My interest in the geriatric diet started with my grandmother. She is turning 90 years old soon. She is picky about her food. I thought it was because she is a picky eater but I quickly realise that it might be more than that.
As I grow older, I noticed that my diet makes a lot of difference to my body and how I feel. I can no longer eat what I want without it showing up in my body. My friends and I always joke that we put on weight even when we only drink water. The truth, of course, is not so severe. But I am putting on weight a little every year and I am not a big eater. It goes to show that with age, our bodies are more sensitive to what we put into it. We can no longer eat like when we are a young adult.
If I am experiencing this, think about my grandmother. I did a bit of research on the geriatric diet and is surprised to discover that malnutrition amongst the elderly is quite serious. Studies from the World Health Organization and regional health organizations and institutions in the US and Europe, many elderly are at risk of malnutrition. A health report even claimed that 16% of Americans over the age of 65 who showed up at emergency rooms across US are malnourished. Even Chinese health experts surmised that more than half of the elderly in China are malnourished. Many of them are vegetarian or are overly concerned with their weight.
No wonder older people have so many health issues. Not only are these symptoms of aging, it is also signs of malnutrition, which is good because it means some ailments experienced by the elderly can be easily remedied with dietary changes and drinking Chinese soups.
Many elderly are still eating like they are in their 40s or 50s. People over 65 need less calories as their metabolic rate decreases, but they need more vitamins and minerals to sustain vital bodily functions. The elderly shouldn't focus on weight-control or caloric-control diets. They should focus on geriatric diets that are highly nutritious.
Nutrients in Chinese soups are very easily and quickly absorbed because they are already in liquid form. Unlike creamy and thick soups that use milk, cream, or cook using root vegetables high in carbohydrates, Chinese soups are predominantly broths with leafy vegetables or lean pork or bones.
Some elderly find it hard to eat as they lose their teeth or have sensitive gums. Their sense of taste and smell may be dull and food just do not taste or smell appealing.
My granny likes to eat instant oats or cereals in the morning. She says she like the convenience and believe they are nutrient-dense. I think it is because she finds chewing food difficult. I don't think oats have enough nutrients compared to meal replacement shakes. The problem with shakes is that they are usually cold and sweet. Most Chinese prefers hot savoury meals. Chinese soups and rice congee is hot and soft and a perfect soft medium to deliver micro-nutrients. They are best consumed when hot and they can be made the night before in the slow cooker and be ready as breakfast the next day.
Some old folks complained about bloatedness, churning and stomachache. These may be due to poor digestion. I once heard a Chinese nutritionist said that the digestive ability of a 90 year old is equivalent to a 5 year old and a centenarian is like that of a 2 year old. They should try my baby soup and baby rice congee recipes then.
The elderly are also prone to constipation so consuming high fibre vegetables is important, especially vegetables that become soft when cooked but still contain a lot of soluble fibre. For example, chinese cabbage, round cabbage, daikon, and lotus root.
Elderly with chronic illnesses like renal and hepatitis or those on long term medication tend to have lower immunity. Mild Chinese herbs can help to maintain or enhance immunity. Here is a herbal soup that I think is suitable food for the elderly.
I believe in nutrient supplementation. It has become an accepted fact that food we eat now have lesser nutrients and it is getting harder to hit the minimum daily requirements and sensible supplementation is a good approach. Observe your body's reaction to the supplements and adjust accordingly. It is not medicine and it is not necessary to follow the instructions too closely. Take what you need and do not over-supplement. A good multi-vitamin supplement should do the trick.