How Nutritional Needs Change as You Age
As we age, we start noticing all the ways our bodies are changing. We may start slowing down, get “mystery” aches and pains, or experience strange new effects after eating things we’ve always eaten. In fact, according to food science researchers at Colorado State University Extension, as we age, our body undergoes several changes that affect our nutritional needs and our ability to meet them. These include:
- Sensory changes: Changes in our taste, smell, and other senses can affect our ability to enjoy food and might cause us to change our eating habits.
- Bone density (osteoporosis): All older adults, but women especially, lose density in their bones. Bone density loss increases the body’s need for vitamin D and calcium.
- Digestion: The digestion process may slow down, affecting the body’s use of nutrients.
What you can do
If you are experiencing changes in your sense of taste or smell, talk to your doctor. These days, it might be a sign that you have COVID-19. If not, it’s possible that a medication you’re taking may be responsible, according to MedlinePlus, a service of the National Institutes of Health. You may be able to switch to a different medicine. If there’s no medical or medicine-related cause for the loss, MedlinePlus suggests adding new spices to your food or cooking your food in different ways.
Other problems can be addressed by eating a well-balanced diet. MyPlate.gov makes these recommendations:
- Add sliced fruits and vegetable to meals and snacks. Look for pre-sliced varieties if slicing and chopping is a challenge.
- Make sure you get enough vitamin D. Drink 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk throughout the day. If you cannot tolerate milk, try small amounts of yogurt, buttermilk, hard cheese or lactose-free milk or foods. Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
- Consume foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals.
Don’t forget fiber
Keep your digestive system regular by eating foods that are rich in fiber. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Dietary fiber also may help lower your risk for heart disease and reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes.” Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and beans are great sources of fiber.
Make every bite count
The MyPlate website has lots of tools to help you “make every bite count,” including recipes and a free app to help you track your eating habits. In the “Life Stages” section, you’ll find nutritional and wellness tips specifically for older adults.
At Community Physical Therapy & Associates, we work to help you achieve your optimal physical wellness. Along with an appropriate physical fitness plan, nutrition pays a large part in your physical strength and resilience. We encourage you to make the best choices for your overall health and well-being.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about your medications.