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K-State human nutrition expert says nutritional needs change as one ages

By Sara Shellenberger

 

Aging doesn't have to equal a change in health. However, nutritional needs do change as one becomes older, said Tina Remig, registered dietician and Kansas State University assistant professor of human nutrition.

"It is generally acceptable thinking that as you increase in age your health decreases, but this is less and less the case," Remig said. "A person that is 70 today is on average much healthier and full of vitality, capable and more independent than in the past. The 'old is frail' mentality is falling by the wayside."

Despite this positive trend, Remig suggested four ways aging adults could improve their diet to meet their changing nutritional needs.

* Be cautious about consuming excess calories. "As you get older, your energy needs decreases because most people are not as active," Remig said. "So while you do not want to lose essential nutrients in your diet, you cannot continue to eat the same amount as you did as a younger adult without weight gain. Find the balance that works for you."

* Consume adequate protein. "As one ages, many tend to eliminate harder-to-prepare foods, but a good diet should still consist of daily protein intake," Remig said. "Protein can come in the form of milk, meat, fish, cheese, peanut butter or eggs -- but it is important that this be present daily."

* Eat enough fiber daily. "As you age, your body benefits from an increased supply of dietary fiber," she said. "Look for things with bulk, such as fresh fruit, salad, vegetables and whole grains."

* Get adequate hydration. "Fluids -- such as beverages, soups, milk, water, etc. -- help us stay healthy and able to function properly," Remig said. "When people are dehydrated, their performance and thinking is impaired."

While nutritional needs are always changing as one ages, Remig encourages people of all ages to eat well and take proper care of their body.

"Give attention to a good diet and health maintenance from early on," Remig said. "It's worth it."

 

Fall/Winter 2006