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Diet & Nutrition

Senior Indian


"Always remember that aged men should eat often,
But little at a time for fareth by them,
As it doth by a lamp the light whereof is
Almost extinct, which by pouring in of oil
Little and Little, is long kept burning;
And with much oil poured in at once,
It is clean putout."

What is nutritious food and a well-balanced diet?
Nutritious food is one that contains all the essential nutrients - proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. A well balanced diet should contain all these in correct proportions and adequate amounts. Proteins, fats and carbohydrates provide the energy required for various activities. Vitamins and minerals do not supply energy but play an important role in the regulation of several essential metabolic processes in the body. (See Below)
Does the quantity of food that an elderly person eats matter?
The quality, not the quantity matters. The requirements of essential nutrients varies with age, sex, level of physical activity and the height & weight of the individual.  Even a sparse diet can be nutritious. For example 100 gms of wheat contains nearly 12 gms of protein, while the same quantity of rice has only 6.4 gms of protein. Similarly 100 gms of Ragi contains 344 mg of Calcium, while the same quantity of Rice has only 9 mg of Calcium. By Seeing More Info on other pages in this site regarding the values of nutrients contained in different foods and a sample Ideal Diet, elders can plan their diet so that it is nutritious, easily available and digestible.
As people become older, do they need less food?
The energy requirements of a person decrease with increase in age. This is because of a lowered basal metobolic rate and lessened physical activity. There is an 8% reduction per decade from 55-75 yrs.
Is Vegetarian or Non-vegetarian diet better?
For a detailed comparison of vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets and their value - Click Here
How important are Proteins to the elderly?
Proteins provide the essential Amino acids and the amouint of Protein in the diet is an important measure of the adequacy and quality of the diet. The recommended allowance is one gm. per kg. body weight. In the elderly, upto 12 -14% of the total calories should be from proteins. But, due to decreased appetite and poor digestion, the elderly tend to consume less protein. Also, living alone means eating more carbohydrates which are easier  to cook and less expensive.
To know how much protein is present in various foods,
Click Here
How much of fat is allowed in the diet of the elderly?
Fat is a concentrated source of energy. It adds palatability to food. The diet should contain 30 - 40 gms. of fat  and half of it should be in the form of vegetable oil, rich in essential fatty acids. A diet with high content of saturated fatty acids (Ghee, Butter, Coconut oil, unrefined oils) tends to increase the level of cholesterol in the blood.
To know how much fat is present in various foods,
Click Here
Are Carbohydrates necessary in an Elder's diet?
The body needs Carbohydrate because it cannot make it for itself from other nutrients. So, it should be not less than 100 gms per day.
What are the most important minerals needed for good health?
Calcium is very essential for an average elderly person. As people become older, the bones become demineralised. This is called Osteoporosis. So Calcium intake should be not less than 400 mg per day. Foods rich in calcium are Ragi, Green leafy vegetables, milk, fenugreek leaves, drumstick leaves and sea food.
Phosphorus, dietary fibre, drugs, alcohol, menopause, illness and exercise may all affect absorption of minerals in the body.
Iron deficiency leads to Anaemia. So the diet of the elderly should contain sufficient amount of iron. Greens are rich in iron, cheaper than other vegetables and available easily most of the time. Elders should include some variety of greens in their diet everyday. Other foods rich in Iron are: Wheat flour, Ragi, Jaggery, Dates and Liver.The recommended daily allowance is 30 mg. per day.
To know how much fat is present in various foods,
Click Here
What are the Vitamins needed by the human body?
Vitamins are involved in the utilisation of major nutrients like protein, carbohydrate and fat in the body. They cannot be made in adequate quantities by the human body. So, they have to be present in the food that we eat. They are:
Vitamin A, D, E, K, C (ascorbic acid) and Vit B Complex (Thiamin -B1, Riboflavin, Niacin, Pyridoxine-B6, Biotin, Folate, Cobalamins- B12)
To See more info on these Vitamins, the Daily requirements,  the problems that one may have due to the lack of these, and the foods containing them Please Click Here.
How important is it for the elderly to drink plenty of water?
The elderly do not recognise the need to maintain the volume of water excreted. The fluid intake should be atleast 1.5 - 2 lts per day in a normal elderly person.
How important is Roughage or Dietary fibre in the diet for the elderly?
The elderly require sufficient fibre or roughage in their diet to avoid constipation. This fibre is the undigestible carbohydrate present in the food. Rough fibre is not well-tolerated by the intestine in old people. But, the tender fibre of vegetables, fruits and whole-grain cereals will encourage normal bowel movements. The elderly tend to use harmful laxatives and mineral oils. This should be substituted by a fibre-rich diet and adequate fluid intake. Some good sources of Dietary Fibre are: Ragi, Wheat, Italian Millet, Horsegram, Green leafy Vegetables, Plantain Stem, Drumstick, Bittergourd, fruits like Dates, Figs, Guava, Wood Apple and Sweet Lime.






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A food pyramid gives an idea of the types of food we should take and their proportion in our diet.

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Try to avoid "fast foods" that contain a lot of fat.

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Check out an Ideal Diet

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Veg or Non-Veg

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Control Obesity

You could visit this site on Growing Older - Eating Better