Sunday, March 24, 2019

Posted at: Jun 9, 2018, 1:06 AM; last updated: Jun 9, 2018, 1:06 AM (IST)WELLNESS

Eat well to age well

Harleen Bakshi

Old age is a biological process that no one can avoid. It is certainly not a disease but an advancing age has many accompanying problems. It is an irreversible and progressive phenomenon which is accompanied by many physiological changes in functions of most of the body organs. However, with little care and caution many old-age related problems can be prevented, avoided or delayed so that an elderly person can enjoy his/her golden years in a healthy manner.

As we age our energy levels deplete, bones become a little weak and brittle and the reflexes slow down. There are many visible physical changes in the body like greying hair, wrinkling skin, a possible decline in hearing and a weak eyesight, etc. Apart from the visible changes, there are several other internal or physiological changes in the body. The metabolism gets slowed down, digestive process is affected. The loss of teeth also causes chewing problems.

Keeping these changes in mind as well as other old-age related issues, it’s important to have proper dietary management for old people.

Eating the right kind of foods becomes especially important keeping the digestive issues in mind that accompany advancing years. So, let’s understand some basic facts and tips about food an elderly person requires so as to remain healthy and fit.

Things to keep in mind while planning meals for elderly

  • Daily meals should be planned as per the nutritional need of the elderly. With age energy requirement becomes less and less because of low activity levels.

  • Due to loss of teeth and several other dental problems in old age chewing becomes an issue. In these cases, food should be soft cooked, liquid or in semisolid form so that it can be chewed and swallowed without any difficulty .

  • Eating well and eating often is very important as elderly people often complain of heaviness, gas formation and fullness in stomach because of slow digestive process. Hence small frequent meals should be preferred. Regularity of meals is very important. Skipping of meals is not advisable.

  • Although the elderly need less energy but they need the necessary amount of vitamins and minerals as other adults to keep their immune system strong. Include easily digestible vegetables and fruits in their daily diet. Vitamins with anti-ageing properties like vitamins C and E should be must. Vitamin C also boosts the immunity, so do include citric fruits, guava, kiwi, broccoli, cauliflower, amla, etc in their meals.

  • Proteins are the building blocks from which muscle are made. Give them protein-rich food foods each day in every meal. Lentils, poultry and fish are good sources.

  • An elderly person’s body weight should not exceed the ideal body weight. With a slow metabolism, decreasing energy levels and body aches and pains many old persons avoid physical activity. This can increase the risk of obesity which can lead to many further disorders like diabetes, hypertension, etc. So mild but regular physical activity should be a vital part of their daily routine, It could in form of walk or stationary exercise for all who cannot walk. Those with better health and energy levels can opt for simple stretches, yoga, etc.

  • Their meals should be cooked in the right mix of oils. Use two to three kinds of different oils in a day that are heart friendly for eg mustard, vegetable oil, canola or olive oil.

  • Having lots of water is important. Eight to10 glasses are ideal but avoid too much water at night.

  • Fibre is a necessary part of diet for a healthy digestion. Include complex carbohydrates like oats and whole grain cereals to avoid constipation.

  • Avoid fatty, fried and processed foods in their meals. Sugar should be avoided as it leads to many further health issues.

  • Avoid or restrict alcohol and smoking,

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. By following these basic guidelines we can keep ourselves healthy and fit even in advancing years.

— The writer is clinical nutritionist, diabetic educator, Fortis Med Centre, Chandigarh


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