Proper nutrition important for aging population

February 19, 2014

Q. I don’t seem to enjoy spicy foods the way I used to. Does aging have anything to do with this?

As we age, our sense of taste may change, but this loss of zing in some foods might be caused by medicines you’re taking. Drugs can change your sense of taste, and some can also make you feel less hungry. So, the aging process and the medicines we’re taking can affect our enjoyment of food and, nutrition, because we may not eat all we need.

Eating habits in seniors are affected by other problems, too. Some complain about their dentures. Others don’t have easy access to transportation to go food shopping. Those who cooked for a family find it unrewarding to cook for one. Depression can affect your appetite, too. So, what should you eat? Below are recommendations from The Dietary Guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Foods and nutrients to increase

• Vegetable and fruit intake.

• Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables, and beans and peas.

• Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains.

• Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages.

• Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds.

• Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry.

• Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils.

• Use oils to replace solid fats where possible.

• Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.

• Individuals ages 50 years and older should consume foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals, or dietary supplements.

Foods and components to reduce

• Reduce daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg among those who are 51 and older and those of any age who are African-American or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. The 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults.

• Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fatty acids by replacing them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

• Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol.

• Keep trans fatty acid consumption as low as possible by limiting foods that contain synthetic sources of trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, and by limiting other solid fats.

• Reduce the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.

• Limit the consumption of foods that contain refined grains, especially refined grain foods that contain solid fats, added sugars, and sodium.

• If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation - up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.