Nutrition for Older People

Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly for CDC PD

Good nutrition is important at every age, but it is especially important to eat a variety of foods when we become older. Older people may be at risk for age-related diseases, such as stroke, heart attack, osteoporosis, arthritis and diabetes. A life-long healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce your risk of age-related disease, but it is never too late to start eating a healthy diet. Older people are at risk of losing muscle mass. Protein is critical to maintain muscle mass and to repair injured muscle tissue. Eggs, fish, poultry and lean beef are good sources of protein. Nuts, soy and low-fat dairy also provide sufficient protein to help maintain muscle mass. Adequate protein and remaining active can help reduce age-related muscle loss. 
Older people who may not be as active as others need fewer calories but still need carbohydrates for energy. The sugar fructose in fruits and lactose in milk and dairy products can help you boost your energy level. By eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, you will provide your body with vitamins, fiber and trace minerals that are necessary for good health and keep your energy levels up. Some aging people are less active so they need fewer calories. Try to stay active throughout your life, but adjust your caloric intake to account for less activity. Your doctor or a dietitian  can help you determine your energy needs and adjust your diet to meet calorie needs. 
Limit the amount of fats in your diet. Replace saturated fats from beef, butter, high-fat dairy, processed foods and margarine with natural oils like corn, soy and olive oils. Many processed foods including cookies, frozen foods, crackers and read-to-serve packaged meals contain hydrogenated fats also called trans fats. These fats can cause plaque buildup in your arteries, which can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.  Remain active as long as you can by walking, swimming and stretching your body. Remember to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. 

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