Malnutrition, is a serious threat to the health of your elders and should not be ignored. It refers to the condition, when our body is not getting the adequate amount of nutrition that it requires. As we age, our calorie requirement declines, but our protein, vitamin, and mineral requirement goes up. A well-balanced nutritional diet, is essential for the normal well-being, and longevity of an individual. This becomes especially important while ageing. Unfortunately, there is a lack of awareness in our society about the nutrition, our beloved elderly require. So, come on let’s take a step forward, and learn about the signs of malnutrition in the elderly, and how to treat them.
Signs & Symptoms of Malnutrition in Elderly:
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Wounds take a long time to heal
- Always feeling tired and irritated
- Always feeling too cold
- High risk of complications after surgery
Nutritional Boosters for the Elderly:
As our bodies grow, their nutritional needs change too. Nutrition is especially important to keep the body, mind, and soul at peace. It can only happen, if we eat right. Our beloved elders, require more love, care and attention from us. So let’s learn together about ‘5 nutritional must-haves’ in a well-balanced diet, for older adults.
As we age, our bone mass decreases, and this is especially seen in women. The loss of bone mass, and density with age, may be due to reduced levels of certain hormones in women, or due to lack of calcium in the diet. This condition is commonly known as osteoporosis. Calcium, also plays a major role in maintaining a regular heartbeat, nerve signaling and muscle health. So, if any of your elderly family member, is suffering from arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, bone pain or loss of muscle mass, please get their blood calcium levels tested.
Sources of Calcium
- Dairy products such as milk and cheese.
- Seeds such as chia seeds, poppy seeds and celery seeds, are a storehouse of calcium. So, whip up a tasty glass of lemonade and add chia seeds to it. Your grandma or grandpa will indubitably love it!
- Sardines and canned salmon have edible bones. This is the reason, why these fish are loaded with calcium.
- For vegetarians, try to include beans, lentils, tofu and soya bean. These foods contain 20 essential micronutrients, minerals and are rife with calcium. You’d be surprised to know that, beans are one of the reasons why plant-rich diet is hailed as a super healthy one!
- Almonds are not only your brain’s best friends, but are also enriched with Calcium. They’re also loaded with vitamin E, manganese and magnesium, and can help lower blood pressure too.
- Dark and leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli are rich in calcium. About 190g of collared greens every day, can fulfill 25% of your daily calcium requirement.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency, is extremely common in senior citizens. Adults between 19-70 years of age require 600IU, and 70 years above require 800IU of vitamin D every day. Its deficiency can develop due to, inadequate dietary intake, less exposure to the sun, malabsorption in the intestine or reduced skin thickness.
Vitamin D is an essential mineral requirement in the elderly due to the following reasons:
- Reduces the risk of heart diseases, cancer and even diabetes.
- Maintains the bone health, and reduces the risk of osteoporosis (reduction in bone mass, and density.)
- Helps maintain physical mobility in individuals
- Also helps prevent frequent fractures.
- Fish such as Herring, sardines and salmon are packed with vitamin D. Smoke them or serve them raw, they taste absolutely delicious!
- Cod liver oil, is another ingredient that is an excellent source of vitamin D. It is also, a fantastic source of vitamin A. Surprisingly, cod liver oil has been used for ages in the world to combat vitamin, and vitamin A deficiencies.
- Egg yolks, can be a great source of nutrition for people who don’t prefer eating seafood. They’re enriched with vitamin D, and several other essential nutrients. An egg salad sounds great now, doesn’t it?
- You’d be amazed to know, that mushrooms are the only good plant sources of vitamin D. They’re such a versatile food item, that you can include it in any of your favorite dishes!
- Lastly, don’t forget to soak up in the sun. It plays a major role in the synthesis of vitamin D in your body.
3. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, forms one of the most important aspects in a healthy balanced diet for older adults. This vitamin is also known as, ‘cobalamin.’ It is essential to form DNA, healthy red blood cells and is important for healthy functioning of nerve cells. Vitamin B12 is not toxic even at high levels in the blood. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about your loved ones getting too much of it. The daily requirement of vitamin B12 is, 2.4g on an average. If your loved one is showing symptoms, such as cognitive dysfunction, memory problems, fatigue or anemia, it’s best to get their vitamin B12 levels tested. Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is not found in plant rich diet. Hence, you have to resort to non-vegetarian food items, or vitamin B12 supplements for your daily requirement.
- Clams, are a kind of chewy shellfish, that are enriched with vitamin B12. They’re also a rich source of iron and antioxidants. This prevents anemia, and free radical damage to your body cells.
- Sardines, are indubitably nutritional wonders. Not only are they a rich source of calcium and vitamin D, but also are packed with vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. This fish is especially recommended to patients suffering from heart disorders.
- Eggs, are an exceptional complete protein source, and are rich in vitamin B2 and vitamin B12. However, research has shown that egg yolks have a higher concentration of vitamin B12 than the whites, and are also easier to absorb. So, my friends, always go for the yellow!
- Salmon, is another fish that is renowned for having one of the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, and is also enriched with vitamin B12. It also has a high protein, and fat content.
4. Dietary Fibers
Dietary fibers, also form an essential component of a well-balanced diet in older individuals. Fibers, can be your body’s armor for fighting various heart diseases. High fiber foods help lower cholesterol, and also reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as colorectal cancer. The daily requirement of dietary fiber is, 25g in women and 38g in men. Want to know how to include dietary fibers in your routine? Read on.
- Pears and strawberries are incredibly delicious foods, and are enriched with dietary fibers. Including them in your everyday diet will help you keep digestive problems at bay.
- Avocado is one fruit which is in a different league altogether! Unlike most fruits, it is low in carbs and is rich in healthy fats. It is also loaded with potassium, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium and vitamin B.
- Nothing, is more satisfying than eating a juicy, crunchy red apple. This tasty fruit contains, 2.4g of fiber in every 100g of food. It goes without saying, that an apple a day, keeps the doctor away!
- Carrot, is a root vegetable that is extremely nutritious and delicious. Its rich in vitamin K, antioxidants, vitamin B6, magnesium, beta-carotene and fiber.
- Other food items such as lentils, kidney beans and artichoke are also rife with dietary fiber.
Potassium, is one such mineral which is essential for nearly every tissue of our body. It helps conduct electrical impulses in our body. Fascinating right? We need potassium for regular heart rate, muscle contraction, nerve function, brain function and energy. Unfortunately, potassium is not produced in our body, and we have to maintain its levels via our diet.
- When we talk about a high potassium diet, bananas are probably the first thing that comes to our mind. And rightly so! A medium sized banana, contains approximately 422g of potassium. It’s known as the ‘Potassium king’ of fruits.
- Avocados are not only a food trend, but are also packed with nutrition. If you eat one whole avocado, you’ll fulfill 20% of your daily potassium requirement.
- Sweet potatoes are great to taste, and are also good for your body. A medium sized potato, can fulfill 12% of your daily potassium requirement. They’re also a great source of dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals.
- Nothing tastes better a cool, juicy watermelon on a hot summer day! This delicious fruit, is enriched with potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. And fun fact, 2 watermelon wedges contain only 172 calories!
Our elders are our responsibility and we must act like it. Treat them with love, take care of them and spend time with them. And their blessings will last with you forever!