Ageing & Nutrition
Katie Williams- Dietitian
There is a common belief that as we get older, nutrition becomes less important. However, having a well balanced diet is crucial throughout our life spans, particularly as we age for improving quality of life and longevity. There are particular nutrients that are imperative for older adults to include in their day-to-day diets.
For older adults, dairy should be included regularly in all diets. This is because it contains a mineral called calcium, which is important for maintaining strong healthy bones and teeth. Having good bone health is key for all ageing adults due to an increased risk of fracturing bones when falling over or diseases such as osteoporosis. Females are at a particular risk of poor bone health due to increased bone losses during menopause.
All adults should eat at least 2.5 serves of low fat dairy each day. 1 serve of dairy is equivalent to:
-250mL of milk or milk alternatives (e.g. soy milk)
-2 slices (or 40g) of hard cheese (e.g. cheddar)
-¾ cup (or 200g) of yoghurt
Having an adequate protein intake during the older years of life is important for maintaining muscle and decreasing the risk of malnutrition. Being underweight comes with it’s own health risks as it hinders the immune system; can make it harder to recover from illnesses and slows wound healing. Maintaining muscle is also important for having good balance, strength and metabolism.
Protein should be included in at least 2 main meals each day. Foods that are good sources of protein include:
-Beef, lamb, chicken, pork & fish
-Legumes (beans, chickpeas & lentils)
Fibre contains many health benefits that can be particularly helpful for older adults. Having a diet high in fibre helps to keep the bowels regular and assists with issues such as constipation and diarrhoea. Additionally, it helps you feel fuller for longer, can improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Fibre can assist in weight loss and preventing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.
Adults should be consuming around 30g of fibre each day. Fibre is the indigestible parts of plant foods; such as vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, beans and legumes. Therefore, these foods should be an abundant part of our day-to-day diets.
Weight Loss & Chronic Diseases
Carrying excess weight is associated with many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, sleep apnoea and osteoarthritis.
Foods that promote weight gain are those high in calories, saturated fats, added sugars and salt. Some of these foods include:
-Processed meats (bacon, ham, salami, sausages etc)
-Sweets (cakes, muffins, biscuits, chocolates, lollies etc).
-Takeaway foods (pies, pizzas, burgers, hot chips etc).
For a healthy diet, these foods should only be eaten in moderation. The majority of the food eaten each day should be made up of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean meats.
For anyone trying to lose weight or with any other nutritional concerns, I would recommend to see a Dietitian. Otherwise, The Heart Foundation website is a great source of nutritional information and healthy recipes.