Aging can affect healthful eating but these tips can helpJuly 8, 2019
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Healthy eating can be difficult for anyone, but it’s particularly challenging as we get older.
The diet of the average American over 65 is too low in whole fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, heart-healthy oils and dairy, and too high in refined grains, sodium, and other empty nutrients, according to the 2016 report of the Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics.
“A wide variety of factors can impact an older adult’s ability to eat healthfully, ranging from lack of appetite to chewing and swallowing troubles to having conditions such as depression and dementia,” says Elizabeth Eckstrom, chief of geriatrics at Oregon Health & Science University. And poor nutrition can lead to frailty, make you more susceptible to infections and weakened muscles.
Here are some ways to overcome these obstacles.
Losing your appetite
A slight drop in appetite is typical with age. And because your sense of smell and sense of taste decline over the years, food can seem less appetizing, says Ronan Factora, a geriatrician at the Cleveland Clinic. Chronic conditions such as dementia and kidney failure can reduce appetite, too.
Smart solutions: You don’t need to be overly concerned unless you’re unintentionally losing weight. But to ward off problems, stay as physically active as possible. Exercise, including resistance training, helps you retain muscle mass, which keeps your metabolism humming and potentially ramps up appetite.
And consider tai chi: A study in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that older adults who practiced this regularly reported increased appetite.
If you get full quickly, consider eating five smaller daily meals instead of three larger ones (with protein in at least three meals). Add healthy nutrients and extra calories, if needed, by including milk powder, egg whites, olive oil and drinks, such as fruit smoothies in your diet.
To stimulate your appetite, suck on hard candy before meals, says Lauri Wright, a nutrition professor at the University of North Florida. Prescription appetite stimulants such as megestrol acetate (Megace and generic) improve appetite only slightly but boost the risk of blood clots and fluid retention.
Chewing or swallowing trouble
About 11 percent of people older than 60 have difficulty chewing, according to a 2013 study in the Australian Dental Journal. This is often because of dental problems, such as poorly fitting dentures or broken or missing teeth. And up to 10 percent might experience trouble swallowing, which can be caused by a neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s disease, damage from a stroke, wear and tear on your esophagus, or tooth loss.
Smart solutions: Find ways to replace hard-to-chew foods with…