Every age group has its specific and appropriate nutritional needs. These age groups include the children, adolescents, the adults and the elderly. Proper nutritional care is also necessary to provide the needs of patients who are suffering from nutrition-related ailments (Willett & Meir, 2003). There are other groups of people that require special intervention in terms of nutrition. These groups include those individuals who have eating disorder, the pregnant and those suffering from HIV. All these groups have specific nutritional needs that are important to ensure health of the individual.
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Poor nutrition may be harmful to any of the aforementioned groups. Poor diets are known to cause ailments such as scurvy. This is when the diet does not contain vitamin C. Kwashiorkor and obesity are other nutrition-related conditions. Improper nutrition may also lead to some of the common chronic diseases of the body system (Flood & Carr, 2004).
These include osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. These are serious diseases, which if not treated or managed, may be life threatening. With proper guidance from the clinical nutritionist, the patient may be able to regain full health. These professionals mainly focus on the role of nutrition in chronic diseases. First, they concentrate on alleviating the nutritional deficiencies by prescribing proper dieting. Later on, they may resort to drugs when the nutritional need is sufficiently met.
Several nutrients occur naturally and are essential for human health. Generally, they are classified in to two broad groups, the micronutrients and the macronutrients. They may further be divided into six classes. They include the vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins, water, minerals and fats (Willett & Meir, 2003). These nutrients should be provided in certain varying proportions to improve their efficiency in ensuring health. Every group also requires specific proportions depending on the needs of the group. The specific group being targeted is the elderly.
Nutrition for the elderly: What your body needs
Recent studies have suggested that more people that are elderly are being obese (Flood & Carr, 2004). This has been determined to go along with the micronutrient and macronutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies occur to both the overweight and underweight elderly persons. This places them at high risk of fractures, dementia and infections.
Specific food choices in this group of individual may help elevate their nutritional status. Such food choices include intake of legumes, fish and nuts. When the elderly make good food choices, they feel better and lead healthy lives. This is made possible through the adoption of a balanced diet and regular physical exercise. Good health at old age is important to enhance independence of the individual as opposed to dependency.
Micronutrients are important to the human body since a lack of the important nutrients may lead to cognitive impairment. Age-related cognitive impairment and dementia may be combated with proper nutritional care (Flood & Carr, 2004). The elderly should have diets composed of complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruits, red wine and fibers. The food should also contain fats but this should be non-animal fat.
The elderly have a complex system that responds differently to different types of vitamins. For example, vitamin D helps reduce risks of fractures. This should be administered in specific doses. Supplementation is also necessary since the skin of the elderly becomes less efficient in synthesizing it from the sun.
However, vitamin A has been determined to increase the risks of fractures in the elderly. This is because it affects the osteoclast and osteoblast activity. This increases the effect on the parathyroid hormone on the bone. This causes an increase in bone resorption (Ilich, Brownbill, & Tamborini, 2003). When a certain amount of vitamin A intake is exceeded, osteoporosis is likely to occur.
Vitamin B supplementation is also essential for the elderly. This is because the stomachs of the old produce less gastric acid. This makes it difficult for the body to absorb vitamin B12. Therefore, the elderly should have a daily dose of a certain amount of vitamin B12. This is important because it helps to keep nerves and blood vital.
Without a wholesome meal, the elderly tend to feel sluggish and slower. This is despite the nutrient-dense food. Therefore, they should develop a habit of feeding well.
- Consuming good fats – the fats that should be consumed by the old people should be fats derived from plants. These include olive oil, walnuts, flaxseeds, avocado and salmons. These fats are in a group referred to as monounsaturated fats. These fats are essential for the protection of the body against heart disease (Mente, Koning, Shannon, & Anand, 2009). This is because it controls the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases the good ones (HDL).
- Fiber – the elderly should increase their uptake of fibers. They are available in foods such as vegetables, fresh fruits, beans and whole grains. They are important since they help avoid constipation. They also help to lower the risk of chronic diseases. Fibers also make people feel fuller for longer periods.
- Sugars – the elderly also need to look for product with hidden sugar. They may be in bread, vegetables or fast foods. They can easily spot such foods with labels that include the term sugar.
- Smart cooking – such foods such as vegetables require smart cooking. The best way to cook them is by steaming. Alternatively, one could prepare them by sautéing in olive oil. This is important to ensure that the nutrients in the vegetables are not lost but preserved.
- Colorful dish – a colorful dish of food corresponds to food rich in nutrients. One could adopt a five-color dish, for example. This could be made possible with a combination of such food items as spinach, tomatoes, melons, yams and blackberries.
- Good carbohydrates – the bad carbohydrates include the simple carbohydrates. They include white rice (stripped of its nutrients), refined sugars and white flour. They are referred to as bad carbohydrates since they are digested too quickly and they are utilized quickly. Therefore, they produce short-lived energy. They also tend to shoot up the blood sugar levels, which is not healthy. Good carbohydrates are important to provide long-lasting energy. This also ensures that the insulin levels are maintained at stable levels.
Example of day menu
- Meat and meat substitutes – should be 3 ounces or more. In case of casserole dishes, the portion of meat should not be lower than 2.5 ounces. Substitutes of meat include eggs, beans, cheese and products of soy.
- Milk – each meal should include at least one serving of milk. It should have no or low fat content.
- Vegetables and fruits – every meal should include at least two servings.
- Butter or fortified margarine – one teaspoon should be included in a meal. Cream cheese or mayonnaise may act as substitutes.
- Dessert – this should be incorporated in the meal. Fruits should be used as desert at least three times in a week.
Flood, K., & Carr, D. (2004). Nutrition in the elderly. Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 20, 125-129.
Ilich, Z., Brownbill, R., & Tamborini, L. (2003). Bone and nutrition in elderly women: Protein, energy and calcium as main determinants of bone mineral density. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57, 554-565.
Mente, A., Koning, L., Shannon, H., & Anand, S. (2009). A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factor and coronary heart disease. Archives of Internal Medicine, 169(7), 659-669.
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Willett, C., & Meir, J. (2003). Rebuilding the food pyramid. Scientific American, 288(1), 64-71.