints.
If you’re unsure of what type of exercises are appropriate for older adults to do, we suggest that you consult a personal trainer who is skilled in training older adults. Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Exercise and Elderly Course is one such programme which trains personal trainers – and anyone who wants to learn how to train the elderly – in the best possible way to do this. For more information and to register, follow this link.