A healthful diet is important at any age. Maintaining a healthful diet helps control diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, digestion and elimination, and can also strengthen bones. While we all need our daily dose of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to maintain good health, the elderly need them even more, since, as you age, your metabolism slows and you tend to eat less food. That means that the food you do eat must pack a healthy punch. A diet that includes a variety of foods in moderation is best.
Since some ordinarily healthy foods are contraindicated with certain medications (for instance, don’t eat lots of green, leafy vegetables if you are taking Coumadin, a blood thinner), you should always consult with your doctor before changing your diet. Here are some additional recommendations:
1. Keep your diet low in fat, low in caffeine, and low in alcohol.
2. Eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruits a day. Include dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, and citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits.
3. Have two servings of protein a day. Protein is necessary to build and repair skin, hair and muscles. Choose from lean meat, fish, chicken, eggs, and cheese, or from beans, peas, and nuts.
4. Eat bread, rice, cereal, potatoes, and corn to fuel your body and boost your energy, and go easy on cakes, cookies, and other sweets, which have empty calories.
5. Drink plenty of fluids. This will help your digestion and keep your kidneys working well, and prevent you from becoming constipated and dehydrated. Even if urinary incontinence is a problem, it is still very important to have liquids.
6. Add fiber to your diet. Along with fluids, this will aid in digestion. Start moderately, eating from a choice of carrots, potatoes, apples, broccoli, green peas, prunes, bran cereal, corn, grape-nut cereal, a little at a time each day. Also check the labels on foods for fiber content. About 20 to 35 grams of fiber is a good daily amount.
7. Ask the doctor about taking a multivitamin supplement if it is too difficult to get all the nutrients you need from diet. Older adults particularly need the important vitamins B-12, B-6, D, A, E, and folic acid.
8. Eat foods that are rich in calcium to strengthen bones. These include nonfat dairy products, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, salmon, sardines, citrus fruits, and dried beans. Consider taking a calcium supplement of 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams a day.
9. If you have high blood pressure, limit your intake of sodium, mostly found in processed food. Consult your doctor about your sodium intake if you take diuretics or have diarrhea.
10. If you have diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, or take diuretics, eat fish and other seafood which provide zinc. This mineral helps heal wounds and aids the appetite.