Why Nutrition is Important for Seniors

July 22, 2021

It’s no secret: Having a healthy diet is one of the most important choices you can make for yourself on a day-to-day basis. That’s because whether you’re 25 or 65, balanced nutrition is a key difference between good health and…well, not so good health.

Responsible for everything from blood flow to physical strength, to even some diseases, the types of nutrients you give to your body each week can change the way you feel when that alarm clock goes off in the morning. And that’s true no matter how old you may be.

But with so many different aspects of health to think about, it’s hard to know where to start. So we’re here to give you some tips for senior nutrition, and provide a little more clarity around what it means when they say, “You are what you eat.”

Why Do Seniors Need to Pay More Attention to Their Diets?

It’s easy to become a little mindless about what you’re eating and when – the habits that we’ve built around food are part of who we are, and have probably been with us for decades. Most of us still eat staple foods from our childhood, and even pass those habits on to our kids and grandchildren.

But because our diets are so habitually driven, they can become a problem if not properly monitored. As of last year, a white paper written by the American Society for Nutrition reported that about 50% of Americans have a poor diet.

It’s not just a matter of eating more fruits and veggies, either. As we age, our nutritional needs do too. Some of the biggest differences for older adults to note:

  • Calorie Intake: You probably need less. The natural decline in our mobility and energy leads to less activity overall, meaning less opportunity to burn calories. When you eat more calories than you burn, you’re more prone to putting on additional weight, which can lead to obesity.
  • Immune System: It becomes weaker with time. You’re likely more prone to food poisoning, as well as other medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. It’s not uncommon to grow sensitive towards food groups such as dairy products, spices, fish, and more.
  • Medicine: Certain types of medications can affect how you eat. Some medications can cause you to lose your appetite, which, if gone unchecked, can lead to a lack of calories and nutrients in your body. Others can lead to a change in taste, which may deter you from eating particular foods. It’s a good idea to consult with your doctor anytime you’re given a new daily form of medicine.

How Can a Proper Diet Benefit Seniors?

While a healthy diet can benefit anyone, it’s important to note just how effective a change in nutrition can be to your overall well-being. More than just cutting out excess sugars and fats, it’s about giving your body the right amount of vitamins, carbohydrates, and nutrients necessary to go about your day.

We all know a proper diet can lead to more physical energy and strength, but there are even more nutritional benefits to eating better, including:

  • A Stronger Immune System: All those nutrients we’ve been talking about? They’re doing more than just giving you energy to be active – they’re giving your body the energy it needs to fight off infections and disease. Things like antioxidants, calcium, and magnesium that we get from vegetables and dairy products lead to a stronger body, both inside and out.
  • Better Brain Function: When you’re hungry, you’re tired. The same applies to your body when it has a lack of nutrients. Having a lack of hydration or healthy fats and sugars can lead to sluggish thinking. Be sure to include plenty of nuts, seeds, beans, and healthy protein choices like salmon or chicken.
  • Healthier Digestion: Do your part to protect your stomach. Your digestive system is responsible for breaking down all the food you eat and extracting the nutrients it needs to keep you strong. There’s a long list of chronic diseases and illnesses that start in the digestive tract, often as a result of poor food choices. Even something as simple as eating too quickly or skipping meals can lead to digestive issues.

The formula is a little different for everybody, but the gist is the same: find out yours, and stick to it. Schedule a visit with your doctor or a nutritionist and find out what types of foods you should be focusing on to get the best mix of vitamins and minerals for you.

How Can I Maintain Healthier Eating Habits?

As mentioned earlier, the way we eat is incredibly habitual. But while we may have set those habits for ourselves unintentionally, it’s never too late to make a change.

It may not be easy, but it’s worth taking care of your body – especially as you age. Here are some ways to make having a better diet feel a little more simple:

  • Create A Schedule: Keep tabs on when you’re eating and how much. It may feel weird at first, but your body is designed to live in a routine. By setting new eating habits, you’ll have stronger control of your appetite and build a new, better standard for yourself.
  • Set Goals for Yourself: Start a checklist or download an app. After talking to your doctor or nutritionist about what a balanced diet looks like for you, make sure to follow through. Checking off completed doses of vitamins or nutrients you want to target can be rewarding!
  • Be Physically Active: It sounds like the most obvious, but getting physical activity in your daily schedule is an easy way to keep your body healthy and in shape. It’s also an easy way to jumpstart your appetite.
  • Experiment with Flavors: Don’t be scared to try something new. Adding new herbs and sauces to your favorite dishes (or ones you may have never had before) is an exciting way to switch up your diet.
  • Eat Socially (When Possible): It doesn’t have to feel like a chore. By meeting with friends and family for meals, you make it less about the food and more about spending quality time with someone. It could be as simple as asking a neighbor or sibling to cook together once a week.

Take It One Step At A Time

No matter how you choose to approach it, your diet is a fundamental piece of your overall well-being and deserves your attention. Having balanced nutrition as a senior can be the difference between a carefree lifestyle and one that requires around-the-clock care.

Living somewhere that prioritizes your health as you age should be one of the most important aspects of your retirement decision. If you don’t know where to start, consider talking to a Life Plan community like eliseo™, located in Tacoma, Washington. You can start a conversation with us by contacting us online or by calling 253-319-3947 to speak with a member of our team.