Seniors' Food Pyramid   

Seniors' Food Pyramid

The food pyramid stands as the foundation of good eating Designed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture more than a decade ago, the pyramid succinctly shows how much of each type of food we should eat to stay healthy.

But not everyone's nutritional needs are identical. As we age, our bodies and metabolism change. Although older adults still need plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fiber, they need to add or subtract a few things from the food pyramid.

Older adults, says Althea Reyes, R.D., "have decreased taste and decreased absorption." They need to make sure they get enough water and nutrients, even if they must take supplements to get them.

Researchers at Tufts University developed a modified version of the food pyramid for adults 70 and older. One added section of the pyramid for older 8dults is water.
Although we should all drink eight glasses of water a day, it's critical for older adults to factor in water because they have decreased kidney function and may not feel thirsty. Yet they still need the same amount of water that they did when they were younger, Reyes says.

Adequate water intake helps avoid constipation. Older adults' digestive tract doesn't work as effectively as it once did, making constipation more likely. And many older adults have dental problems that keep them from eating as much fiber as they need; fiber also helps prevent constipation.
"This pyramid heightens people's awareness to focus more on fluids," Reyes says.

Another addition to the pyramid is a supplements. The flag is a warning sign, not a mandate, about supplements.
Older adults often don't get enough calcium or vitamin D in their diet, and a lack of either can lead to weak bones.
Vitamin B12 is another nutrient that's often found lacking in older adults. As the body ages, it becomes less able to absorb B12, so a supplement can help provide more of this lacking nutrient, which is critical for healthy nerves and blood.

Seniors should discuss the issue of supplements with their doctor. Older adults already purchase more supplements than other age groups. 'They are led to believe that many of the conditions that come with aging can be fixed [with a supplement]," Reyes says. "That's not true."

But, she adds, recent research showed that the aging process can be slowed down with a good diet. "So we have a lot to benefit from eating well."

The other parts of the modified food pyramid for seniors aren't that much different from the general food pyramid.
Older adults should consume a combined total of at least five fruits and vegetables a day.

Fruits and vegetables are a real plus for seniors: they are lower in calories than other foods, yet high in nutrients, Reyes says. Fruit is much healthier for dessert than cookies or cake-yet many older adults indulge their sweet tooth with sugary treats rather than fresh fruit. Because metabolism slows down as the years pass, even a few extra calories can add up on the waistline.

The dairy products section recommends that older adults consume three servings of milk, yogurt or cheese each day. "Even three is low, "Reyes says, because of the risk of osteoporosis.

Recent research showed that the aging process can be slowed down with a good diet.

Some older adults have trouble getting adequate nutrition because of health problems or financial difficulties.
If these are problems that affect you, there are steps you can take to ease them.

If you have trouble chewing, you might not be able to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, or meat. Instead, you might try the following ideas, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA):
• Instead of fresh fruit, try fruit juices or canned fruits such as peaches or pears.
• Instead of raw vegetables, try vegetable juices, or cooked and meshed vegetables.
• Instead of a chunk of meat, try ground meat or protein alternatives such as eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt
• Instead of sliced bread, try cooked cereals, rice and bread pudding.

If certain foods give you gas, making you uncomfortable, try these alternatives:
• Cream soups, pudding, yogurt and cheese can take the place of milk.
• Green beans, carrots and potatoes can replace broccoli and cabbage.
• Fruit juices and canned fruits can take the place of fresh fruit .

If you cannot shop or cook for yourself, you can make other arrangements. Some groceries will deliver food at no charge; others charge a fee. A family member, friend or church group may be able to help with shopping. A senior citizen program in your area may deliver meals. You can use the microwave to cook already prepared meals.

You might consider moving to a place where meals are prepared for you either with a family member or a senior citizens' center. Eating with other people also is a good way to encourage your appetite; eating alone can be lonely. 

Happy reading,

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