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Dietary Changes as We Age

Did you know that every year over the age of 40, our metabolism slows? Though our nutritional requirements stay almost the same as younger adults, our energy needs decrease.

Published: Aug 11, 2015

Did you know that every year over the age of 40, our metabolism slows? Though our nutritional requirements stay almost the same as younger adults, our energy needs decrease. To keep our bodies feeling good and functioning well, we need to be aware of how our diet needs are evolving as we age. Every stage of life brings changes to our bodies, and taking an active role in diet and nutrition can mean more energy and better disease prevention in the future.

Metabolism & Digestion. As we age, our bodies process foods differently and more slowly. When we continue eat the same amount and types of foods that we did as younger adults, we put ourselves at risk for weight gain and digestive upset. We can be more proactive by keeping a close eye on our calorie intake and making sure the foods we eat are high in nutritional value.

Suggestions for success: 

  • A good habit to start today is meal planning. Small meals throughout the day give our bodies a chance to digest and use the fuel we are putting into our systems. Planning our grocery shopping around these small meals helps keep us on track.
  • Add high-fiber foods into our meal plans. Higher fiber foods have been linked to disease prevention and improved digestion.
  • Due to a slowing digestive system, we may generate less saliva and stomach acid, making it more difficult for our bodies to process vitamins and minerals, such as B12, B6, and folic acid, which help maintain alertness, a strong memory, and circulation. Drinking at least 1.5 liters of water can aid in digestion and speed up our metabolism. 

Sensory Changes. As we grow older, our senses for taste and smell diminish. Older adults tend to lose sensitivity to salty and bitter tastes first, so we may be inclined to salt food more heavily than before. Since older adults need less salt than younger adults, it’s important to find alternatives to sodium, which can contribute to high blood pressure and other diseases. On the other side, older adults retain the sweet-tasting senses the longest, and this can lead to a sweet tooth that overindulges in sugary snacks.

Suggestions for success:

  • Try healthy oils, like olive oil, to season food instead of salt.
  • Low-sodium seasonings like lemon juice, dill, and curry offer new flavors and healthier options.
  • Experiment with new herbs and spices to fit your taste.
  • Instead of adding sugar, increase sweetness to meals with sweet foods such as fruits, peppers, or yams.
  • Try a variety of new foods and flavors available at your local grocery. Explore new recipes and ingredients.
  • Don’t overcook foods – let the fresh flavors and textures shine through.

Medications & Illness. Unfortunately, many prescription medications and health problems can affect appetite and taste. This can, again, lead us to over-use salt or sugar to help increase the flavor of our meals.

Suggestions for success:

  • In addition to seeking out new food and flavor options, ask your doctor about the side effects of medications or specific physical conditions and what can be done to prevent this dulling of the senses.
  • Avoid foods or supplements that could interfere with medication effectiveness. Consult with your doctor for any interactions that might arise.

Staying aware of our physical changes is important at any age. As we grow older, our nutritional needs evolve, and making adjustments in our food intake can help us feel better and live healthier. Dietary changes are a natural part of aging, and we can make eating more enjoyable and more nutritional by taking these easy small steps toward meal planning and preparation. At Comfort Keepers®, we know that senior nutrition is essential for a high-quality life. We work with our clients each day to plan, shop, and prepare nourishing meals and snacks. If your loved one needs a helping hand for meal planning at home, contact our professional in-home caregivers who specialize in keeping seniors healthy and engaged with life. 

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