The younger a person is, the more calories they need to support growth, which is why it’s easier to get away with eating slightly less nutrient-dense foods. However, that means the opposite is true for your older adult patients. Worst still, the older your patients get, the less effective their bodies become at absorbing nutrients, flavor begins to dull, and certain meals can become more difficult to consume. That’s why, every bite matters, and your foodservice staff must offer meals and snacks that contain the appropriate nutrients needed to help maintain patient health. What are these powerful, special nutrients your older adult population needs?
Absorbing B12 becomes more difficult as the body ages, yet it is crucial for “creating red blood cells and DNA,” as well as “for maintaining healthy nerve function.” This means your patients must have access to B12-rich foods, such as eggs, poultry, fish, meat, and dairy products, to thrive.
If anemia is a problem for some of your older patients, not enough folate/folic acid may be the cause, in which case adding more fruits and vegetables, and certain fortified cereals, to the menu might be just what you need to turn things around.
Calcium is crucial for complete bone health, and as you know, older patients are most at risk for suffering from arthritis, osteoporosis, and other musculoskeletal conditions. While low fat milk can help, kale, broccoli, and other calcium-rich raw foods are the recommended means of consumption. In fact, smoothies and shakes made with different fruits and vegetables, when paired with yogurt, can be an excellent, nutritious snack or meal replacement for your older patients with smaller appetites and/or certain limitations.
Vitamin D is great for helping the body regulate calcium, as well as protecting against cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune conditions, and more. However, many older adults living in care facilities don’t get out into the sun for the vitamin D they need nearly as often as they should, which can lead to serious health risks and an “increased risk of falling.” That’s why, assessing each patient for vitamin D deficiencies and fortifying the meals of those at risk is not only ideal, it’s necessary.
In addition to working alongside vitamin D and calcium to keep bones strong, potassium optimizes cell function and has been proven to “reduce high blood pressure and the risk of kidney stones.” Thankfully, making sure your patients’ diets are full of fresh fruits and vegetables, like prunes, bananas, plums, and skin-on potatoes, is an easy fix.
“Magnesium plays a crucial role in some 300 different physiological processes,” including those related to immune support, heart health, and musculoskeletal strength, making it incredibly important for older patients. The problem is, magnesium often cannot survive processing, and older patients who have trouble absorbing it are also likely to be on medications that make absorption weaker. The only way to fix the issue is to make sure you offer your patients “as many unprocessed foods as possible,” from fresh fruits and vegetables, to beans, seeds, and whole grains.
Optimal digestion and a decreased chance of heart disease are just two of the many benefits of having enough fiber, which means fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts have to be on your menu if you hope to help your older patients flourish – even if just in the form of a snack.
Unsaturated fats, like Omega-3, are primarily found in fish, and can dramatically improve the lives of your older patients by diminishing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, slowing down age-related macular degeneration (AMD), reducing threats of Alzheimer’s, and more. Offering your patients salmon, tuna, mackerel, or sardines (all high in Omega-3) at least twice a week will go a long way is supporting optimal physical and cognitive function.
If you need additional support, Vision Software and our array of impressively innovative food service software applications will always be here for you! Call 629.777.8989, or fill in the free consultation form in the sidebar, to learn more about how Vision Software can positively impact the lives of the patients and visitors you service every day.