Nutrition has a vital role in accommodating seniors’ aging journey. However, eating right to improve health can be confusing in old age due to false beliefs and ever-changing food facts. For example, it is said that seniors don’t need proteins as much as younger generations; the truth is a lack of protein can increase the risk of falls due to muscle mass loss.
Some nutrition facts aren’t straight-up accurate, while others are partially understood. We are here to help you clear up any confusion and gain a better understanding of seniors’ nutrition needs. Let’s debunk some of the most common elderly nutrition myths and misconceptions.
Elderly Nutrition Myth Busters: Discover The 10 Myths and Misconceptions Around Senior Nutrition
Elderly Nutrition Myth #1: Senior Malnutrition Is Normal
Malnutrition can happen to anyone if they neglect their nutritional needs. However, the aging population is more likely to become malnourished than other age groups due to a variety of factors, with 5.5 million American seniors experiencing food insecurity. Some seniors simply have appetite loss, while others encounter physical changes that cause difficulties in chewing and swallowing. Following required dietary restrictions can make seniors vulnerable to malnutrition. Pain and decreased dexterity associated with diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease can also alter seniors’ desires towards foods, hence the higher risk of malnutrition. Another cause of malnutrition hiding in plain sight is some seniors don’t have the budget to buy nutritious foods.
Takeaway: Although malnutrition is a widespread issue among seniors, it isn’t a sign of aging.
Elderly Nutrition Myth #2: Seniors Should Eat Less
When we are younger, we are told to maintain a certain level of food intake to function throughout the day. This has led to another misconception that seniors don’t need to adhere to this rule due to decreased energy requirements. The statement is partially true, but most people miss the key part. At old ages, seniors should eat fewer calories and more nutrients. In other words, seniors require the same amount of nutrients as younger adults, if not even more, to protect them from aging effects in the long run.
Takeaway: Reducing calories and increasing nutrient intake is critical to bodily function, ensuring healthy aging.
Elderly Nutrition Myth #3: Focus On Foods Marked As “Healthy”
Staying fixed on a healthy, balanced diet is a pathway to age well. Today, seniors easily become fixated on the strong urge to buy as many foods marked as “healthy,” “high in antioxidants,” and “low in sugar” as possible. But are they actually healthy? The truth is these foods aren’t always the safe bet for seniors. Processed foods are often loaded with sugar, sodium, and preservatives. Low-fat yogurts sound like a good dessert choice but contain lots of sugar. Other common foods that may not be as healthy as they seem include protein bars, granola, dried fruits, vegetable chips, store-bought juices, sugar substitutes, and vitamin waters.
Takeaway: Foods that appear to be “healthier” may not be healthy, so it is critical to choose foods wisely and practice reading nutrition labels. Here’s a tip: the shorter the list, the better.
Elderly Nutrition Myth #4: Avoid Fat At All Costs
There is fear-mongering spreading around that seniors must avoid fat at all costs. This is only true when they have health problems that require a complete pause in fat consumption. Also, fat is present in everything, even nutrition snacks like nuts and seeds. There are good and bad sides to everything, and fat is no exception. That means some fats are more beneficial than others. When consumed in moderation, good fats can give a boost to seniors’ energy levels, promoting good health in the long term. Some sources of healthy fats include fatty fish, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, full-fat yogurts, cheese, and avocados.
Takeaway: Incorporate foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats while watching out for the consumption of trans fats.
Elderly Nutrition Myth #5: Seniors Can Eat Whatever They Want
Another myth about elderly nutrition is that seniors get a free pass to eat whatever they want. Boosting nutrient intake doesn’t equate to overeating. Overconsumption and poor food choices can pose opposite effects to seniors’ health, heightening their risks of developing chronic disease. For example, seniors who maintain a high-sugar diet may experience joint inflammation, high cholesterol, higher triglyceride levels, and metabolic syndrome. Loading up more carbohydrates than recommended can quadruple the risk of cognitive impairment, Mayo Clinic says.
Takeaway: Lean toward a healthy diet of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and good fats.
Elderly Nutrition Myth #6: Only Drink Water When Thirsty
Not only seniors but numerous people only reach for a glass of water when thirsty. However, acute thirst indicates that your body is already dehydrated. Staying hydrated is essential for overall health. Adequate fluids keep the brain at peak capacity and ensure optimal bodily functions. Unfortunately, seniors have challenges with drinking enough water because their sense of thirst diminishes over time. Health changes, medications, and weather can also influence seniors’ abilities to keep up with their hydration needs. Not every senior fancies the taste of water. Therefore, eating water-rich foods like watermelon, tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, and soups is a great way to supplement fluid intake.
Takeaway: Instead of sticking to the rule of thumbs by drinking 2 liters of water per day, seniors should make drinking water a part of their daily routine.
Elderly Nutrition Myth #7: Stick To 3 Meals A Day
Contrary to the centuries-old norm, no scientific evidence shows that a person must stick to a regimen of eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. While healthy eating is vital to living well and remaining independent into old age, three meals a day can overwhelm many seniors, especially those with eating problems or appetite loss or who find cooking time-consuming. How many times seniors should eat a day isn’t as crucial as the nutritional values incorporated in each meal. The number of daily meals can be altered and catered to each individual depending on their health and preferences.
Takeaway: Break down large meals into 5-6 smaller portions or well-chosen snacks.
Elderly Nutrition Myth #8: Eating Out Is More Convenient
Eating out or ordering take-outs is indeed more convenient than cooking at home, where seniors have to juggle multiple tasks, such as preparing food and cleaning afterward. For seniors who want a change of scenery or want to eat something other than their everyday meal, dining out could be a great choice. So, how could things go wrong? Chances are eating out, though delicious and convenient, can be detrimental to seniors’ health. It’s reported that restaurant meals and fast foods are shockingly high in sodium, fat, and sugar, with 92 percent of meals exceeding the recommended calorie intake.
Takeaway: Dining out takes out the hassle of home cooking, but high-sodium meals can be harmful to seniors’ health.
Elderly Nutrition Myth #9: Seniors Can Rely On Supplements To Meet Their Nutritional Needs
A significant number of seniors still experience nutrition deficiency, even if they increase their nutrient intake. This is because the aging body can no longer absorb nutrients sufficiently. Reaching for dietary supplements and vitamins is a practical way to fix such issues. However, it is never a good idea for seniors to live off supplements. When consumed irresponsibly, supplements can do more harm than good. Many people report experiencing unwanted side effects to their gut following heavy consumption, such as diarrhea and constipation. Taking supplements in excess can interfere with the body’s nutrient balance, putting seniors at heightened risk of malnutrition.
Takeaway: Supplements can’t replace food. It is best to exercise cautions and consult doctors to assess dosage before adding supplements to the diet.
Elderly Nutrition Myth #10: Senior Communities Serve Unappealing Foods
Think seniors only get to eat repetitive and boring foods in senior communities? It’s time to change your perspective. Long gone are the days of senior living communities serving unappealing food items. Today’s senior living communities have stepped up in their game by providing residents with a multitude of delectable food choices served hot and ready in a warm and home-like environment. They also take special requests from residents with unique dietary needs.
Takeaway: More and more communities have featured various menus to diversify seniors’ food palates.
Meeting Nutritional Needs Made Easy At 12 Oaks Communities
At 12 Oaks Communities, we know how important it is to maintain levels of nutrition intake for our residents. You are what you eat. Therefore, eating healthy is a must to achieve longevity and vitality.
With that in mind, our dedicated kitchen staff is always up for a big daily challenge to plan and cater meal varieties to help our endearing residents age gracefully and confidently while keeping them satisfied with every spoonful of food.
If you have questions about seniors’ nutritional needs and elderly nutrition myths or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks Senior Living Communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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