You are what you eat: Better diet, better health for seniors
Updated: May 16
At Desert Haven Home Care and Apollo Residential Assisted Living, we understand the importance of healthy eating during all stages of life. As we strive to make the best quality of life possible for all our residents, we know that a healthy diet is a cornerstone of general wellness. We are delighted to share with you the information below about the role a healthy diet plays in supporting a long and rewarding life.
Importance of diet for the health of older adults/seniors
Consuming a well-balanced diet is an essential part of living a healthy and prosperous life. In particular, maintaining a proper diet becomes more critical as you age. Aging is a natural process that weakens your bones, muscles and overall body functioning. With aging, your immune system weakens, and your body becomes more prone to chronic diseases.
Aging cannot be controlled; however, you can improve your overall health by improving the quality of your diet. As you age, adjustments to your diet are important to maintain a healthy weight, stay energized, provide the nutrients your body needs and to lower the risk of chronic diseases.
Why do you need to improve your diet as you age?
With the aging process, your body needs enough calories and nutrients to maintain healthy organs, muscles and bones. Malnutrition and other health consequences are the results of a diet lacking in the proper nutrients and calories.
As you age, you must add healthy and nutritious foods to your daily routine, consuming foods that are rich in vitamins, fiber, minerals and other essential nutrients. These nutrient-rich foods will help you avoid the risk of chronic diseases as you age.
A healthy choice is to limit the foods that are high in processed sugars, salts and saturated trans-fats.
How do your eating habits change as you age?
As you age, your nutritional needs change, which means it is necessary to change your eating habits to ensure you stay healthy and avoid health complications.
The following is a general explanation of how your eating habits change as you age.
· You need fewer calories
As you age, your calorie requirements reduce, and you will need fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. Consuming more calories than you burn results in weight gain. As a natural result of the aging process, you'll experience more muscle and joint problems, which will make it more difficult for you to participate in physical activities – and burn calories – as you once did. You must reduce your intake of calories so you can burn them more easily.
In addition, your metabolism slows as you age, which reduces the number of calories your body requires.
· With aging, you experience a loss of appetite
Most people experience a loss of appetite as they age. Additionally, it is common for some people to lose their sense of taste and smell, adding to loss of appetite.
· Health complications
With the aging process, you become more susceptible to severe health complications such as cardiovascular issues, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The best way to successfully address these complications is to improve the quality of the foods in your diet.
For example, eating nutrient-rich foods low in calories helps fight issues relating to high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol.
· Medications cause you to change your diet as you age
Aging adults rely on medications to manage chronic health complications. These medications play a crucial role in reshaping your diet. Many medications affect your appetite, as many interact with the food you consume.
With the above in mind, your doctor may advise you to skip certain types of foods while taking specific medications because a combination of both might bring unwelcome results. For example, people taking warfarin – a medication used to treat blood clots – must avoid consuming grapefruit because it decreases the body's ability to metabolize the drug.
If you are taking certain medications, it is critical you consult your doctor to determine which foods, if any, you must avoid to protect against complications of any current health conditions you may be experiencing.
· Your immune system weakens
As you age, your immune system weakens, which results in an increased risk of illness, especially through food poisoning. Proper food safety techniques are essential in maintaining your health. Consuming foods that will help to strengthen your immune system is one more important precaution you can take.
How can you improve your diet as you age?
Nutritional needs for each individual are different, and depend on certain lifestyle factors. Below are some tips to improve your diet as your body ages.
· Eat nutrient-rich foods
With the aging process, your nutrient needs generally increase. The best way to fulfill these needs is by adding nutrient-rich foods to your daily routine. These nutrient-rich foods contain important quantities of minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats your body requires to maintain the best-possible level of health.
These foods are nutrient-rich:
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Nuts and seeds
Beans and lentils
You must also limit your consumption of processed foods, which include canned vegetables, sweetened beverages, junk food and sugary treats.
· Consume enough fiber
Fiber is necessary to ensure the health of your digestive system. Fiber-rich foods play a vital role in avoiding constipation. Also, soluble fiber is an important ingredient to maintain proper cholesterol levels.
Some of the best fiber sources are:
Fresh fruits and vegetables
Beans and lentils
· Drink enough water
Staying hydrated is critically important for all of us; it especially so during the aging process. As you age, you may experience difficulty recognizing your own thirst. Ensure that you are drinking an adequate amount of water daily. Develop a habit of drinking eight glasses (64 ounces total) of water daily. Additionally, there are health benefits associated with the consumption of fresh juices, tea, soups and other water-based fruits and vegetables.
What are the benefits of healthy eating as you age?
Below are just a few of the benefits associated with eating healthy and nutritious foods as you age.
· Controlling blood sugar levels
Elevated blood sugar levels can cause serious health complications and increase the risk of injuries. Healthy eating is strongly linked to managing diabetes. The CDC reports that 25 percent of people 65 and older are diabetic, and even for those who are not, maintaining blood sugar levels is important.
The best way to maintain proper blood sugar levels is to be certain you are eating healthy and consuming foods that help control and even reduce sugar intake.
· Strengthening the immune system
Another considerable benefit of improving the quality of your diet is that it helps strengthen the immune system as you age. Your immune system weakens with age, making you more prone to chronic diseases.
Adding nutritious fruits to your daily routine can help in strengthening the immune system. For example, most fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants that help fight against the free radicals – those molecules that build up in cells and cause damage to other molecules, such as DNA, lipids and proteins. These free radicals can pose serious harm to the body. Focus on adding nutrient-rich foods in your daily diet to strengthen your immune system and avoid the risk of severe health complications.
· Improving cardiovascular health
Consuming healthy foods significantly improves the health of your heart. It does so by reducing hypertension and lowering bad cholesterol levels (LDL) in your body. When your heart stays fit, all other body parts and organs function more efficiently. Ensure the efficient working of your heart by introducing to your diet foods good for your heart's health.
· Making you feel better
Healthy eating has a positive effect on your overall health and makes you feel better. It boosts your mood and self-esteem. These factors make you feel energetic and motivated throughout your life.
· Helping you maintain a healthy weight
Undoubtedly, obesity is the leading cause of many health complications. Seniors often experience issues due to being overweight. Skipping meals, eating unhealthy foods and lack of physical activity lead to weight gain.
That's why adding nutritious foods to your daily diet is necessary. These foods play a vital role in maintaining a proper weight and minimizing the risk of chronic diseases.
Nutrition and healthy eating have a significant impact on the overall health and physical fitness of older adults. Most seniors underestimate the importance of healthy eating and fail to cope with the changes in their bodies as they age. As a result, seniors are prone to chronic diseases that negatively impact their overall health.
If you are committed to improving your overall health and well-being, you must include a healthy diet in your game plan, especially as you advance in age. Adding nutrient-rich foods to your daily diet has numerous health benefits, including:
Managing weight loss
Reducing bad cholesterol levels
Improving cardiovascular health
Making you feel stronger and healthier
Strengthening immune system
Enhancing mental focus
Controlling blood sugar levels
And much more. As an older adult, it is important you consider adding nutritious foods to your daily diet to enjoy all the perks of life. After all, don’t you deserve the rewards of a life well-lived?
About the Authors
Dr. Christopher Zambakari, BS, MBA, MIS, LP.D.
Dr. Zambakari is the owner and operator of Desert Haven Home Care in Phoenix and Apollo Assisted Living in Glendale. He provides direction and oversight to ensure Care Facilities provide the highest levels of customized care, administered by respectful licensed medical and caregiving professionals.
Nathalia Zambakari, Board Certified AGACNP-BC
Nathalia is a board-certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner and a licensed medical professional responsible for short-term care patients suffering from severe conditions. As part of our care team, Nathalia reviews the medical records of incoming residents, helping us to manage patient regimens and performing caregiver education to assure that we are providing the best care possible for our residents.
The material presented on this blog does not constitute medical advice. We encourage you to consult your primary care physician (PCP). The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your personal physician for specific medical advice. If you or your loved one is considering the benefits of quality assisted living, please contact us at 602-670-9326, or email us at email@example.com.