Nutrition tip: Eating Right in the Later Years
Nutrition tip: Eating Right in the Later Years
Healthy, independent, active and mobile – that’s how most people like to age. It is not only important to provide the body with various foods from the different food groups, in the right proportions, but also to enjoy the food. How can this be done? (Foto: ©fotolia/MonkeyBusiness)

The basics

Compared to the nutritional recommendations for young adults, the need for nutrients remains the same in old age, but the energy needs are lower. This means that older people should consciously choose foods that are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and dietary fibre, such as whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables.

Fight muscle breakdown

When people become physically weaker over time, it is often considered a harmless symptom of aging. However, 50 million people worldwide suffer from severe age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia. In addition to chronic disease and lack of exercise, the diet can accelerate the loss of strength. How can one counteract this?

Protein and resistance training
Older people use less energy and normally eat less. By reducing the size of their meals, they usually also reduce the total amount of protein. However, the need for protein remains the same in old age, and may even increase as the body utilises the protein poorly. Similarly, illnesses and medication can lead to an increased demand. Ideal sources of protein are milk, dairy products, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, tofu and legumes. Protein should not come from meat only.
In addition, targeted strength training can limit muscle breakdown. What else influences bone density?

Maintaining bone density

Vitamin D
Fat-soluble vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and good bone structure, strengthens the muscles and helps to prevent falls. The body can produce this vitamin by exposing the skin to sunlight. In old age, however, the skin’s capacity decreases fourfold. The use of sunscreen further reduces the formation of vitamin D. Therefore, supplementation is recommended during the winter months. Natural sources of vitamin D are limited. Larger amounts are found only in fatty fish (salmon and sardines), mushrooms and eggs. Studies have shown that, where there is a sufficient supply of vitamin D, the calcium intake from a normal diet is sufficient. In the case of lactose intolerance, it may nevertheless be necessary to use food supplements.

What else should be considered?

Folic acid
The supply of folic acid is also often inadequate in old age. Valuable sources include green vegetables (lettuce, cabbage, spinach, cucumbers), oranges, wheat germ, soybeans, tomatoes and whole grain oatmeal. Raw vegetables can be difficult to chew for older people with dentures. In this case, it can help to lightly steam the vegetables, cut them into bite-sized pieces or puree them.

Sufficient hydration
The sense of thirst diminishes with age and the kidneys start losing their ability to dilute the urine. It is helpful to consciously plan meals and drinks and to place a glass or jug where it can be clearly seen and to be aware of other factors, like time. One should drink at least one to two litres of liquid every day.
Suggested drinking:
  • A glass of water immediately after getting out of bed
  • A glass of water before brushing the teeth
  • A bit of water every time you go to the toilet
  • Diluted fruit juices in between for a bit of variety
  • Soups are also good suppliers of liquids
  • Take a water bottle with during longer activities, such as walks

The taste bud function on the tongue and palate decreases with age. Furthermore, dentures affect the mouthfeel and cause a deterioration of the sense of taste. Studies show that older people have a preference for “umami” (spicy, meaty flavour). Greater quantities of foods with this flavour (meat, tomatoes, cheese, etc.) should be included in the diet.

When cooking becomes a problem, simply prepared convenience foods can be helpful. Of course, eating is far more pleasurable and fun in the company of others.

Of course, eating is far more pleasurable and fun in the company of others.

If you would like to find out more about eating in old age, we recommend the following website:

The Kornspitz team is always happy to hear from you. If you have any questions, requests, suggestions or tips, please send an email to

Mag. Gerda Reimann-Dorninger
Nutrition Scientist

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