Sam Bauman: Things to know about nutrition for us seniors
The Internet site “A Place for Mom” often presents articles of interest to seniors. The following is an adaptation of “10 Senior Nutrition Myths,” by Jeff Anderson. I have digested it and edited for length, but the important points are still there.
Our knowledge about health and nutrition is impressive. But false beliefs still exist about diet.The right diet is arguably more important for seniors than for those in any other age group. Be aware of these myths and seniors can start eating right. Here are common-but-false beliefs about senior nutrition:
It’s natural for older people to lose appetite
It’s true that seniors need slightly less food than younger adults because of metabolic changes, but an outright loss of appetite is not normal and could be a sign of serious health problem.
Simple causes such as decreased sense of taste or dental problems can lead to seniors eating less and make it appear as though their appetite has decreased when it hasn’t.
Being moderately overweight is a sign of robust health
While one highly publicized study suggested that those who are moderately overweight have slightly longer lifespans, other studies, such as one at Oxford University, associated being moderately overweight with a decreased lifespan. The overweight are said to experience lifespans 10 years less than average, according to the Oxford study.
It doesn’t matter if an older person eats alone or with others
Elderly people who live alone and are left to prepare food by themselves often have bad outcomes. Physical and cognitive problems often cause seniors to become unable to prepare adequately nutritious or filling meals. In other words, constantly eating alone can put seniors at risk.
If seniors follow healthy-eating guidelines, OK
Eating guidelines provided by nutrition experts and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are based on decades of research into health. Educational tools such as MyPlate and the Food Pyramid communicate the components of a healthy diet. But most eating guidelines do not provide for the special nutritional needs of seniors.
Government food guidelines should serve as a reference point, but seniors must consider the nutritional implications of both their medicines and health problems
Senior communities have awful food
This is a common stereotype regarding senior living communities.
A Place for Mom employees have dined at numerous senior communities and have experienced meals ranging from good to excellent. Those who are selecting a senior community experience at least one meal at each community they are considering.
Seniors have slower metabolisms and need fewer nutrients
While seniors may need slightly fewer calories and food-bulk than younger adults, they need just as many nutrients. As we age, our ability to absorb nutrients decreases.
Seniors can safely skip meals
There are numerous drawbacks to skipping meals. It can cause our body to crave food so that at the next meal we overindulge in the extreme.
On the other hand, skipping meals can further decrease a senior’s appetite.
Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.