The Top 4 Common Dietary Guidelines That Should Be Altered for Seniors

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By Kelsey Simpson

Dietary guidelines are crucial in modern-day society. People young and old pay attention to these guidelines as they are learning how to eat healthily and what kind of foods to incorporate into their everyday lives. Dietary guidelines are exactly what they sound like, they are a set of guidelines that tell Americans what to eat and how much of it to eat. Though dietary guidelines are important and very helpful, some parts are outdated and some parts are not true for people of various ages. 

People of different ages require different amounts and kinds of food. Likewise, people with different backgrounds and activity levels will require different dietary guidelines. With that being said, that seems to answer the question, should certain dietary guidelines be altered?

The answer is likely yes, and this is especially true for seniors.

Why Should Seniors Not Follow Some of the Common Dietary Guidelines?

Seniors require different amounts of protein, fat, sugar, fiber, vitamins, and minerals than younger people do. Though the dietary guidelines are research-based, and to an extent, scientifically accurate, they do not take all individuals’ needs into consideration; specifically seniors. In fact, seniors’ needs are so diverse that Comfort Keepers, an in-home senior care services, makes sure to offer vast dining options and food selections to their clients to ensure that they have the ability to get the dietary requirements that are unique to them. 

Seniors need to focus on their diets in order to prolong their life and to improve the overall quality of it. The issue is, many seniors are either not aware of this, or they don’t know how to make the switch to a healthier/ more fulfilling lifestyle. Of course, seniors can visit a nutritionist or a doctor, but some seniors may not have the money to do that, then what? This post may be a temporary solution. Here, seniors can learn about which dietary rules to follow and which to ignore or alter. With that being said, here are the top 4 dietary guidelines that should be altered for seniors.

Senior’s Protein Intake

Seniors require more protein in their golden years than they did when they were younger (unless of course, they were an athlete or a very active young person). In addition to keeping you fuller for longer, protein’s purpose is to build and preserve muscle mass; something that is crucial in aging adults. Likewise, the protein will help in fending off illnesses. 

The amount of protein that a senior consumes in a day will help him or her stay active and preserve their muscle mass so that he or she does not lose the ability to get around with age. The specific amount of protein that one eats is determined by body weight. Some protein-rich food that seniors should incorporate into their diet include:

  • Eggs
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Wild-caught fish
  • Protein shakes 
  • Lentils
  • Plain Greek yogurt 
  • Tofu 
  • Organic red meat and poultry

The Kind of Vitamins One Needs as He or She Ages

With age, our bodies change and require different vitamins and minerals. It’s common for people to lack certain vitamins, so it will be worth a senior’s while to look into what vitamins are especially crucial for the elderly. The most common vitamins and minerals  that seniors are deficient in are:

  • Vitamin K
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B
  • Potassium 

Seniors should not only take a daily vitamin, but they should also eat more vitamin-rich foods. It’s important to point out that many dietary guidelines give a set amount of vitamins that a person should get, that number is suggested for people of all ages, including seniors that likely need more of certain vitamins. 

To find foods that are rich in the vitamin you are deficient in, check out this helpful guide. Or, if you are looking for a quick list, some vitamin-dense foods to include in your diet are:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Avocados
  • Tropical fruits
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Sweet bell peppers

The Increased Need for Probiotics

With age, it’s common that people lose the friendly bacteria that is in their stomach. Seniors should eat foods that are higher in probiotics in addition to taking a daily probiotic supplement. Probiotics will replace the bad bacteria with good bacteria that will help regulate the body’s PH, bowel activity, urinary tract, and even ulcers. 

Some foods and liquids that are rich in probiotics that seniors should consider include:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh
  • Miso

Or, if seniors are having a hard time eating these foods, they should take a probiotic supplement. 

Seniors Need to Pay More Attention Fats and Added Sugars 

This is true for people of all ages, however, seniors need to pay special attention to this as they are at a higher risk of health issues. Added sugars should be avoided by most people, instead, they should try to consume natural sugars. Added sugars increase a senior’s likelihood of becoming overweight or getting diabetes. Some sugar substitutes that seniors should try to incorporate into their diet include:

  • Monk fruit
  • Erythritol
  • Honey 
  • Coconut sugar
  • Natural maple syrup
  • Stevia 
  • Sugar from fruit

Likewise, solid fats (fats that are solid at room temperature, such as butter) should be avoided as much as possible as they increase a senior’s chances of high cholesterol and high blood pressure; two health concerns that are common in seniors. 

Solid fats should not be confused with healthy fats. Unfortunately, when people hear the word, “fat” they have a knee jerk reaction to think that fat only means overweight, and food that contains fat is going to make them fat; this is not the case. Healthy fats are important for one’s diet as they give your body energy and support cell growth.

There are 4 kinds of fats:

  1. Saturated fats
  2. Trans fats
  3. Monounsaturated fats
  4. Polyunsaturated fats

Trans and saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature, as discussed above while monounsaturated and polysatured fats are liquid at room temperature. Typically monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy and are key things to incorporate into one’s diet, especially as he or she ages.  

Seniors need to pay attention to eating healthy fats because healthy fats can lower blood pressure, lower the risk of diabetes, and reduce cholesterol, all issues that older adults are at risk of. Some foods that contain healthy fats that a senior should consider incorporating into his or her diet include:

  • Vegetable oil
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Avocados
  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Dark chocolate

Switch to a Healthier Lifestyle Today

If you are a senior, it’s important that you pay special attention to the food you are putting into your body. What you put in your body will have a direct impact on how you feel, your overall health, and most importantly, the longevity of your life and the quality of it. To improve your overall health and wellness, keep these 4 common alterations in mind, and make it a point to look into other dietary guidelines that may not be true for your age demographic. Consider speaking to a doctor or health professional to find out exactly what your body needs. 

About the Author

Kelsey Simpson enjoys writing about things that can help others. She lives in South Jersey and is the proud companion to two German Shepherds and spends her free time volunteering in dog shelters.

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