According to the World Health Organization (WHO), older people are more vulnerable to malnutrition. To add to this, the majority of degenerative diseases that are common in elderly people are all diet-affected.
There are several reasons for this.
For one, as you get older, your body requires more nutrients for a proper system function. In combination, your body absorbs less from the food you consume. Because elderly people tend to consume less food and they don’t branch out as much in food selection, they end up getting a less rounded diet that can satisfy the increasing nutritional requirements they need.
As a caregiver, it can be difficult to come up with an optimal diet for your loved one, especially when it comes to protein. After all, if they are picky eaters or if they don’t consume enough food, it can be challenging to get them all of the nutrients their body needs.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1/3 of older Americans do not consume the recommended daily allowance for protein. After all, protein sources tend to be very filling. Luckily, there are plenty of high protein foods for the elderly that you can get into your patient’s diet to avoid allowing them to have a protein deficiency.
Why Is Protein Important for the Elderly?
Research shows that older adults who consumed more protein had a 30 percent lower risk of suffering from a loss of functional integrity versus those with lower intake. Higher protein intake was associated with being able to maintain proper physical function in middle-aged high functioning adults.
Therefore, getting more protein in your loved one’s diet can have huge mental and physical health benefits including maintaining proper motor function and maintenance of healthy muscle mass.
Best Protein Food Ideas For The Elderly
Adding the following high protein foods to an elderly person’s daily diet can greatly increase their protein consumption. The best part? These foods can be incorporated into larger dishes as ingredients too!
Eggs are one of the highest quality protein sources that you can get in your diet whether young or old. Eggs are classified as a super-food because they are so nutrient-dense. Not only are they packed with a healthy serving of protein (6 to 8 grams) per egg, but they are low-carbohydrate and low-calorie to go along with it.
They also happen to be a very soft food for elderly to eat and can be prepared in a variety of ways which makes it much easier to change up cooking styles for a senior who is picky. They also have other health benefits related to reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
2. Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes are other excellent sources of protein for seniors. A single serving (half of a cup cooked) provides 7 grams of protein which is equivalent to a single ounce of meat. Also, beans contain a lot of healthy fiber as well which can help the elderly who tend to avoid meals because they have poor digestive system functions.
They come with the side benefit of being able to do various things that can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. They also can be prepared in various ways and they are very easy to eat and chew for elderly people.
3. Fatty Fish
Another good source of protein for an elderly person would be various types of fatty fish. One of the best sources of protein-rich fatty fish has to be wild-caught salmon.
They come with incredibly anti-inflammatory properties and as little as three ounces of wild salmon contain almost 17 grams of protein. Best of all, they come with other nutritional properties that elderly people don’t get enough of including healthy fats.
4. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is another excellent option for the elderly because it is incredibly easy to consume and digest. It also contains a healthy amount of protein with six ounces of Greek yogurt equating to as many as 15 grams of protein.
To make it even more nutritious, you can add various healthy ingredients to it including but not limited to ground flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and more. All of these things will make it even easier to pack in the essential nutrients including essential minerals like calcium and magnesium which are very important for maintaining healthy bones.
Blend your fruits and veggies with some greek yogurt and ice for a healthy and nutritious homemade smoothie that even the most stubborn senior will slurp down.
Cheese is another great source of protein that you can include in their diet. You can find all kinds of different types of cheeses which makes it much more likely you will find something that they like. A slice of cheese also makes a great protein filled snack for the elderly.
Also, some cheeses are very soft which makes them easy for the elderly to chew and swallow. The amount of protein per serving in cheese will vary based on the type of cheese, but you will find it ranging anywhere from 5 to over 10 grams per one once depending on the kind of cheese.
6. Protein Supplement Drinks
Like I discussed above, there are lots of reasons that some seniors have difficulty eating whole foods – especially protein sources which tend to be dense and chewy.
In these cases, supplementation with a protein drink may be in order. There are lots of options on the market. Look for one with a high quality source of protein with added vitamins and minerals too for an overall nutrient increase.
Watch the calories too. The best protein drinks for seniors will be low in sugar and fat which means they are probably lower in calories too.
Summary and Final Recommendations
As you can see, there are plenty of different protein sources that are easy to fit into a senior’s diet. By varying the sources, you should be able to ensure they get supporting minerals and vitamins that their body needs to function optimally. Find high-quality protein sources they enjoy and you should be able to improve their diet tremendously.