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Healthy nutrition for older adults.

We all know the importance of a balanced diet, but as we get older our nutritional requirements change slightly. If you're over 65, or are caring for someone who is, it's important to be aware of the slight dietary changes you may need to make.

All adults over the age of 65 should continue to eat a good balance of protein and carbohydrates, and as wide a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables as possible. However, there are some key concerns which need special attention:

Fibre and Fluids

As we get older, digestive processes slow down, and for this reason many older adults suffer from constipation. Left untreated, this will not only cause pain but could lead to some serious complications.

It's vital that older adults eat plenty of fibre in order to keep the digestive tract moving. The best sources of this are wholegrains, such as porridge, wholegrain bread and cereals, but fresh fruit and vegetables will help too.

Fluid is also important for a healthy digestive system, so plenty of regular drinks are essential. This doesn't have to be water - tea, milk and fruit juices work too.

Calcium

Calcium is reabsorbed into the body as we age, which can lead to osteoporosis. Weaker, more brittle bones are more easily damaged, particularly in women. It's important to increase calcium intake as we get older - milk and dairy foods are a great source of calcium, as are all kinds of leafy vegetables.

Vitamin D, usually obtained through exposure to the sun, helps bones to absorb calcium, but in older adults it can be difficult to obtain enough vitamin D through sunlight alone. Eggs and oily fish should be included in the diet to help supplement this, although the government recommends that those aged over 65 should take a daily Vitamin D supplement as well.

Elderly woman eating a hamburger.

Fat

Calorie controlled diets and low fat diets are not appropriate for older adults who are not severely overweight, and may be damaging for those who are frail. Although high fat diets should not be undertaken without your doctor's say so, try not to be too fussy about choosing low fat foods to excess.

Decreased Appetite

It's perfectly normal to have less of an appetite as you get older, but it's still vital to eat well. If you don't fancy large meals, try to have five or six smaller meals or snacks a day. It may be easier to cook if you cook in larger portions but then freeze half of it for use another day.

With some thought for good nutritional principles, older adults should be able to enjoy their food and stay healthier for longer.

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