Dietary guideline & nutrition requirements
Diet planning guides and dietary guidelines are tools that apply principles of good eating and offer practical advice on healthy habits. Using the diet planning tools together allows individuals to plan nutrient-dense, well-balanced diets that provide variety and moderation without excessive energy. Consuming food wisely and practicing healthy habits support overall health.
- Adequacy: providing sufficient energy and essential nutrients for healthy people.
- Balance: consuming the right proportion of foods. Choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products, and whole grains.
- Calorie control: balancing the amount of foods and energy to sustain physical activities and metabolic needs.
- Nutrient density: That is to measure the nutrient content of a food relative to its energy content. Empty calorie foods denote foods that contribute energy but lack nutrients. Nutrition profiling involves ranking foods based on the nutrients they provide.
- Moderation: That is to provide enough but not too much of a food or nutrient.
- Variety: That is to eat a wide selection of foods within and among the major food groups. Consume foods from all food groups and limit foods that can be detrimental to health.
In animal studies, energy restriction showed that animals could live longer and have fewer age-related diseases and slow aging process. 70% of normal energy intake may prevent malnutrition, increases antioxidant activity & DNA repair. Energy restriction in human beings means 10 to 20 percent reduction in energy intake. Extreme starvation is not worth the price. However, moderation of energy intake may be valuable. Nutritional adequacy is essential to a long and healthy life.
Nutrient Needs During Adulthood
- Calories: Energy needs decrease by around 5% per decade.
- Protein: To protect muscle mass, boost the immune system, and optimize bone mass.
- Fat: To enhance flavors of foods and provide valuable nutrients.
- Carbohydrates: For energy.
- Water: Fiber and water could reduce constipation.
- Calcium and Vitamin D: Absorption from fortified milk and sunshine is needed to prevent bone loss. For those who are lactose-intolerance, calcium can be obtained from fortified juices or supplements.
- Iron: From red meats consumed with vitamin C-rich foods.
- Zinc: A deficiency of zinc can alter appetite and taste.
- Magnesium: Magnesium supports bone mineralization, and is involved in energy systems and in heart functioning. It is widespread in foods.
- Folate and Vitamins B-6 and B-12: Vitamin B12 from fortified foods and supplements is especially needed for those with atrophic gastritis. Folate status may be compromised by medical conditions or medications.
Nutrition and longevity
Good nutrition and regular physical activity can increase life expectancy, support good health, prevent or prolong the onset of disease, and improve the quality of life. There are many healthy habits that can increase lifespan. A person’s physiological age and chronological age may be different. The benefits of energy restriction in humans in the later years are being studied.
There are two motivating goals of dietary control, to promote health and slow aging. The ratio of old people to young is increasing. Growing “old” happens day by day. There are many healthy habits that can increase lifespan. A person’s physiological age and chronological age may be different. The benefits of energy restriction in humans in the later years are being studied. Good nutrition and regular physical activity can increase life expectancy, support good health, prevent or prolong the onset of disease, and improve the quality of life.
Physiological, psychological, social, and economic changes that accompany aging affect nutritional status. Everyday stress can influence physical and psychological aging. Stressors elicit the body’s stress response. Physical stressors include alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, pain, and illness. Psychological stressors include exams, divorce, moving, and the death of loved ones. Malnutrition is common.
Healthy habits do count for elders. There are several important observation guidelines:
Eating well-balanced meals: Do they eat well-balanced meals, including breakfast, regularly?
Engaging in physical activity: Many benefits including lower weight, greater flexibility, increased endurance, better balance and health, and a longer lifespan. Regular physical activity can prevent or delay the decrease in muscle mass and strength that occur with age. Active people benefit from higher energy and nutrient intakes. For those who have not been active should start easy and build slowly, please check with your physicians first.
- Not smoking
- Abstinence or moderate use of alcohol
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
- Sleeping regularly and adequately
Energy and Nutrient Needs of Older Adults
There are many nutrient concerns for aging adults. Supplements are not routinely recommended. Nutrient needs and health needs are highly individualized.
Water: Dehydration increases risks for urinary tract infections, pneumonia, pressure ulcers, confusion, and disorientation. Fluid needs are not recognized by mobility and bladder problems. Dry mouth and thirst response are usually the sign of dehydration. Water recommendations for men per day are 13 cups. For women, it is 9 cups per day.
- Energy needs decline.
- Nutrient needs remain high
- Protein is more important. Eating protein from low-calorie sources or liquid nutritional formulas is also recommended.
- Nutrient supplements: A multivitamin-multimineral supplement may be recommended. More than half of older adults use supplements. These supplements do not help certain nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin C, and magnesium. However, foods are still the best source of nutrients.
Food Choices & Eating Habits of Older Adults
Older people benefit from the social interaction and the nutrients provided through food assistance programs. Older adults should purchase foods carefully and prepare foods creatively. One strategy for growing old healthfully is spending more money on foods to eat at home and less money on foods away from home.
© Yi-wen (Eve) Chien, PhD. School of Nutrition and Health Sciences, College of Nutrition, Taipei Medical University.