How Diets Affect The Elderly

Feb 02, 2021
Jean-François Bérubé

It’s never too late to start eating healthy. The truth is, despite the creams, supplements, and gadgets on the market that claim to slow the aging process, your diet is still the best way. Gerontologists are experts on the aging process, dedicated to treating and improving the mental, physical, and social problems the elderly face. They have long advocated that we focus on a healthy diet and active lifestyle, to keep us stronger – longer.

This article will highlight the important features of diets for the elderly, including caloric and nutrient needs, hydration, and foods to limit.


I’m sure you’ve heard that our metabolic rate declines as we age, often leading to weight gain. The excess weight can lead to knee, hip, and back pain. Obesity also increases your risk for certain chronic diseases. To help prevent this:

  • Gradually increase your cardio. Walking and swimming are activities that raise your heart rate but are also easy on the joints.

  • Start resistance training. This will help add muscle mass, keeping your joints stronger and also keeping your metabolic rate higher.

  • Moderation is key, especially on your favourite foods.


In order for our tissues to grow and repair themselves, we need protein. While we just mentioned needing fewer calories throughout the day, we should try to maintain protein levels. This should be about 45-60 grams for the average adult. Elderly adults should be sure to choose high-quality protein such as chicken (only 3 ounces), legumes, eggs, and fish.


Studies are starting to show that antioxidants can play a role in the aging process as well as preventing chronic disease. But you don’t need to add supplements to your diet for this. Instead add antioxidant-rich foods to your diet such as almonds, red peppers, blueberries, spinach, strawberries, and tomatoes.

Calcium is not just in our bones, it’s needed for the proper function of the nervous system as well as blood clotting. Calcium is found in many foods, however, the body needs Vitamin D in order to absorb the calcium. Vitamin D is not usually found in foods (except fortified dairy products), so most people take a supplement. Speak with your doctor, but generally, 600IU is recommended for adults up to 70, for elderly patients, 800IU is recommended.


Most seniors don’t drink enough water. Simply forgetting, or having to wake up to use the bathroom repeatedly throughout the night, are the most common reasons.

To stay healthy most adults need two liters a day. The problem is our sensation for thirst actually decreases as we age. This leaves us vulnerable to dehydration. If water doesn’t do it for you, try fruit juices, decaffeinated beverages, or low-fat milk. These are non-diuretics, which help prevent dehydration.


Aside from the lean proteins, calcium and vitamin D there are some foods the elderly should try to include:

  • Poultry, eggs and milk tend to be high in vitamin B12, which means they’re good for your nervous system and making more red blood cells.

  • One quarter of your lunch and dinner should be reserved for whole grains with high fiber. Soluble fibre specifically can help manage blood sugar and lower blood cholesterol. You’ll find oats, barley, peas, and lentils to be high in soluble fibre.

  • Fresh cooked or from frozen are your best source of fruits and vegetables. Canned vegetables are higher in sodium and canned fruit is higher in sugar.

As we mentioned earlier, we need to reduce our caloric intake as we age, but protein and fiber should remain high. Here are the foods you should be cutting out to maintain that caloric deficit.

  • Foods high in sodium such as canned soup, bakery products, processed meats, cheese and condiments. Sodium increases the risk of heart disease and can make it harder for your body to fight chronic diseases.

  • Sugary foods, especially processed sugar should be avoided since our metabolism can’t keep up anymore. This includes zero calorie sweeteners, since they also spike your blood sugar.

  • Saturated fats such as processed meat, ice cream, and palm oil should be relpaced with healthier fats such as nuts, salmon, and tofu. This will reduce the risk of heart disease, and slow weight gain.

As Hippocrates said, “let food be your medicine”. Keeping a careful watch on your diet has never been more important. If you find you’re not getting enough of the good stuff your diet needs, it might be time to consider a meal preparation and delivery service.