As you got older, you probably expected to have some issues with your joints. Everyone knows you need to be on the lookout for memory issues and watch your heart health as you age. And hearing and vision changes come with the territory.
But poor appetite? That’s a problem NO ONE bothered to warn you about. Which is why it sneaks up on many seniors.
Food and eating is a big part of our culture. It’s at the center of most of our celebrations and holidays. And for most of our lives, overindulging is the issue.
So when food suddenly seems uninteresting…. or simply doesn’t taste as good as it once did… it can really catch you off guard.
But despite it never being talked about, poor appetite is a common problem for people of a certain age. Experts estimate that it affects up to 30 percent of older folks.
And since a third to a half of health problems may be linked back to what we’re eating… or not eating… it’s easy to see how it can become a problem.
Common causes for poor appetite
The trouble is as we get older nutrition becomes even more critical.
More on that in a moment. But first let’s take a quick look at what might be behind your poor appetite.
Researchers say a number of different things can contribute to a sudden disinterest in food as we age.
Some of the most common causes include…
- poor fitting dentures
- dental problems
- depression or loneliness
- hormonal shifts (dropping testosterone and increasing leptin)
But the number one reason many older folks have such a drastic drop in their appetite is our changing energy needs.
We naturally start to slow down a bit as we age. And as we become less active, our calorie needs drop too. Naturally, a decrease in appetite often follows.
Your nutritional needs become GREATER as you age
But here’s the thing. You may not need as many calories anymore, but your nutritional needs actually INCREASE, as you get older.
Your body doesn’t absorb nutrients as efficiently as it used to. So you need to take in more nutrients than ever before. Plus medications you take can change how your body processes nutrients, as well.
Unfortunately, most people end up cutting nutrients when they cut calories. And that could mean you’re accidentally starving your body of needed nutrition.
A day or two of poor appetite isn’t a problem. But if you go too long without getting the vitamins and minerals you need it can cause real health issues.
You can begin to lose bone and muscle mass, a major cause of frailty in older folks. Poor eyesight is common and you are at a higher risk for all kinds of chronic diseases.
Your risk for dying early even skyrockets.
Get the nutrients you need despite poor appetite
So you have a poor appetite. What now?
Well the good news is there are a few tricks you can use to make sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
1. Adjust for taste bud changes:
Just as your eyesight might not be as sharp as it once was, your taste buds probably aren’t either. This can cause food to taste bland or feel uninspiring.
Instead of loading up on salt to try to stimulate your appetite, reach for fresh herbs and spices. They will give your meal a big flavor boost without turning it into a salt lick.
And as a bonus, most herbs and spices are packed with vitamins and minerals your body needs anyway.
2. Think nutrient dense:
Everyone, regardless of age, should focus on eating nutrient dense foods. But it’s even more important as you get older.
Research shows seniors are often deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, the B vitamins, magnesium and more. Nutrient dense foods such as nuts, eggs, and other superfoods can help restore those levels. And you can eat less of them and still meet your nutritional needs.
3. Vary your veggies:
It’s easy to get into a rut with leafy greens and the occasional tomato, but remember to mix it up. It will it make your meals more interesting. But even more importantly, you will be getting a wider variety of the nutrients you need when you eat the entire rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
Red, yellow, orange, purple, white and green produce all bring different vitamins and minerals to the table. So vary your choices and you’ll be getting more from the veggies you do eat, despite your poor appetite.
4. Focus on the RIGHT carbs:
A lower carb diet is usually healthy. But as you get older, you should be extra careful that your diet still includes the right kinds of carbs.
At least half of your daily carb content should come from whole grains or plant foods. The refined flour carbs you get in foods such as pasta and bagels simply aren’t nutrient dense enough to give your body what it needs… especially in your senior years.
As you get older, it becomes more important than ever to make sure you’re meeting your body’s nutritional needs. Don’t let a poor appetite stand in the way of you living the happy, healthy and active life you deserve.