Dr. Lakshmipathy Ramesh, Geriatric Specialist
As people get older their metabolism changes, there is a decrease in hormones produced in the body and they need a well-balanced diet with enough supplements to stay healthy.
A healthy geriatric diet plan should include, a variety of fruits (for vitamins and fibre), meat or lentils (for proteins). Meat eaters should stick to lean meat to ensure that they get proteins without the calories, while vegetarians should have a large helping of protein rich foods like lentils and a sufficient quantity of milk and water.
Older people have less muscle mass and so they need less calories in the food they eat. They also metabolize food slower and hence it takes them longer to burn calories. The amount of activity they do is less, and they should have a low-fat diet to prevent from them putting on weight.
Natural Diet And Supplements
The aged absorb nutrients from food at a slower rate and the amount of nutrients required by geriatrics increases. Due to their age, geriatrics require certain supplements that are not easily available in the food we eat. The list of necessary supplements for geriatrics include:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Decreases the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis (found in flax seeds, walnuts, and fish).
Calcium: Preserves bone health and it lowers blood pressure (found in milk and dairy products. For the lactose intolerant, there are fortified non-dairy milks like almond or soy, and fortified orange juice).
Potassium: Keep bones strong. Antidote for depression, reduces blood pressure and risk of kidney stones. (Source: Bananas).
Magnesium: Helps the immune system and the heart. Older people sometimes use diuretics, and this flushes out the magnesium in the body (Source: dried fruits, and leafy vegetables).
Fibre: Helps digestion. As people age, digestion and ridding the body of waste becomes difficult (Source: Fruits and vegetables).
Vitamin B12: This is important for the red blood cells and for maintaining nerve function. This may have to be taken as a supplement as fresh food does not contain enough.
Folate/Folic Acid: Prevents anaemia. Certain vegetables are rich in folates but geriatrics may need to take a supplement.
Vitamin D: This helps maintain bone density, helps the body absorb calcium and prevents osteoporosis.
Young, healthy adults get their dose of Vitamin D naturally from the sun. But as we get older, due to lifestyle and decrease in the rate of absorption, the Vitamin D in the body gets less and it to be supplemented.
However, always consult your physician before you pop in supplements.
Older people should also lessen salt in food, avoid very sugary treats, keep hydrated, have smaller, more frequent meals, have an early dinner, sip water through the day and avoid fatty and deep-fried foods.
- DR. M. Lakshmypathy Ramesh, M.D.(Geriatrics) PG.DIP.DIAB is a renowned Geriatric Care Specialist
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai