Older Adults & Senior Nutrition
Overall, healthy nutrition is important during every stage of your life, from infancy and adolescents, to the wise age of seniors. Nutrition plays a vital role in protecting the organs and bones and aiding in longevity. For seniors, nutrition and exercise is key to maintaining energy levels so they can continue to live an active lifestyle enjoying the things that they want to do.
According to the CDC Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 74.3% of seniors aged 65 and older reported that their health is “good”, “very good”, or “excellent”. ("Healthy Aging Data: Explore by Indicator | DPH | CDC", 2017) Unfortunately, even though these seniors reported that they feel their health is overall good, many of them are not receiving adequate nutrition for their age and lifestyle requirements. Dorene Petersen, president of the American College of Healthcare Sciences, states that many seniors are not consuming enough calories or are eating too many. Also, that when it comes to calcium intake, four percent of women and thirteen percent of men over the age of 60 are meeting this requirement. (Petersen, 2016) Many seniors are eating less food or are eating foods that are not nutrient dense. Due to their decrease in energy, seniors are struggling to meet their caloric budget for the day when sticking with the number of food groups that are recommended.
Senior women who are over the age of 50 should be consuming 1,600 calories per day if her activity level is low, 1,800 calories for a moderately active lifestyle, and 2,000-2,200 calories if she is leading an active lifestyle. For a male over the age of 50, he should be consuming 2,000 calories for a low activity level, 2,200 to 2,400 calories if he has a moderately active lifestyle and 2,400 to 2,800 calories if he has a consistent active lifestyle. (Petersen, 2016) As people start to age and reach the age group of 50 and older, it is important to eat smaller portions of food but to make sure that those small portions are full of the nutrients that their bodies require. These portion sizes are also great in aiding the digestive process. Below you will find the Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and from the Department of Health and Human Services which is found in our NAT 308 Holistic Nutrition text book. (Petersen, 2016)
Fruits: 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups
Vegetables: 2 to 3 ½ cups
Grains: 5 to 10 ounces
Meat/Beans: 5 to 7 ounces
Milk: 3 cups of fat-free
At every age, I feel it is important to choose organic whole foods compared to choosing highly processed or pesticide contaminated foods. Food choices that are processed and packed with sugars such as cakes, cookies, and chips are not providing adequate nutrients that are required. Many processed foods are high in sodium and for seniors it is recommended that you do not go over 1,500 milligrams of sodium. (Petersen, 2016) Fiber intake is also an important role for senior’s health as to keep their bowel movements regular with minimal strain. Some examples of foods that are a good source of fiber would be raspberries, collard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, broccoli, spinach, and a variety of beans. (Mateljan, 2015) Another recommendation for optimal digestion is to take enzymes with meals. These digestive enzymes can be found in pineapple and papayas. (Petersen, 2016) Some examples of herbs that could be used in the preparation of teas would be peppermint (mentha piperita), chamomile (M. recutita or C. nobile), and also fennel (F. vulgare). Drinking a nice warm cup of tea with one or more of these herbs can help the digestive process to avoid gas and bloating. (Petersen, 2016) Another way to help the digestive tract would be to eat smaller meals more frequently. Instead of breakfast, lunch, and dinner being the only meals of the day (sans any snacks), I would recommend at least five small meals throughout the day. The portion sizes would be smaller and with having more meals during the day, I feel it would be easier for them to meet their caloric needs for the day. To help further the aiding of the digestive system, I would like to see more seniors being active. Not crazy intense work outs, but joining some small fitness groups for their age group. Yoga and tai chi can be very beneficial to anybody, but especially for senior citizens as it is low impact and slow movements with minimal strain on the joints and ligaments. This practice can not only increase their range of mobility, but can also bring them more awareness to their movements which could help to prevent falls. (Balmaseda, 2005)
One topic that I find extremely important when it comes to the senior ages and nutrition is the importance of calcium. A lack of calcium in the body causes a disease called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a very common but serious bone disease where the lack of calcium causes the bones to lose collagenous fibers and the calcified matrix. It is more common in elderly white females than males. The decrease in sex hormones in the elderly is also a contributing factor in osteoporosis due to the lack of osteoblast activity. Symptoms of osteoporosis include spontaneous fractures, bone degeneration, and pathological curvature of the spine. (Patton, & Thibodeau, 2016) In the Winter 2011 issue of NIH Medline Plus, they recommend that seniors in general between the ages of 51 and 70 get 1,000mg per day of calcium and 600mg per day of vitamin D. For females between the ages of 51 to 70, it recommends 1,200mg of calcium and 600mg of vitamin D. For seniors over the age of 71, they recommend 1,200mg of calcium and 800mg of vitamin D. ("New Recommended Daily Amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D | NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine", 2011) Vitamin D is required for the absorption of the calcium mineral. The best source of vitamin D is natural sunlight but for seniors who are not able to get outside enough, it is recommended to use a supplement. Some great sources of calcium would be tofu, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, beet greens, and yogurt. (Mateljan, 2015) In the book Herbal Teas 101 Nourishing Blends for Daily Health & Vitality, there is a wonderful herbal tea recipe called “Gail’s High-Calcium Tea” which I would recommend that seniors try to use at least once a day. The book states that this blend of herbs improves calcium levels, helps women avoid osteoporosis, helps heal broken bones, and also can improve teeth and gum health. (Brown, 2000)
Gail’s High-Calcium Tea
2 parts red raspberry leaves
2 parts red clover blossoms
2 parts nettle leaves
1 part lemon balm leaves
1 part peppermint leaves
1 part spearmint leaves
½ part calendula flowers
½ part lemon verbena leaves
½ part rose petals.
Combine all herbs in a pot. Cover with boiling water, stir well, cover and steep 10 to 20 minutes. (Brown, 2000)
As you can see, healthy and nutritional choices are a factor for every stage of life. Throughout our lifetime, our dietary needs will change based on our age and activity levels. Making sure to check in with ourselves is important so we can make the adjustments when we need to as to make sure we are getting adequate amounts of vital nutrients. Eating well and getting enough movement during the day can help us all live a long and healthy life and avoid certain health problems.
Brown, K. (2000). Herbal teas (1st ed., p. 85). Pownal, Vt.: Storey.
Healthy Aging Data: Explore by Indicator | DPH | CDC. (2017). Nccd.cdc.gov. Retrieved 14 April 2017, from https://nccd.cdc.gov/aging_data/rdPage.aspx?rdReport=DPH_HAP.ExploreByTopic&isl Class=C01&islYear=2014
Mateljan, G. (2015). The world's healthiest foods (1st ed., p. 950).
New Recommended Daily Amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D | NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine. (2011). Medlineplus.gov. Retrieved 14 April 2017, from https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/winter11/articles/winter11pg12.html
Patton, K., & Thibodeau, G. (2016). Structure & function of the body (1st ed., p. 129). St. Louis, Missouri: Elsevier.
Petersen, D. (2016). NAT 308 Holistic Nutrition (1st ed., pp. 468-471). Portland: American College of Healthcare Sciences.
Balmaseda, L. (2005). Physical and Mental Benefits of Tai Chi and Yoga — AARP VIV... - AARP. AARP. Retrieved 16 April 2017, from http://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info- 2005/tai_chi_and_yoga.html