Eating Protein for Healthy Aging

Published: May 29, 2014

By: Darla Evans, director of nutritional services, LIFE Programs

Studies show that around 27% of seniors in America are eating less protein than they should in order to maintain good physical health. This statistic is troubling because as we age our physical need for protein usually increases.

Why do some seniors eat less protein?

As we age, our appetites may diminish. This can be due to such things as difficulty with dentures, cavities, taste buds, depression, side effects of certain medicines and overall illness. Some seniors have more trouble digesting certain foods because of a loss of vital digestive enzymes. Those experiencing muscle loss and decreased bone density may have a hard time cooking for themselves.

Why is it important to eat adequate protein?

A diet that includes adequate sources of protein is important for all seniors to help slow down the process of muscle loss, to help maintain strength and to help with wound healing.

What are sources of protein?

  • All meats (beef, poultry, seafood, pork, game meats)
  • Legumes (dry beans and peas)
  • Eggs and egg substitutes
  • Milk and milk products (cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt)
  • Nuts and seeds (peanut butter)
  • Tofu

How do I know if I’m eating enough protein?

There are many factors that determine your individual protein needs. Each time you have a re-assessment by your doctor, you should discuss your eating habits. The information you provide will help the doctor determine if your present diet is meeting your protein needs. It is important to notify the doctor of any recent changes that may be affecting your intake of protein foods such as:

  • Foods that you are now having trouble chewing or digesting
  • Foods that you no longer have the desire to eat
  • Difficulties with shopping or cooking

If your diet appears to be low in adequate protein sources, a nutritionist can help you develop a plan to incorporate more protein sources into your diet.

 

Reference: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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