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Food and Nutrition

Food and Nutrition

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Published by: varrannuss on Jan 31, 2011
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The life span of humans increases dramatically. Unfortunately,
knowledge of the nutritional needs changes. Most experts agree that
nutrition is a factor in the aging process. Age-related changes in body
composition and metabolism require seniors to keep a sharp eye on their
food choices.

Too many seniors are undernourished as a result of:
• Aging,
• Eating processed and refined foods that often have lost their
nutritional value,
• Reduced metabolism,
• Diminished appetite, and
• Effects of medication.
Metabolic changes, along with decreased physical activity, require
obtaining the same amount of nutrients from a lower caloric level. As one
gets older the chances of suffering a chronic illness are greater, and health
experts believe that poor eating habits contribute to some of those ailments.

AGING CHANGES HAVE NUTRITIONAL SIGNIFICANCE

First, older people produce less saliva and often have poor dentures.
This causes difficulty with very dry foods.
An estimated 30% of seniors lose their ability to make stomach acid,
and this interferes with the absorption of some nutrients such as vitamin
B12 and folic acid. Deficiencies in these nutrients, as well as vitamin B6,
can c'ause neurological changes such as decline in alertness, loss of
memory, and numbness of the extremities.
The reduction of the natural movement of food and enzyme activity
in the gastrointestinal tract, known to be associated with aging, often
results in digestive difficulties in dealing with certain foods. Also, this
reduction in the natural movement of food through the intestines causes
food to remain in the intestines for a longer period of time, producing
harder stools and resulting in constipation.
Aging affects certain senses, such as taste, smell, vision, and in tum

204

Nutrition for Senior Citizens

affects the types of foods that will be chosen. Salty and sweet taste
sensations can decline markedly with age, causing some to prefer foods
that are richly seasoned. However, certain spicy foods produce gas. Many
older persons complain of "heartburn,". that often is not caused by
increased acidity but by gas production. Others resort to extra salt in order
to overcome their gradual loss of taste. Sodium and its role in water
retention and high blood pressure may then become a problem.
Due to particular diseases, such as heart disease or osteoporosis, as
we age we need less of some minerals (such as sodium to lower blood
pressure) and more of others (such as calcium for bone mass). Bones tend
to weaken with age; evidence suggests that seniors require at least 1500
milligrams of calcium a day.
Depression and loneliness can further contribute to a disinterest in
eating. Many seniors do not have the economical means, knowledge, or
willingness to ensure the most nutritious choices in food selection and
meal preparation, the result being malnutrition and potential health
problems.

Because of changes in the body and decreasing physical activity, older
people usually need fewer calories as the rate at which the body uses
energy tends to decrease. For some, food intake generally is lower, and
the amount of lean body tissue decreases while the amount of body fat
increases. Yet others maintain old eating habits not realizing that most
people gain weight more easily as they age

There are Nutritional Guidelines for Seniors that can
be Derived from Conventional Wisdom

They are as follcws:
• Eat a variety of foods from five of the six major food groups
(fruits; vegetables; breads and cereals; milk and cheeses; meat,
poultry, fish, and dry beans) to obtain all the nutrients needed
for good health.
• A void foods high in cholesterol.
• Limit total fat intake to less than 30% of your calories and keep
intake of saturated fats to less than 10%.
• Increase your intake of dietary fibre.
• Be selective of foods that cause gas problems.
• Prepare moister or softer foods, or smaller portions, if you have
difficulty with dry foods.
• Limit the use of salt and sodium compounds.
• Increase your calcium intake, especially women.
• Avoid too much sugar.
• Drink at least eight (8 ounce) glasses of water daily.

Nutrition for Senior Citizens

205

• If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation.
• Drugs interact adversely with certain nutrients. If in doubt,
before you take them, find out.
The guidelines cannot guarantee health and well-being as health
depends on many things, including heredity, lifestyle, personality traits,
mental health and attitudes, and environment, in addition to one's meals.
Food alone cannot make you healthy, but good eating habits based
on moderation and variety can keep you healthy and even improve your
health. Experts from Health Agencies agree that following these guidelines
and eating well-balanced meals support:
• Adequate energy to carry out daily tasks.
• Good mental health and mental abilities.
• Resistance to disease.
• Recovery from illness, accident, or surgery.
• Medication effectiveness.
• Better management of chronic health problems to improve
quality of life, mobility, and independence.

Chapter 17

Vegetarian Diet

Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients. The
key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to
meet your calorie needs. Follow the food group recommendations for your
age, sex, and activity level to get the right amount of food and the variety
of foods needed for nutrient adequacy. Nutrients that vegetarians may
need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B

12.

Nutrients to Focus on for Vegetarians

Protein has many important functions in the body and is essential for
growth and maintenance. Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety
of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal
is not necessary. Sources of protein for vegetarians include beans, nuts, nut
butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk
products and eggs are also good protein sources for lacto-ovo vegetarians.
Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Iron sources
for vegetarians include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney
beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads,
peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins). Calcium is used
for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone strength.
Sources of calcium for vegetarians include fortified breakfast cereals,
soy products (tofu, soy-based beverages), calcium-fortified orange juice, and
some dark green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy,
mustard greens). Milk products are excellent calcium sources for lacto
vegetarians. Zinc is necessary for many biochemical reactions and also helps
the immune system function properly. Sources of zinc for vegetarians
include many types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas),
zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Milk
products are a zinc source for lacto vegetarians. Vitamin B12 is found in
animal products and some fortified foods. Sources of vitamin B12 for
vegetarians include milk products, eggs, and foods that have been fortified
with vitamin B

12. These include breakfast cereals, soy-based beverages,

veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast.

Vegetarian Diet

207

Tips for Vegetarians

• Build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in
fat, such as beans, lentils, and rice. Don't overload meals with
high-fat cheeses to replace the meat.
• Calcium-fortified soy-based beverages can provide calcium in
amounts similar to milk. They are usually low in fat and do not
contain cholesterol.
• Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made
vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated
fat and cholesterol intake. Consider:
• Pasta primavera or pasta with marinara or pesto sauce
• Veggie pizza
• Vegetable lasagna
• Tofu-vegetable stir fry
• Vegetable 10 mein
• Vegetable kabobs
• Bean burritos or tacos
A variety of vegetarian products look (and may taste) like their non-
vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain
no cholesterol.

• For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links.
• Rather than hamburgers, try veggie burgers. A variety of kinds
are available, made with soy beans, vegetables, and/or rice.
• Add vegetarian meat substitutes to soups and stews to boost
protein without adding saturated fat or cholesterol. These
include tempeh (cultured soybeans with a chewy texture), tofu,
or wheat gluten (seitan).
• For barbecues, try veggie or garden burgers, soy hot dogs,
marinated tofu or tempeh, and veggie kabobs.
• Make bean burgers, lentil burgers, or pita halves with falafel
(spicy ground chick pea patties).
• Some restaurants offer soy options (texturized vegetable protein)
as a substitute for meat, and soy cheese as a substitute for regular
cheese.
• Most restaurants can accommodate vegetarian modifications to
menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat from
stir-fries, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These
substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that
make food to order.
• Many Asian and Indian restaurants offer a varied selection of
vegetarian dishes.

Chapter 18

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