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Monday, February 22, 2010

Diet dos and don'ts for senior citizens

As you age, your needs for nutrition increase. Your body is in a degenerative mode. Growth of cells and tissues is slow but repairing of tissues is at a higher rate.

You suffer from low immunity, poor digestion, weak bones and muscles and fatigue. Activity of the body reduces and you may be a victim of metabolic disorders like diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, etc. All this does not mean that you have to eat less. Eating right becomes more important than eating less.

Requirement of vitamins, proteins, minerals, fluids and carbohydrates changes in old age. And all these nutrients have to be packaged in easy-to-digest and easy-to-absorb, small frequent meals which are spread out and spaced well over the entire day.

Ageing is a process, which is associated with a lot of free radical release in the body. It is also called as oxidation of cells. Weak muscles, greying and falling of hair, reduced skin tone, susceptibility to colds and coughs and lack of energy are symptoms of oxidation. Vitamins like vitamin E, C, A and some minerals are essential in right quantities to reduce the ill-effects of free radicals in the body.

At times, food becomes very important during old age as that is the time when you can spend some time with the rest of the members of the family. Women especially should be very careful about their diet in old age. Due to menopause, the ability to absorb calcium reduces and they may get weakness in joints and susceptibility to fractures very easily. Food cooked should be soft and easy to chew, in case there have been teeth extractions or dentures are being used.

Tips to right eating in old age

- Add plenty of natural colour to your diet. Two to three meals of seasonal fruits will work as antioxidants and prevent constipation.

- Egg whites are a good source of protein important for repair of worn out cells and tissues. For vegetarians, paneer made from low-fat milk is good substitute.

- Use of mustard oil or olive oil is a good cooking medium as both prevent high cholesterol and improve good cholesterol in the blood.

- Six to seven small meals in a day aid digestion, absorption and prevent fatigue.

- Vegetables soups without cream and thickening agents are a healthy meal to be taken as a supper.

- Always leave your home with a small healthy snack in your bag, to avoid eating out.

- Avoid processed foods with artificial colours and preservatives.

- Potassium-rich foods like cumin seeds (zeera), sweet limes, fenugreek seeds (methi) and coconut water are good for muscular flexibility, prevent water retention and swellings. They also contribute to maintain blood pressure.

- For a high dose of nutrition, add curd to the dough for rotis to improve the biological value of the cereal, and to keep them soft.

- Oats porridge is an excellent breakfast for seniors.

- Drink about 15 glasses of water in a day to prevent dehydration. In old age, muscle density reduces and susceptibility to dehydration is always very high, especially in summer.

- Do not overcook the food to make it soft as by doing so one destroys vital nutrients. Instead, select foods which need less time to cook.

- Also, exercise regularly, stretch and do yoga to ensure absorption of nutrients well.

In case you suffer from any medical disorder, consult a professional nutrition consultant for your individual requirement.

By Sveta Bhassin, nutritionist and wellness consultant.


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