With old age, a person’s body starts experiencing changes in its composition and physiology. As one grows old, the hormones responsible for much of the body’s well being don’t stay active as they were in one’s youth, causing a decrease in bone density along with loss of muscles and increase in fat along with a host of other ailments! The body needs adequate nutrition to supplement the losses it suffers with old age and also to boost its immune system so that it may protect the body from any illnesses that might occur.
While the body begins lacking in many departments with the onset of old age, there are certain foods which if included in a balanced diet can make up for the loss of carbohydrates, proteins, antioxidants, vitamins etc in the body!
Following is a list of 8 must have dietary items for the elderly:
While it may not come under the solid foods category, it should be made a compulsory part of their diet. With increase in age, there is a decrease in bodily fluids along with a slow reaction to needs such as thirst. Plus with a gradual loss in taste, they may avoid consuming foods which have high water content. All of the above make it pertinent that the elderly drink enough water, so as to keep their body from dehydration. Plus water helps in detoxifying the body by riding it of unnecessary toxins.
Berries namely blue berries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries are excellent sources of anti-oxidants and fiber too. Antioxidants are needed in the old age as the body’s own natural antioxidant systems become ineffective and with many seniors diet’s falling short in the fiber department, berries with their high fiber content are of immense help in such cases. Plus berries delay the onset of the loss of cognitive function, which occurs in old age. Filled to their brims with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, the berries are a must include in any senior citizens diet!
As old age causes a gradual deficiency of vitamins in the body, it becomes necessary to consume foods which are rich in vitamins. Beans are an excellent low fat source of proteins, potassium, magnesium, carbohydrates, vitamin B6 and Folate! They are also known to reduce the risks of diabetes, heart diseases, certain kinds of cancer and obesity, plus they also contain anti-oxidants and insoluble fibers - green beans, as well as soluble fibers – kidney beans, which aid a good bowel moment and also help control the cholesterol levels! Besides when cooked well, beans become incredibly soft and are an instant hit with seniors who dislike hard, solid food items due to dentures.
Tomatoes contain high levels of a carotenoid antioxidant called Lycopene, which gives it a distinct red color; it is known to help prevent cataract and macular degeneration (Loss of vision in the centre of the visual field) which usually occur in old age. It also helps ward off various types of cancers, most notably prostate cancer which has a high chance of occurrence in old men. Many elderly people are noticed to have a weak immune system; Lycopene helps boost the immune system thereby protecting the elderly from illnesses.
Tomatoes act as good blood purifiers and help in decongestion of the liver i.e. protect the liver against cirrhosis, they also help in dissolving gall stones if consumed regularly!
Soy is known as the ‘wonder food’ for women all over the world. It is known to contain Isoflavone and Genistein, two organic compounds which are quite similar to natural estrogens in the body! Soy helps to prevent osteoporosis and lessens the effects of menopause in women. The Genistein present in the Soybean helps prevent breast and colon cancer.
As one grows old the immune system of the body weakens, throwing open the gates for a host of illnesses that can strike if proper care is not taken. Whole grains contain Vitamin E, an antioxidant which helps boost the immune system, plus it slows down the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and Arthritis. Whole grains also have a high content of dietary fiber or roughage which is needed by the elderly for a good bowel movement.
A calcium deficiency occurs in old age due to physiological changes and change in the dietary preferences and in some cases due to a deficiency of vitamin D. Bones begin losing calcium to make up for the body’s need of calcium, which makes them more susceptible to fractures and diseases like osteoporosis! Milk is the best source of calcium and due to the high concentration of calcium in it, plus the calcium in milk gets easily absorbed. Milk based dairy foods such as yogurt and cottage cheese are also good sources of calcium for the elderly.
As one grows old, the brain along with the heart and nervous system become weak. To counter these changes, the elderly need a diet which will help provide them with the necessary nutrients and vitamins. Eggs also contain a carotenoid named Lutein, which helps prevent macular degeneration and cataract in the elderly. They are the only source of food containing naturally occurring Vitamin D, which is found lacking in many old people! The raw yolk of the egg contains Choline, a nutrient which helps in the regulation of the brain, cardiovascular and the nervous system! In recent studies conducted on the benefits of eggs, it was found that daily egg consumption reduced the chances of breast cancer in women upto 44%.
Along with all these 8 must have foods for the elderly, their diet should also contain foods which have Omega-3 fatty acids and plenty of green leafy vegetables such as Spinach, Methi etc. A nutritious, well- balanced diet should take care of the nutritional needs of the elderly, leaving them free to enjoy their lives second innings!