Getting proper nutrition is critical as you get older. Improving your diet goes beyond just eating less. Identifying healthy and nutritious foods to add to your diet can make all the difference later in life. In fact, getting the proper nutrients for your body’s additional needs as you age can help prevent certain physical and mental health conditions.
- Written by Christian Simmons
Christian Simmons is a writer for RetireGuide and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®). He covers Medicare and important retirement topics. Christian is a former winner of a Florida Society of News Editors journalism contest and has written professionally since 2016.Read More
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Esther Kane, C.D.S.
Senior Safety Expert
Esther Kane is a senior safety expert and certified Senior Home Safety Specialist. As a retired occupational therapist and certified CARES® Dementia Specialist™, Esther works as a consultant and educator for seniors and their caregivers. She is also the co-owner of Senior Safety Advice.Read More
- Published: June 21, 2022
- Updated: May 23, 2023
- 6 min read time
- This page features 3 Cited Research Articles
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Why is Nutrition Important as You Age?
Getting proper nutrition is important throughout your life, but it becomes especially critical when you’re older. Realistically, your body isn’t as adept at handling junk foods and other forms of poor nutrition as it might have been a couple of decades ago.
According to the National Library of Medicine, getting the right nutrition as you age is important for several key reasons.
One major advantage of eating nutritiously is that it can help you control your weight. Weight management is a problem for many aging adults and can lead to many problematic, and even deadly, health conditions.
But getting the right nutrition for your body can stave off many serious health problems as well, ranging from certain types of cancers to high blood pressure and heart disease. Eating right simply keeps you healthier and your body stronger and more able to function properly.
How Does Nutrition Impact Your Health?
Nutrition impacts your health in several ways. Some may be obvious, like helping you to control your weight or stay mobile and active. But proper nutrition plays a role in many other facets of your overall health, including your mental wellness.
Eating the right foods and getting proper nutrition can keep you healthy, fit and strong throughout every stage of life. Staying physically healthy, in turn, helps prevent many conditions that affect older adults and affect the quality of your life during retirement.
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Physical health is one key to a long and happy life. You become more susceptible to many illnesses and conditions when you aren’t physically active. When your body is more susceptible to injury and illness than ever before, it’s important to treat it well and get the right nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Proper nutrition is critical to keeping your body strong.
Mental health and physical health are interconnected, and anything that is good for one is naturally good for the other. Mental wellness plays as crucial a role in keeping seniors healthy as physical wellness.
Your mental health is an important area to keep in check as you age. Giving your body the nutrition it needs to function properly can help prevent common mental health struggles faced by seniors, like depression and anxiety, but it is also important for maintaining your overall state of mental wellbeing.
According to the New York Times, eating right sends signals to your brain that can improve your mood and mental state.
That means that getting proper nutrition is an easy way to improve both your physical and mental states. Luckily, the first step toward improvement is as easy as altering your diet.
How Can You Improve Your Nutrition?
There are a few ways to improve your nutrition. Most revolve around the foods you choose to eat and the amount you consume. Overeating is a common issue, but seniors need to be aware that eating too little food is a problem as well.
Generally speaking, eating the right amount of food and choosing healthier options can make a big difference to your overall wellness.
A fundamental aspect of focusing on better nutrition is altering your diet. But that doesn’t mean just choosing what to eat — it’s also choosing what not to eat. Junk food and fatty options that come with high calorie counts but little actual nutrition are simply not the wisest choices for seniors.
It’s important to limit your intake of foods like chips, snack food and candy as you age. Focusing on nutrition doesn’t mean that you can never eat these foods again, but they should not be a regular part of your diet.
There are a few areas that older adults should focus on eating to get the nutrients that they need. The National Library of Medicine points to lean meats and seafood as the best sources of protein for older adults. Eggs are also an easy and great source of nutrition.
Seniors can also benefit from eating grains and plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables.
It’s important to consult your doctor before making any substantial changes to your diet to ensure that you are meeting your specific health needs.
Older Americans have different vitamin intake needs than their younger counterparts. Luckily, there are plenty of healthy foods that can naturally provide the vitamins that you need most as you age.
According to AARP, 50-year-olds can get the vitamin D, calcium and probiotics they need by eating foods like cheese, yogurt and dark chocolate. Common vitamins you need in your 60s — like vitamin D, vitamin B-12 and omega-3s — are in foods like clams, salmon, tuna and egg yolks. And those in their 70s will benefit from adding protein in the form of beef, beans, chicken and almonds.
You can’t always guarantee proper absorption through food alone. There may be some vitamins that you need to take in pill or tablet form, so check with your doctor to make sure that you’re getting the nutrients you need for healthy functioning.
What Should You Consider When Improving Your Nutrition?
There is more to proper nutrition than just switching to eating healthier food and taking vitamins. You’ll need to monitor several other personal factors.
Your metabolism is how quickly you’re able to digest and burn through the food you eat as energy. Metabolism can differ greatly from person to person and even from year to year.
Someone with a fast metabolism may be able to eat more food and more often, while a person with a slow metabolism will need to be more careful to ensure they are not overeating.
Being aware of how your own metabolism functions and understanding how much food you really need plays a large role in making sure that you are getting the right amount of nutrition and controlling your weight.
Your appetite may change as you age, which can make it much more difficult to get the right nutrition. Certain medications and other situational factors can also affect your appetite.
It’s essential to take steps with your doctor to alleviate these issues. Together, you can make sure that you are still eating healthy amounts of the right types of food.
Remember that your body was probably much better at digesting and dealing with junk food a few decades ago than it is currently, so sticking to healthier foods can help increase your appetite now.
When looking for ways to improve nutrition, consider any health conditions you have and how they affect absorption. There may be certain foods or vitamins that make the most sense for you, given your specific situation and health needs.
Eating better and getting the right nutrients can also help to improve some conditions or to ease discomfort. A doctor’s visit is recommended to discuss balancing your health conditions with your nutritional needs.
3 Cited Research Articles
- New York Times. (2021, May 6). How Food May Improve Your Mood. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/06/well/eat/mental-health-food.html
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, May 30). Nutrition for Older Adults. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/nutritionforolderadults.html
- Paturel, A. (n.d.). Supplements to Take in your 50s, 60s and 70s. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/drugs-supplements/info-2015/must-have-supplements.html