Due to all the natural changes caused by aging and common illnesses, such as weakening bones or diabetes, senior citizens are often unable to heal and recover as quickly or as easily as they used to in their former years. Therefore, it’s of utmost importance that they get enough protein in their diet to keep their health and vitality in optimal condition.
In this article, you will get a detailed layout of the most important types of proteins for seniors, with a highlight on their various benefits and sources.
Complete proteins are essential, as they provide all nine essential amino acids required by the body. These amino acids aid in muscle maintenance and repair, boost immune function, and support good hormone production. Excellent sources of complete proteins include:
1. Lean Meat: Chicken, turkey, beef, and pork offer high-quality protein along with important vitamins and minerals.
2. Fish and Seafood: Salmon, tuna, sardines, and shellfish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health and help reduce inflammation.
3. Eggs: Eggs provide complete proteins and are also a source of vitamin D and choline, essential for brain health.
4. Dairy Products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of complete proteins and also provide calcium and vitamin D, crucial for bone health.
This kind of protein not only offers amino acids, but is also typically lower in saturated fat and cholesterol as well. Important plant-based protein sources include:
A. Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, black beans and other legumes. These are rich in protein, fiber, and essential minerals like iron and potassium.
B. Quinoa: This versatile grain-like seed is a complete protein that contains dietary fiber, various vitamins and minerals.
C. Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flax seeds are not only superb sources of protein, they also provide loads of healthy fats, vitamin E and magnesium.
Whey protein, a special protein that gets extracted from milk, is an affordable and abundant source of protein. It is rich in essential amino acids, particularly leucine, which plays a vital role in muscle protein synthesis. Whey protein is easily digested and absorbed by the intestines, making it an ideal option for seniors who may have decreased digestive capacity.
Collagen is a crucial protein, especially for seasoned individuals. It provides much needed structural support to various tissues, including skin, joints, and bones. This is due to the fact that our natural collagen production gradually declines as we age, which can lead to joint stiffness, wrinkles, and weakened bones. Taking collagen supplements can help promote joint health, enhance skin elasticity, and support bone density.
Additionally, fish collagen, specifically derived from fish scales or skin, is yet another beneficial collagen source. It contains high levels of type I collagen, the most abundant collagen in the human body, and provides amino acids that support skin hydration, joint flexibility, and bone strength. Alternatively, if you’re not a big fish eater, you can find fish collagen supplements in either powder or capsule form.
Bone broth protein is derived from simmering animal bones and connective tissues, resulting in a nutrient-rich liquid that contains collagen, minerals, and amino acids. Although it takes some time to make, bone broth provides a great way to increase protein intake with very little cost involved. It supports joint health, gut integrity, and immune function.
Before you make any significant changes to your diet, it is important to first consider individual health conditions and consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian. Factors such as kidney function, medications and specific dietary needs must be taken into account. Here are some additional tips to help you with your protein intake:
~ Be sure to get an adequate daily amount. The recommended daily protein intake for seniors specifically is approximately 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, individual needs may vary depending on factors such as activity level, muscle mass, and overall health profile. You will also want to distribute protein intake evenly throughout the day to maximize muscle protein synthesis and support muscle maintenance. Aim to include moderate amounts of protein-rich foods with each meal.
~ Stay Well Hydrated: Adequate hydration is essential for optimal protein utilization and digestion. It is highly encouraged and recommended to drink at least 8 cups of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration and support protein absorption. Don’t forget to get sufficient exercise. Regular physical activity, including resistance training, can help seniors maintain muscle mass and strength. Combining protein intake with exercise promotes muscle protein synthesis and enhances the benefits of protein consumption.
~ Take Digestive Support: Aging can lead to decreased stomach acid production and reduced digestive enzyme activity. Seniors may benefit from digestive aids, such as probiotics or digestive enzyme supplements, to support protein digestion and absorption. It’s also a good idea to consume a variety of protein sources to ensure you are receiving a wider range of essential nutrients. Combining different protein sources also helps to diversify amino acids.
Seniors with specific dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance, nut allergies or gluten sensitivity, should take these factors into account before increasing their protein intake. Also, it is important to first consult a healthcare professional or registered dietitian who can help develop personalized, well balanced meal plans.