Foods For Older People That Improve Health

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Introduction to nutrition for older people

Older Person - this is the term generally used to refer to people over the age of 65. The dietary needs of older people are varied and wide ranging as this group can be healthy, acutely ill or chronically ill.

In developed countries, most nutritional problems are related to eating too much but among older people undernutrition can also be a problem.

There is a clear link between some common chronic diseases suffered by older people (including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and constipation) and a combination of inappropriate diet and unhealthy lifestyle.

Foods For Older People That Improve HealthA person may eat less as they get older for a variety of reasons. Some older people have difficulty chewing and swallowing. People with arthritis, for example, have difficulty shopping, preparing and cooking food. Other people can lose interest in food, e.g. if they live alone or are unwell, or may limit what they buy because of financial problems.

Early detection of poor nutritional status (both under and over nutrition) can help in the prevention and treatment of many conditions

Dietary guidelines for older people

The principle dietary guidelines for healthy older people are:

  1. Eat a wide variety of foods, including those with high nutrient density
  2. Energy intake should be balanced with regular physical activity
  3. Starchy foods should be eaten throughout the day. For people with an acute and / or chronic illness with a limited appetite, intake of starchy foods should be modified to suit their individual needs. Excessive consumption of sugary foods should be avoided.
  4. For those who are healthy, four or more portions of fruit and vegetables should be eaten daily. People with acute / chronic illness should modify their fruit and vegetable intake to suit their individual needs.
  5. An adequate intake of high fibre foods and fluids should be maintained.
  6. Meat, poultry and fish should be eaten regularly. Dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese should be eaten daily. For those with an acute and / or chronic illness, an increased intake of dairy foods may be recommended. Fortified milk should be consumed by all older people unless otherwise recommended.
  7. For those who are healthy, a moderate fat intake, with a mixture of fats should be included in the diet. For those who have an acute and / or chronic illness, fat intake should be modified to suit their individual needs.
  8. At least 8 cups / glasses of fluids should be drunk each day.
  9. Enriched foods, fortified foods and dietary supplements should be used where specifically indicated by your GP or dietitian. The use of dietary supplements should be reviewed regularly.
  10. Alcohol should be consumed in moderation

(Recommendations for a national food and nutrition policy for older people, FSAI, 2000)

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