We all have to actively make healthy choices in our lives to be at the top of our fitness game. As we age, there are specific components of our diet that need more attention. Similarly, older adults need to focus more on consuming a higher protein content than an average adult.
Various factors play a role in increasing the need for the body to consume and process more proteins. Our bodies change over time, and we need more protein to help them in sustaining and growing.
It shouldn't be mistaken that we do not need protein while we are growing up. But the bodies of older adults are much slower to build their own protein, and the need for repair also increases multifold. The rate of muscle breakdown exceeds muscle growth, which proves to be a massive drawback for the elderly.
What Is The Recommended Protein Intake For Elderly?
We have talked about why older adults need more protein and excellent sources to get protein. However, monitoring the right amount is also necessary. The excessive use or abuse of any food item can harm the human body. Similarly, we need to keep the protein intake under check as well.
When it comes to consuming a dietary item, a standard that is most commonly cited is the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). According to RDA, older adults need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight per day.
So, for example, if a man weighs 150 pounds, he needs to consume 55 grams of protein a day. On the other hand, if a woman weighs 180 pounds, then the recommended weight of proteins to eat every day is 65 grams.
It is effortless to track this content because you can do so by checking the nutrition guide given on the back of most food items. However, to make things easy, you can check the protein quantity on some of the most commonly eaten food items that people consume.
- A 6-ounce serving of Greek yogurt contains 18 grams of protein
- Half-cup of cottage cheese contains 14 grams of protein
- A 3-ounce serving of skinless chicken contains 28 grams of protein
- Half-cup of lentils contains 9 grams of protein
- A cup of milk contains 8 grams of protein
The recommended dietary allowance may not adhere to increased or decreased needs as per specific health changes. The quantities were mentioned, keeping in mind that a healthy adult had none to minimal health issues to address while being on a balanced diet.
Another easy way of assessing the number of calories you consume is through the calorie intake. The National Institute of Health states that 10-35% of your calorie intake should comprise of protein. That means if you have 2000 calories in a day, you need to have 100 grams of protein.
Why Do Older Adults Need A High Protein Diet?
Older adults need to have a more significant amount of protein-rich foods when they are losing weight or dealing with a chronic or acute illness. In the case of hospitalization, the amount of protein should also be up to the mark; otherwise, it can lead to slower recovery and hindered growth.
How Does It Effect Body's Overall Functioning?
Proteins are the primary building blocks of our bodies. A majority of the compounds that help our bodies grow and function optimally are made of proteins. Our enzymes, hormones, and even our muscles are composed mainly out of proteins.
We need a good supply of protein to keep our bodies functioning well. Proper functioning becomes even more essential as an individual ages because progressively, the body stops responding in natural ways. Thus, the proper intake of protein becomes essential.
You may find that breathing, or just merely the movement of an older adult, is seemingly different from a young adult because the functioning is impacted. The impact on function is further clear if the protein content is not up to the mark.
You will generally observe that adults who are consuming a nutritious diet loaded with proteins are more likely to help themselves get out of bed, successfully shower and dress without any supervision, and walk up a flight of stairs with ease.
A study held in 2018 had recorded 2,900 seniors for over 23 years for concluding the impact of protein on the overall health of the elderly.
The researchers found that those older adults who consumed protein supplements in one form or the other were 30 percent less likely to lose proper functioning.
Another study done in 2007 showed the impact of protein consumption on almost 2,000 older adults followed over six years. Researchers found that those who consumed below-average amounts of protein had a tougher time walking or climbing steps rather than those who consumed recommended amounts.
Is There Any Impact On Recovery?
Many doctors recommend a high protein diet for patients that are recovering from a chronic illness. In diseases like end-stage renal disease and cancer, consuming adequate amounts of protein is essential for faster recovery.
Many patients who suffer from the end-stage renal disease are older adults. With a kidney that is close to failure, these patients have to undergo dialysis. The dialysis process is done at least thrice weekly, which has an adverse effect on the patient's health.
Due to these reasons and to curb the pain that comes from a slower recovery process, consuming protein supplements either in the form of a drink or through a healthy diet becomes essential.
For cancer patients going through excruciating cycles of chemotherapy is very tiring. They need a good diet that is loaded with proteins to help them with a faster recovery.
Do Older Adults Need Protein For Muscle Repair?
The process of losing muscle mass is also faster in older adults. The process of muscle buildup is always greater than the process of muscle breakdown. As we are younger, the turnover process exceeds the breakdown process, which helps is to grow more muscle and sustain the build we have.
It is easier to build more muscle as well because our body's functioning is at its best. However, with the rapid increase in age, muscle loss is exacerbated because the breakdown process becomes much faster.
Your muscles have no time to build, and instead of sustaining the already existing muscle mass, it is further broken down.
A deficiency of protein makes them more perceptible towards losing a great amount of muscle. This also increases the risk of catching infections because the immune system is impaired.
Thus, it is easy to understand why older adults need a great number of protein supplements to help them sustain muscle mass.
Another important thing to note is that muscle loss or sarcopenia begins at the age of 50. You cannot stop the process of muscle loss, but there are many effective ways in which you can slow down the process of sarcopenia.
To overcome this loss, the recommended dietary intake for proteins in older adults is much more.
How Can You Increase Protein Intake In Older Adults?
You have to keep in mind that you have a good nutrition plan before you can move or help any older adult to move onto a high protein diet. We have summed up some of the most practical and easiest meal options for the elderly to try out.
Breakfast is the most common meal of the day that often tends to slack in the protein quantity consumed.
Incorporate nuts and seeds to your cereal bowl. Start by decreasing the quantity of cereal in your bowl and replace this with a handful of ground seeds. You can use any of the following seeds to make your meal more nutritious.
What's better than a boiled egg? Eggs make a great option when it comes to having protein because they hold approximately 6 grams of protein. They are also an easy option because there is minimal cooking involved except for boiling.
You can also try a breakfast bowl. However, try having a Greek yogurt breakfast bowl instead of cereal. You can add a handful of nuts and seeds along with a tablespoon of peanut butter for some added flavor and protein burst.
Protein drinks and shakes are also a quick and easy way of loading yourself with proteins to start your day. You can pick any sort of protein you want from plant-based or an animal-sourced form.
There are various protein powders that you can mix right into water, milk or juice. However, you should pick protein sources that are low or have no sugar.
You can add a good amount of protein to your salads as well. Salads are a good way to incorporate protein and veggies into your diet. You can start by trying to add the following for good protein value.
- Cottage cheese
- Leftover meat
Have meat instead of bread. Instead of opting for a sandwich, try to make a meat roll-up for yourself. To have a quick lunch-to-go, you can use a couple of thin turkey breast slices and wrap it up with cucumber, olives, cheese, bean sprouts, and lettuce.
Add an egg to your salad. You can add an egg of your choice, or even a side of the hardboiled egg will do.
Consume a high protein soup. Many older adults prefer having soup or pureed foud because they often struggle with having tough textures all at once.
Easy steaks that can be made within minutes. You can pick a sauce of your choice that is low in calories and add it to your steak. Pick a lean cut because that is believed to be loaded with a higher percentage of proteins.
Grilled chicken breast with some regular seasoning is also a great way to kick your dinner. You can have it with some cheese to give it the extra flavor you need. Alongside the chicken, you can have a hardboiled egg that may improve the flavors.
Steamed fish can be enhanced with flavor with the addition of herbs. Fish gives great options for adding variety to your meals. There are several different types of fish that you can pick from for your dinner. The average serving size of salmon or tuna will give you almost 25 grams of protein. You can also have canned and frozen fish because they are great protein choices.
Have a Meatless Monday. You can add a plant-based meal like tofu with a stir fry, chickpea falafel, or a yummy five bean soup or chili for that extra protein kick. Beans tend to have a lot of proteins. Various experts have revealed that beans contain up to almost 15 grams of protein per cup. Moreover, they are low in fat and high in fiber, which makes them a great dinner option.
As we grow and age, the needs and demands of our bodies change. This is partly due to the lifestyle modification but mostly because the body’s natural process of aging. Our bodies need more protein to not only overcome but also slow down the process of aging.
Older adults need a lot of attention when it comes to opting for the best food choices because they are easily impacted by changes in the environment. Thus, having a strong immune system and a properly functioning body is vital to combat anything. With a high protein diet, you can achieve this very easily.
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