News flash – as you get older, your body changes. For example, beginning at around age 40 to 50 for women, and age 50 to 60 for men, the number of taste buds in your mouth start to diminish. Yes, the 9,000 taste buds you’ve relied upon your entire life – which work in tandem with your sense of smell to allow you to experience salty, sour, sweet and bitter tastes – don’t rejuvenate as well as you get older. To make matters worse, the remaining taste buds begin to shrink, leading to a noticeable decrease in the overall sense of taste. Older adults often lose sensitivity to salty and bitter tastes first, which is why it is not uncommon for them to salt their food more heavily than before. Because older adults tend to retain the ability to distinguish sweet tastes the longest, many have a sweet tooth for most of their lives.
But it’s not just your taste buds that will betray you with age – your sense of smell will begin to diminish as well, which sadly will further limit your sense of taste. In fact, approximately 25% of Americans over the age of 55 have a problem with their sense of smell, growing to 30% between the ages of 70 and 80, and to nearly a third of people over the age of 80. As you might imagine, the decrease in both the sense of taste and smell makes food less appealing, leading to potential nutritional problems as people age.
Not only does food taste less appealing to older adults, but they often begin eating fewer calories as their metabolism declines (which occurs because of decreasing activity levels and muscle mass). Ironically, while the caloric needs of older adults may decrease with age, their nutrient needs actually increase. It, therefore, becomes even more critical as adults reach older age that they maximize their intake of nutrient-rich food and minimize empty calories.
Changes in your Palate Require Changes on Your Plate
One challenge people face during retirement is getting sufficient nutrition to support a healthy lifestyle. Attorney Greg Bishop recommends avoiding foods that are high in calories but low in nutrition – like chips, baked goods, candy, soda and alcohol. Rather, he suggests focusing on nutrient-rich foods (particularly those that don’t have a lot of extra calories), such as:
- Berries are an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium, folate and magnesium, as well as a good source of fiber. Their dark, brightly colored skin is also an excellent source of powerful antioxidants (in animal trials, blueberries, in particular, have been shown to improve memory and brain function).
- Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which supports your immune function and helps in the absorption of iron.
- Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and contain protein, potassium, magnesium, folic acid and vitamins B, E and K.
- Vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard and arugula, are packed full of antioxidants like vitamins C and K, folate, potassium and fiber. Cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower are also loaded with vitamin C and fiber and are rich in phytochemicals that help fight cancer.
- Eggs are a high-quality source of protein that provide the amino acids tryptophan and selenium. Eggs are also a hard to come by source of natural vitamin D.
- Nuts and seeds are a good source of vegetable protein and provide good fats that help promote the absorption of nutrients.
- Beans and lentils are rich in fiber and protein. They are also loaded with zinc, which has been shown to be crucial for a healthy immune system.
- Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3, a fatty acid necessary for proper brain functioning and a healthy cardiovascular system.
- Oats are rich in healthy amounts of vitamins B and E, as well as calcium, magnesium and potassium. Multiple studies have concluded that oats help lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and help in weight management.
About Greg Bishop, Attorney | Greg Bishop is an experienced corporate attorney, compliance officer, and HR leader based in Park City, Utah. He has devoted the past three decades of his life to helping companies succeed. Now, he is more focused on team building and inspiring others to continually improve themselves and live their lives to the fullest.