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Nutrition for the Elderly: 5 Things Every Care Giver Should Know

A caregiver cooking food in kitchen with her elderly patients.While your aging parents may not have special dietary needs, it is important to make sure they are still receiving all of the proper nutrients necessary to live a longer and healthier life.

As your parents age, certain foods become more important in sustaining a healthy lifestyle while other foods can be potentially harmful to their health later on.

Here are five nutrients that the elderly need in order to maintain an independent, healthy, and longer life.

1. Nutrients like Omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, and Vitamin D can increase health. Preparing foods that are rich in these three nutrients can help to reduce heart disease, cancer, and arthritis as your parents age. Additionally Calcium and Vitamin D can help to preserve bone health and even lower blood pressure! Integrating these nutrients into your elderly parents’ meals every day can make a big difference in keeping them healthy longer. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in many types of fish and in flaxseed oil. Calcium and Vitamin D can be found in milk, kale, broccoli, and yogurt.

2. Magnesium is a great way to boost immune system function. Regardless of the season, as you parents age they will become increasingly susceptible to germs and viruses. Help them to boost their immune system and fight off potentially harmful bacteria by consuming magnesium. Although magnesium absorption decreases with age, eating unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans and seeds are a great way to get as much magnesium from your foods.

3. Lower sodium content in food. As your parents age, their ability to taste foods may become weaker causing them to increase the amount of salt placed in their food. Be wary, while encouraging your parents to eat is important to ensure that daily nutrients are being consumed, high levels of sodium can lead to high blood pressure and cause health problems in the future. To avoid high sodium foods, avoid preparing food with large amounts of salt and avoid frozen, processed, and restaurant foods as they tend to contain high levels of sodium. Foods like fruits and vegetables are lowest in sodium, so incorporating them into your parents’ diet is a great way to avoid high sodium foods.

4. Water water water. Water is a really important component of digesting and ensuring that our bodies function at their most efficient capacity, but as people age they tend to become less thirsty even though their bodies still need the same amount of water. Make sure that your parents are drinking up to eight cups of water a day to keep them hydrated. Signs that your parents may not be properly hydrated can be found in the clarity of their urine. Urine should be light and clear, otherwise your loved one is not getting enough water.

5. Set an example. Because many of these changes may be a big alteration in the dietary habits of your elderly parents, lead by example and eat the foods that you prepare for your parents. Especially for picky eaters, introducing foods that they are not used to can be a struggle and cause loss of appetite. Although there are many food supplement drinks available on the market, the best way to get the proper nutrients is through fresh prepared food so it is really important to make changes in diet habits, if possible. Integrate these changes slowly, like substituting wheat bread for white bread once a week and then slowly increase over time until white bread is completely cut out from the diet. This will make eating fun and less frustrating for both parties.

Changes are hard to adjust to, and with age they don’t get any easier. So changing the diets of your loved ones can be a difficult process. But once the proper adjustments have been made, you and your parents will feel better and be happier because they know that they are getting the proper nutrients necessary to help them live longer and be healthier.