Basically, the same applies to healthy older people as to younger people. Those who eat healthy, balanced and appropriate needs can count on not having any deficiency symptoms. However, the body changes with age. Energy consumption decreases, the proportion of muscles usually decreases, and the proportion of water also decreases.
The percentage of body fat often increases. However, the need for nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) usually remains similarly high. The need for nutrients can even increase, for example, due to medication. Older people are a particularly heterogeneous group that can find themselves in very different life and health situations.
What should older people look for in their diet?
- Choose foods that contain many important nutrients and are still relatively low in calories ( e.g. fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, low-fat milk and dairy products). Pay attention to the intake of high-fat sea fish and high-quality, vegetable oils.
- Eat meat and sausages as well as eggs in moderation.
- Avoid high-fat, high-sugar and highly salted foods – use salt sparingly.
- Reduce the quantities and portion sizes overall.
Often people forget to drink or do not correctly estimate the amount. The feeling of thirst also subsides in old age. Therefore, it is particularly important for older people to drink before feeling thirsty. It can be helpful to consciously incorporate drinks into everyday life:
- Adequate drinking means at least 1.5 liters per day ( e.g. water, mineral water, unsweetened herbal and fruit teas, diluted fruit or vegetable juices).
- Drink with every meal ( e.g. morning tea, water for lunch and water or diluted fruit juice in between). Soups and fruit also contain liquid. However, these are not counted among the 1.5 liters of drinks per day, but should also be eaten.
- Only drink alcohol in moderation!
Important vitamins and minerals
Vitamins and minerals are especially important for older people. Some of them are of particular importance with increasing years.
Vitamin D and calcium: Vitamin D is necessary for the metabolism of calcium and therefore also for the bone metabolism. If the elderly do not spend enough time outdoors, a deficiency can occur (vitamin D can be formed by the body itself through the action of sun in the skin). In addition, vitamin D deficiency – among other factors – can be associated with the development of osteoporosis and also accelerate it. Oily fish such as salmon or mackerel are considered to be foods rich in vitamin D. For more information, see Vitamin D , Calcium, and Diet and Osteoporosis.
Folic acid: A folate deficiency can act indirectly as a risk factor for stroke . Folic acid is mainly absorbed with fresh vegetables and fruit. The supply is usually too low. For more information, see Folic Acid .