Good health in older age
Make sure you’re eating plenty of foods rich in starch and fibre. Bread, rice, pasta, cereals and potatoes are good examples. As well as being low in fat, they are good sources of other essential nutrients: protein, vitamins and minerals.
The fibre from these helps to prevent constipation which reduces the risk of some common disorders in the intestine.
Don’t be tempted to buy raw bran and sprinkle it on your food to increase fibre as this may prevent you absorbing some important minerals.
Oats, beans, peas, lentils, fruit and vegetables are also sources of fibre.
Eating plenty of iron-rich foods will help keep up your body’s store of iron. The best source of iron is red meat. It can also be found in pulses (such as peas, beans and lentils), oily fish such as sardines, eggs, bread, green vegetables and breakfast cereals with added vitamins.
Liver is a good source of iron. However, it is also a rich source of vitamin A and having too much vitamin A can be harmful.
It’s a good idea to avoid drinking tea or coffee with iron-rich meals because this might affect how much iron the body absorbs from food.
Foods and drinks rich in vitamin C
These might help the body absorb iron, so you could have some fruit or vegetables or a glass of fruit juice with an iron-rich meal. Fruit, especially citrus fruit, green vegetables, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes are all good sources of vitamin C.
Foods containing folic acid
These help maintain good health in older age. Good sources are green vegetables and brown rice, as well as bread and breakfast cereals that have vitamins added.
Osteoporosis is a major health issue for older people, particularly women. This is where bone density reduces and so the risk of fractures increases. Good sources of calcium are dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt. Remember to choose lower-fat varieties when you can or eat higher fat varieties in smaller amounts. Calcium is also found in canned fish with bones, such as sardines. Other sources of calcium include green leafy vegetables (such as broccoli and cabbage, but not spinach), soya beans and tofu.
Try to keep your weight at a healthy level. As you grow older, if you’re overweight this will affect your mobility, which can affect your health and your quality of life. Being overweight increases your risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Equally, sudden weight loss is not healthy and may be an indication either that you are not eating enough food or that you are not well.
If you are concerned then ask your doctor to check. He or she may refer you to a dietitian, who can give you advice about changing what you eat to meet your current needs.
As you age it’s natural to start eating less because you will become less physically active and so your body will adapt and adjust your overall food intake accordingly.
You may find it difficult to tolerate the meals you used to eat. Try having smaller meals more frequently and with nutritious snacks in between. Also make sure you drink plenty of liquids. It’s important to eat regularly, at least three times a day. You might not always feel like cooking so you could increase your intake of tinned, chilled and frozen ready-prepared meals.
Always make sure you heat chilled and frozen food until it’s steaming hot all the way through.
Have a store of foods in the freezer and cupboard in case you are unable to go out.
You might be eating less because you’re finding it more difficult to buy or prepare food or you’re finding it harder to get around if you have conditions such as arthritis.
You may be able to get help with these sorts of problems via your GP.