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Preparing meals for the elderly? Here is a list of important nutrients and foods you can find them in.

Preparing meals for the elderly? Here is a list of important nutrients and foods you can find them in.

Having a balanced and nutritious diet is especially important for the elderly. As one gets older it can be harder to cook or prepare nutritious meals or be able to go out to a restaurant or food court to eat due to limited mobility and dietary requirements or concerns. It is important that the daily diets for seniors be easy to prepare, simple and nutritious, especially for those who live alone.

According to Dr Lim Si Ching, Senior Consultant, Geriatric Medicine from Changi General Hospital, here are the top few nutrients for elderly:

Protein

Low protein intake among the elderly leads to muscle loss and osteoporosis. Dietary protein intake stimulates muscle protein synthesis, which leads to an
improvement in lean muscle mass, strength and function. Increasing dietary protein intake also improves bone mineral density, reduces fracture risks and improves health in general.

Protein sources: Protein from animal protein and dairy products are considered higher quality proteins in terms of the higher proportion of essential amino acids that are useful for muscle protein synthesis as compared to vegetable sources.

The Food and Nutrition Board recommends a daily protein intake of 0.8g/kg/day of protein for the elderly. This is the minimum amount of protein required daily to prevent a loss of lean body mass. This requirement increases when the elderly is admitted to the hospital, especially if they undergo major surgery.

Protein intake should constitute 10 to 35 per cent of the daily energy intake.

Calcium

Lack of calcium for the bones can lead to osteoporosis, which can then cause fractures of the hip, wrist and vertebra.These fractures can lead to loss of life or loss of independence, functional decline, high fall risks and chronic pain. Calcium supplementation is recommended for those whose oral intake remains insufficient.

Calcium sources: Dairy products, dried beans, kale, fortified juices, tofu and spinach.

Vitamin D

Low vitamin D levels are linked risks of falls, osteoporosis, fractures, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disorders, cancers and poorer cognitive function.

Vitamin D sources: Egg yolks, cod liver oil and fatty fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel. Foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk provide the bulk of dietary vitamin D.

Iron

Iron helps to transport oxygen to tissues through haemoglobin and myoglobin. Iron stores also affect immunity cognition and muscle function. Anaemia is the
most common nutrition-related disorder among the chronically ill elderly.

Iron sources: Heme iron comes from animal sources such as beef, pork, poultry and fish and non-heme iron from beans, dried fruits, enriched grains and fortified cereals. Non-heme iron needs to be in a soluble form for absorption and the ability to absorb iron is often reduced among the elderly.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is important for vision, especially for sensing low light levels. Low vitamin A intake is often coincident with a low protein diet.

Vitamin A Sources: Green leafy vegetables, carrots, squash, eggs, beef liver and fortified foods.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with depression, psychosis, subacute combined degeneration of the cord, dementia and multiple sclerosis. Common causes of vitamin B12 deficiency include pernicious anaemia and disorders of the stomach, pancreas and small bowel.

Vitamin B Sources: Meat, fish, poultry, eggs and fortified cereals.

Folic acid

Folic acid is important in DNA synthesis and amino acid metabolism. Deficiency causes anaemia and diarrhoea.

Folate sources: Green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, peas, dairy products, eggs, seafood, poultry, meat and fortified foods such as bread, cereal and pasta.

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