Nutrition for the elderly

When taking care of the health of the elderly, nutrition is a factor not to be missed. If they know how to balance nutrition for the elderly, they will have good health and optimism.

1. Changes in the body of the elderly

When the age is high, the body of the elderly has changes compared to adulthood when health is still prolific. Those changes are:

1.1 Erm erm changes

  • Average height: Decreased by 0.5 – 2cm/year compared to adulthood;
  • Reduce height by 3 – 5cm if the spinal disc is deflated,flattening the spine. If the reduction is above 6cm in height, it can be caused by osteoporosis.

1.2 Changes in body composition

  • Reduce the proportion of water in the body: At the age of 25-65% the body is water; at the age of 75 – 53% of the body is water;
  • Fat mass: At the age of 25 – the percentage of fat is 15%; at the age of 50 – the percentage of fat is 25%;
  • Muscle mass: Much decreased, especially in people who do not practice physical exercise;
  • Liver proportion decreased by 18%, kidneys decreased by 8.9% and lungs decreased by 19.8%.


Elderly people change both erm and body composition

1.3 Structural changes and agency functions

  • Decreased appetite, tooth loss,… reduces food chewing power, reduces salivation, leads to slow digestion of food;
  • The stomach has shrinkage, reduces contraction, reduces the secretion of fluids, leads to a decrease in digestic ability, absorption of nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B12,…;
  • Reduces intestinal motility, prone to bloating, ingestion, ,…;
  • Impaired liver and bilefunction;
  • Fibrosis of the structure of the heart, blood vessels, causing thickening, dilation of the heart wall, degeneration of the heart valves, sclerosis of the arteries,… reduces cardiac output and increases arterial pressure,… leads to arrhythmias, heart valve disease, hypertension, ,…;
  • Decreased dialysis of the kidneys, increased risk of renal failure, renal fibrosis, hypertroenterosis of the prostate gland causing urinary insidiousness, infection,…;
  • Decreased respiratory function due to changes in the lungs and chest;
  • Impaired immune function of the body, less antibody response when vaccinated, susceptible to infection;
  • Degeneration of the nervous system leads to memory decline;
  • Have a higher risk of cancer than young people;
  • Disorders of sugar tolerance, increased risk of diabetes mellitus;
  • Osteochondrosis, osteoporosis, increased risk of falls.

1.4 Changes in energy metabolism and nutrients

  • Energy conversion: Energy demand decreased by about 30% compared to young people because of reduced muscle mass and less activity;
  • Protein: Digestive ability, poor absorption of protein, reduced ability to synthesize albumin of the liver, so the elderly often suffer from a lack of protein. On the contrary, in case of eating too much meat, the process of decomposition of meat will occur in the colon, fermentation, creating toxic substances that are harmful to the body;
  • Powdered sugar: Elderly people reduce their stamina with sweets, are at increased risk of diabetes mellitus due to reduced insulin production and possible insulin resistance;

Diabetes mellitus

Elderly people at higher risk for diabetes mellitus
  • Fat: Reduces the activity of lipase enzymes – enzymes that decompose fats – so the elderly are at increased risk of increasing blood fat;
  • Water: Reduces sensitivity to thirst, so elderly people are at risk of water shortages;
  • Vitamins: Elderly people are less likely to be sunny, so they reduce their ability to synthesize vitamin D3 (which is synthesized by the skin when exposed to the sun) compared to young people.

2. Building nutrition for the elderly

Changes in elderly nutrition can affect the body's food absorption mechanism, nutritional needs and appetite. Therefore, when building nutrition for older people, it is necessary to pay attention to the following:

2.1 Principles of nutrition for the elderly

  • The diet is sufficiently demanding and balanced with nutrients including: Protein, fat, starch, vitamins, minerals, water and fiber;
  • Processing food is easy to digest, there should be soup in the meal;
  • Do not skip any meals of the day;
  • Have a plan for the menu, monitor, evaluate meals;
  • Monitor weight, waist, body fat ratio.

2.2 Diet

Compared to 25-year-olds, the energy needs of 60-year-olds decreased by 20%, and over-70s decreased by 30%. As recommended for Vietnamese people, it is necessary to maintain energy needs for the elderly of 1700-1900 calories / person / day. In terms of the proportion of substance groups, energy from cereals accounts for 68%, fat accounts for 18% and protein provides 14% of the total energy needs in the daily diet. The adjustment of the diet for the elderly should be reasonable, maintaining a healthy BMI of 18.5 – 22.9.


Adjust your diet to ensure the right BMI in the elderly

2.3 About starch, protein, fat and salt

  • Starch: It is recommended to eat in mode mode mode. Each meal elderly people should eat only 1-2 bowls of rice, eat more potatoes, cassava tubers to provide fiber to prevent constipation.
  • Protein: The protein needs of the elderly average about 60-70g/day, of which animal protein accounts for 30% of the protein loaded into the body. The elderly should reduce eating red meat, strengthen the group of foods rich in calcium (fish, shrimp, crab) and vegetable proteins (beans, sesame, peanuts, tofu,…). At the same time, it is necessary to limit foods high in cholesterol such as the brain, skin, animal organs. It is recommended to eat more fish, yogurt and limit the number of eggs to 3 per week;
  • Fat: It is recommended to eat both animal fats and vegetable oils. The percentage of plant-loaded fats loaded into the body should account for 35% of the total amount of fat. Vegetable oils do not have cholesterol and are less saturated fatty acids than animal fats so it will be good for people with hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases;
  • Salt: Limit foods with high salt content such as melons, salted tomatoes, processed foods. The amount of salt eaten should be controlled at less than 150g / person / month because eating a lot of salt will aggravate high blood pressure.

2.4 On fiber, water and minerals

  • Fiber: The fiber needs of the elderly is to consume 25g / day. Soluble fiber has the effect of lowering cholesterol and blood sugar, good for diabetics, hypertension. At the same time, fiber also stimulates intestinal persis, avoids constipation, prevents atherosclerosis. Therefore, the elderly should eat greens and fruits rich in vitamins and minerals. If possible, every day should eat about 300g of greens and 100g of fruits;
  • Water: Older people often drink less water for fear of heavy night urination causing insomnia. Meanwhile, water has a great use in supporting digestion, dumping scum from the body. Therefore, the elderly should drink 1.5 – 2 liters of water per day, actively drink water even if they are not thirsty. In addition, water such as green tea, lotus tea, lotus tea,… also very good for the elderly;
  • Vitamins and minerals: It is recommended to supplement foods rich in vitamins of group B, C, D,… and important minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc,… to strengthen the resistance.

Low blood calcium: How to supplement calcium?

Supplement many foods containing vitamins and minerals

2.5 Some notes in the diet of the elderly

  • It is recommended to drink 1 glass of low-fat, low-sugar milk every day to replenish the body with nutrients;
  • Mode ordering, eating and sleeping on time, combining movement for better digestion, improving health;
  • Divide meals into several small meals during the day and create a happy, comfortable atmosphere when eating;
  • When eating should eat slowly, chew thoroughly;
  • Prioritize the processing of steamed, boiled dishes instead of fried dishes, baked to reduce cholesterol absorption and make digestion easier;
  • It is necessary to change the menu regularly, avoiding the menu too monotonous to eat better;
  • It is recommended to prepare soft, chopped, chopped dishes for easier chewing and digestion;
  • Do not overeating, especially in the evening;
  • Choose foods by pathology: Some people suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension,… therefore, it is necessary to choose the right food, which has the effect of controlling diseases. Specifically, tomatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts,… helps prevent hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Good foods for diabetics include zud squash, red vegetables, spinach, artichoke flowers, suffering,…;
  • After eating should sit on the spot or walk gently for 30 minutes to help the stomach to shuffle food, easier to digest.

Older people should have a proper nutrition, keep their spirits at comfort and maintain moderate mobility to improve health, slow down the aging process and have a longer lifespan.


  • Some notes on food hygiene and safety
  • Nutritional composition of spinach
  • Nutritional value of pork

  • Foods that are not good for the elderly
  • Causes of malnutrition in the elderly
  • Ageing in a healthy way: Increase fiber, reduce salt intake, supplement calcium

About: John Smith

b1ffdb54307529964874ff53a5c5de33?s=90&r=gI am the author of I had been working in Vinmec International General Hospital for over 10 years. I dedicate my passion on every post in this site.


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