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Dispelling Senior Nutrition Myths
May 24, 2018 by Stephanie Howe - Owner, Comfort Keepers
Article Originally Published by Comfort Keepers on May 16.
A Plethora of Information
As a society, we have generally become more conscious of nutritional needs. That should come as no surprise given the amount of information that we are inundated with on a daily basis, informing us of what we should and shouldn’t eat, and what to avoid. With so much information, it’s inevitable that some bad information gets out there, only to be perpetuated and believed by many.
When it comes to nutrition for older adults, misinformation can be especially dangerous. Though it may be difficult to believe, we live in a time when senior malnutrition – or the insufficient intake of food compared to nutritional requirements – represents a growing problem in the country. In fact, the National Institutes of Health estimates the financial impact of disease-associated malnutrition is more than $150 billion. In an effort to provide accurate information to help support health and wellbeing, we want to dispel some of the more common myths surrounding senior nutrition. Please note that seniors should always consult their physician before making any dietary changes.
Five Senior Nutrition Myths
- Fewer nutrients are required
While some seniors may require fewer calories than other adults, nutrients are a different story altogether. Because our bodies aren’t as efficient at absorbing vitamins and minerals as we get older, there are some nutrients that we need more of, such as vitamin D, vitamin B-12, calcium, and iron. Instead of trying to reach a certain caloric amount each day, the key is to incorporate nutrient-dense foods into the diet. Some of these foods include whole-grain bread, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and calcium-fortified milk.
- Drinking water is only necessary when you’re thirsty
Hydration is a crucial aspect of nutrition no matter how young or old we are. But for aging adults, who generally face a greater risk of dehydration, drinking an adequate amount of water is critical. The problem is that some mistakenly associate hydration with thirst, and the signals we rely on to tell us that we are thirsty begin to diminish as we get older. Since these signals aren’t as effective, it’s imperative for seniors to build a proper hydration schedule into their daily routine to reach the recommended sixty-four ounces.
- Gaining weight doesn’t pose a threat
Becoming overweight or obese is just as dangerous for older adults as it is for younger adults, and can significantly impact not only cardiovascular health, but also mobility (which may already be limited, due to other age-related factors). Our metabolism slows down as we age, which makes it increasingly difficult to burn off excess calories, making it even more imperative that what’s consumed is substantial. Seniors can take an active role in reducing or preventing weight gain by choosing healthier options and engaging in physical activity (with physician approval).
- Supplements can replace food
Go down the nutrition aisle at your local grocery store, and you’re likely to assume there’s a supplement for just about anything. While these certainly serve their purpose in filling in the gaps and providing seniors with extra nutrients where needed, they should not be relied on solely for proper nutrition, or serve as a substitute for real food. Doing so can cause severe gastrointestinal side effects and, over time, lead to malnutrition.
- It’s too late to begin eating healthy
When it comes to nutrition, it’s easy to adopt a defeatist attitude. The belief that having a healthy lifestyle is no longer an option can be common, even for younger adults. For seniors, especially those who are facing the last years of life, these feelings of hopelessness may be heightened. Fortunately, every change that’s made – no matter how small – can make a significant impact on senior health and wellbeing. Seniors can start by doing something as simple as reducing their sodium intake, then replacing unhealthy foods for nutrient-dense whole foods, and soon enough, they’ll be on their way to feeling healthier and happier.
Comfort Keepers®Can Help
At Comfort Keepers®, our compassionate, professional caregivers can help seniors prepare nutritious meals and see that they get the nutrients needed to remain healthy. Additionally, we can provide transportation to and from the grocery store, remind them to take any prescribed medications/supplements, and help with daily tasks in the home. Contact a local Comfort Keepers office today to learn more about our in-home care services.
Caring.com. “7 Common Senior Nutrition Myths” by Caring.com staff writers. Web. 2018.
Huffington Post. “Debunked! 7 Common Senior Nutrition Myths” by Laura Dixon. Web. 2018.
Huffington Post. “Senior Malnutrition: A National Nutrition Crisis” by Robert B. Blancato. Web. 2015.
Chefs for Seniors. “7 Senior Nutrition Myths.” Web. 2018.
Medicine Net. “Health Tips: Seniors, Focus on Nutrient-Dense Foods” by HealthDayNews. Web. 2018.