Which nutrient is important for older people

Diet in old age: what should the elderly really eat?

Getting older is part of our natural rhythm of life. But many do not look forward to this phase of life with joy. With our eating habits, we can do a lot for our fitness and well-being in old age.

Our bodies change over the years and keep making new demands on our diet and lifestyle. In all of the previous years we lay the foundation for healthy and fit aging.

From the second half of life, you should pay particular attention to your diet

Especially in our second half of life, we should pay close attention to our nutrient intake. Unfortunately, this is becoming more and more difficult for us, especially in this phase of life.

Anyone who knows how the body changes with age can support their organism with the right diet. It is good to know, for example, that the bone density is decreasing, the energy requirement is decreasing or that digestion needs special support. With the right nutrients, minor restrictions can be prevented for a long time.

The energy needs of older people are decreasing

The older we get, the more our need for energy decreases. From the age of 40 onwards, we need less and less energy because our muscle mass decreases and we usually move less.

From the mid-50s onwards, the degradation increases even faster. The problem with this is that even if the elderly may need fewer calories, they are not changing their diets accordingly. Our modern diet provides us with a lot of calories that we convert into energy, but very few really important nutrients.

Despite everything, the general recommendation of the German Nutrition Society remains in place. This states that the daily nutrient intake should consist of 50-60% carbohydrates, 15% proteins and 25-30% fats. It is important to note where we get these components from. As in every phase of life, these should be high-quality products.

This is how the diet should be composed at an advanced age

  • The intake should be complex carbohydrates. These can be obtained from whole grain products, fruits and vegetables.
  • Above all, the fats should not be hydrogenated. Vegetable oils are great nutrients. Be careful with sausage, cheese or sweets - these too - unfortunately mostly unhealthy - contain fats that must be taken into account in the daily intake.
  • Proteins should primarily be obtained from dairy products, lean meat, and fish. Fish in particular provides important nutrients that are often in deficit in the elderly.

What nutrients do old people need?

On average, appetite decreases with age. This is related to the lower muscle mass and the lower energy consumption. Even so, seniors still need all the important vitamins and trace elements, as our bodies cannot produce most of them itself.

They are important for our immune system, the cell formation, protect against diseases and promote the metabolism. It is quite normal that the function of various organs becomes weaker with age, but with the right vitamin intake, older people need not worry about this for a long time.

Medicines can often affect the absorption of important nutrients. Of course, this does not mean that medication should now be discontinued. But perhaps at the next visit to the doctor it can be clarified whether one of the tablets affects the vitamin B12 supply, for example, and whether one should pay more attention to the supply of the important vitamin.

These vitamins protect against illness in old age

The right vitamins can protect against the following diseases, among others:

  • Deposits in the vessels
  • Loss of memory and poor concentration
  • immunodeficiency
  • Muscle weakness and loss of bone density
  • Stroke risk

In general, the elderly have the same nutritional needs as everyone else. However, it can often be observed that they are deficient in the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin B12 prevents poor concentration, tiredness and restrictions in movement. It is important for cell division, blood formation and the nervous system. You can get it by eating meat, fish and dairy products.
  • Vitamin A influences our eyesight, supports our mucous membranes, strengthens the bones and builds up our immune system. It is found in animal products such as milk, butter and eggs, but also in vegetables such as carrots and apricots.
  • Vitamin D influences our muscle strength and is said to protect against falls. It is also said to protect against certain types of cancer and to strengthen the cardiovascular system. In food, vitamin D is only found in fatty fish. Otherwise it is produced by the sun's rays on our skin. It is therefore important that older people also get enough fresh air during the day.
  • Vitamin E protects our cells and prevents deposits in the blood vessels. Great sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils, butter, seeds, and nuts. Fish is also a good source of vitamin D.
  • Folic acid is important for cell division and various growth processes. To top up your folic acid supply, there should be plenty of green, leafy vegetables on your plate. This includes, for example, spinach, asparagus or cabbage.

Dietary fiber is important for digestion in seniors

The energy needs of seniors are decreasing, but unfortunately older people also often suffer from anorexia and do not drink enough. The consequences are a higher susceptibility to diseases, problems with eating such as swallowing difficulties, or poor digestion.

Those affected or their relatives should therefore ensure that they eat and drink regularly. For example, it can help to always have a full glass of water nearby - this is a reminder to drink enough liquid. The meals should be prepared in an appetizing way so that the desire for food increases again. Variety is always important.

Since digestion often becomes sluggish in old age, we should make sure that we consume enough fiber. These make nutrient absorption in the gastrointestinal tract easier and improve digestion. They can be best absorbed through whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.

How to properly prepare food for the elderly

It can happen that in old age some foods can no longer be eaten as easily. Vegetables or fruit can be grated into small pieces so that they can also be eaten raw. Otherwise it will also be more digestible if the vegetables are steamed briefly. There are also types of bread with finely ground grains - these are usually easier to digest.

But don't go crazy with all the rules. A balanced diet with lots of vitamins and sufficient fiber is important throughout life.

As in every phase of life, in old age you should simply check whether all the important nutrients are actually being absorbed. The digestibility can be improved with simple tricks. With the right diet, many problems in old age can easily be prevented.