Wholesome food is one that is rich in all the essential nutrients, including proteins, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in adequate amounts. While carbohydrates, fat, and proteins help to energize the body, vitamins and minerals play a role in regulating its several metabolic processes.
Maintaining a healthy diet chart is essential for every age group. However, it becomes particularly crucial in old age. As the body becomes weak and vulnerable to various diseases and illnesses, one needs to ensure proper intake of food to meet the nutrition requirements and stay healthy. This eventually leads to a state of complete physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing, especially in the elderly.
Why is a Healthy Diet Important for the Elderly?
The definition of healthy eating changes with age as the body’s metabolism slows down. This means one needs to reduce the calorie intake and consume more essential nutrients, especially when suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes or heart issues. As these illnesses are more common in seniors, the importance of having a healthy diet chart increases. Further, they need more calcium, vitamin A, zinc, iron, and antioxidants for healthy aging and to prevent degenerative diseases.
The right intake of food with the best nutritional values helps older people to maintain a healthy weight and stay energized. Keep diseases at bay in an effort to ensure overall well-being.
However, one does not have to strictly follow a set diet plan in old age unless recommended by the consulting doctor. Having a mix of healthy and tasty food will let the elders enjoy their meals with fewer restrictions.
What Does a Healthy Plate Look Like?
Planning a well-balanced diet for seniors, can seem to be challenging at first. To help simplify the same, here is a list of healthy food choices for older people.
Please note that the list given below is a generic one. You must consult with your doctor or nutritionist to get a daily diet plan for the elderly based on your body’s requirements to maintain good health.
1. Foods Rich in Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce the risk of cancer, arthritis, health issues, and rheumatoid arthritis in old age. It also prevents other age-related problems like poor vision, depression, anxiety, and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s which is common in old age. All these qualities make Omega-3 rich foods a crucial part of a balanced diet chart for people in older age. It is mainly found in the following foods:
● Fish: Rawas (Indian Salmon), Mackerel and Tuna
● Dairy: Eggs, Milk, SoyMilk, and Yoghurt (Dahi)
● Grains and Nuts: Flax Seed (Alsi), SoyBean, Kidney Bean (Rajma), Oatmeal (Dalia)
● Vegetables: Spinach, Cauliflower, and Broccoli
2. Foods Rich in Fibre
With age, the walls of our gastrointestinal tract thicken which can lead to fewer contractions and a slow digestive system. If ignored, this can result in severe constipation. Having fibre-rich foods in old age promotes proper digestion and normalizes bowel movements. Additionally, it helps to lower cholesterol, maintain blood sugar levels, and prevent heart problems. Fibre-rich food to include in a diet chart for a person in older age, include:
● Fruits: Pear, Apple, Banana, Strawberry
● Vegetables: Beetroot, Spinach, Carrots, Cauliflower
● Whole grains: Wheat flour, Cornmeal flour, Gram flour, and Oats (Dalia).
● Other foods: Masoor Daal, Moong Daal, Almonds, Walnut, Nuts & Seeds
3. Foods Rich in Calcium
Bones become weak with age and having calcium-rich foods helps to meet the body’s calcium requirements. If the requirement of calcium in the body is not met through diet, it starts to absorb calcium from the bones. This makes them fragile and brittle, resulting in osteoporosis which is common in old age. Here are some calcium-rich foods to include in an ideal diet plan for people in older age.
● Dairy products: Milk, Curd (Dahi), Cheese, Paneer, Buttermilk (Chach)
● Seeds: Sesame (til), Poppy (khus-khuss), Chia Seeds
● Sprouts: Moong, Masoor, and Chana
● Leafy greens and beans: Spinach (Palak), Coriander (Dhania), French Beans, Fenugreek (Methi), Broccoli
4. Foods Rich in Iron
Iron plays a vital role in the body by maintaining the count of haemoglobin that regulates the flow of oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. The deficiency of iron is known as anaemia which can result in a limited supply of oxygen, making you feel tired and lethargic. Ensure an adequate amount of iron intake by including the following in an ideal diet chart for senior citizens.
● Vegetables: Beans, Spinach, Peas, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Beetroots
● Fruits: Banana, Apple, Pomegranate
● Nuts: Almond (Badam), Cashews (Kaju)
5. Foods Rich in Vitamins
An adequate amount of vitamins and minerals in the body help to prevent a number of health problems, like heart ailments, cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, among others. Here are some of the qualities of essential vitamins and their rich sources to include in a diet chart for seniors.
● Vitamin C is known to have antioxidants that promote collagen building and prevent diseases like cancer. Rich sources include Potatoes, Orange, Lemon, Broccoli, Strawberry, Spinach, Cabbage, and Tomatoes.
● Vitamin D is known to have properties that aid in the absorption of calcium in the body, thereby maintaining bone density and preventing osteoporosis in old age. Sources rich in Vitamin D, apart from sunlight, include Mushrooms, Milk, Dalia, Orange, Eggs, and certain types of fish.
● Vitamin B12 is one of the most important nutrients of a healthy diet for an elderly person. This vitamin is a part of our DNA that makes red blood cells and keeps our nervous system running. While it is mostly found in lean meat, eggs, and fish, vegetarian alternatives include soya products, Curd (Dahi), low-fat milk, and cheese.
6. Water to Stay Hydrated
Elderly people are more likely to suffer from dehydration as their body’s ability to store fluid becomes lower, further reducing the sense of feeling thirsty. However, this does not mean that they do not need water anymore because it is an essential element that keeps the body running. It also aids in better digestion and bowel movements, making it an important part of a healthy diet plan for an elderly person. Experts recommend having 1.7 litres of water every 24 hours to keep your body fully hydrated.
Traditional Indian Diet Plan
There are multiple sources of a well-balanced diet chart for old age in traditional Indian foods. They are known to be packed with nutrients that aid in the overall well-being of a person. Further combined with Ayurvedic knowledge, such a diet plan can do wonders for elderly people in promoting good health without compromising on taste.
Include the food items mentioned below in your daily diet plan for the elderly people:
● Grains: Wheat flour (Gehu ka atta), Cornmeal flour (Makki ka atta), Gram flour (Besan), and other grains like Bajra, Ragi, Sabudaana.
● Nuts: Almonds, Cashew, Walnuts, Pista, Peanuts, and all sorts of dry fruits.
● Fruits and Vegetables: Prefer having seasonal vegetables like spinach, methi, bathua, soya, and fruits like banana, apple, pineapple, mango, papaya, pomegranate, etc. depending on the season.
● Herbs and Spices: Basil, Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander, Ajwain, Hing, Methi, Daalchini, Sonth, Jaggery, etc.
Older people are often like kids when it comes to food; this makes it difficult for them to follow a strict diet plan. However, having a diet plan does not always mean that they cannot enjoy their favourite food. The key to maintaining a healthy diet for the elderly person is to include all seasonal produce and also keep a check on the quantity.
If you have any questions about a healthy diet for elderly, or are looking for an anorexia care plan, you can get in touch with Emoha Elder Care where it is all about #EldersFirst.