As we age, it becomes increasingly important to make sure that we are getting the right nutrients in our diets. One essential nutrient for seniors is protein. Protein helps keep us strong and healthy and can be found in many different types of food. In this blog post, we will discuss some high-protein foods perfect for elderly adults!
- Why is Protein Important for Seniors?
- How Much Protein Do Seniors Need?
- Best Protein-Rich Foods for Seniors
- Other High-Protein Options for Seniors
- Protein supplements
- Final Thoughts
Why is Protein Important for Seniors?
As people age, their bodies require more protein to stay healthy. Protein is essential for repairing and building muscle, tissues, and organs. It also helps the body fight infection and disease.
Protein is an important ingredient to include in meals regularly in any balanced diet with all the amino acids. This macronutrient is well recognized for its muscle building and repair role, but it also has additional advantages. Protein is a component of cell development in the hair, skin, nails, bones, and internal organs.
Protein also aids in the maintenance of fluid equilibrium in the body, which is essential for hydration and proper blood pressure. Furthermore, protein is required for the healing of injuries, the maintenance of fluid levels, and the maintenance of good vision.
Protein-rich diets and exercise are excellent methods for older persons to retain muscle mass and a healthy weight, which aids in the maintenance of daily activities and the prevention of chronic illnesses such as diabetes. The right amount of protein can also significantly contribute to your overall health.
Eating frequent, well-balanced meals with appropriate protein is especially crucial as we age to prevent the body from breaking down our current muscles. Reduced appetite and lowered food intake are frequent risk factors for muscle breakdown. Thus, it is critical to consume a well-balanced diet to guarantee enough nutrients.
These meals are not intended for “starvation diets” since this may be harmful to your aims. First and foremost, ensure that you consume adequate protein and supplement it into your current diet.
How Much Protein Do Seniors Need?
Seniors require about 50 grams of protein per day, but this amount may vary depending on a person’s age, weight, and activity level. Most high-protein foods are also high in other nutrients essential for seniors, such as vitamin B12, iron, and zinc. So eating high-protein foods is a great way to boost your nutrient intake.
The RDA for protein for adults ranges from 0.8 to 1.25grams/kg of body weight. For instance, a 170-pound individual equates to 77-97 grams of protein. According to research, sedentary seniors, attempting to lose weight, or having a chronic illness like diabetes may require more protein in their diet regularly.
If necessary quantities of protein are not obtained, seniors might be more prone to sarcopenia, a syndrome characterized by progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength.
Best Protein-Rich Foods for Seniors
It is important to know what protein you should be adding to your diet. There are many high-protein meals, snacks, and shakes out there, but some are high in fat, sodium, or other nutrients. Below, we list some of our favorite, healthiest sources of protein:
Lean meat is a good source of protein for seniors since it has less fat; hence, fewer calories.
The USDA defines lean as less than 10 grams of fat and 4.5 grams of saturated fat or less every 3.5 ounces (100-gram) serving. Many excellent protein-rich choices are worth including in your diet.
Here are some examples of lean meat:
- Skinless turkey and chicken
- Lean beef cuts that are (the loin and round cuts)
- Pork loin
Lean meats provide various health benefits in addition to their high protein content. Chicken, for example, is high in selenium, vitamins B3 and B6, and choline.
Selenium possesses antioxidant qualities that aid in preventing cell damage and enhancing the immune system.
Meanwhile, vitamins B3 and B6 assist the body in converting carbs into glucose for long-term energy. At the same time, choline aids in the maintenance and improvement of nerve function while also acting as an anti-inflammatory.
The advantages of red meat cuts such as beef, hog, and bison vary, but they are all helpful to your general health. Red meat has a lot of iron, zinc, B vitamins, and protein. Although guidelines and studies on the optimal consumption of red meat are still evolving, it is safe to conclude that a controlled diet is always a good choice. Existing standards that urge avoiding red meat consumption daily are still strongly encouraged, particularly for people with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Iron is a necessary mineral. Iron is found in red blood cells, and controlling iron levels reduces tiredness, increases hemoglobin, and allows the immune system to operate correctly. Zinc, like iron, is an essential mineral.
Red meat also contains B6 and B12 vitamins. B6 vitamins are beneficial to the immunological system, while B12 vitamins are beneficial to the neurological system and energy maintenance.
These, like all vitamins and nutrients, should be taken into account while putting together a well-balanced diet. Ideally, we obtain all of the building blocks we require from foods rather than pills or supplements.
Being one of the lowest-calorie yet protein-rich meals on our list, fish is an excellent choice for seniors looking to increase their protein consumption.
You might already have a favorite, but there are lots of other fish to keep your protein options open.
Here are a few crowd favorites:
- Arctic Char
We could go on and on, but the fish selections on this list are high in protein, low in calories, and high in a variety of other critical elements for your health. Fish also makes for great food for seniors with diabetes.
Low-fat dairy foods
Low-fat dairy products are another nutrient-dense and protein-rich item to include in your diet. Most dairy products include fat; however, our list includes some low-fat or fat-free alternatives to try:
A cup of low-fat cottage cheese has 163 calories, 28 grams of protein, and 2.3 grams of fat. Cottage cheese provides a variety of additional nutritional advantages and is high in protein. Cottage cheese is abundant in selenium, B vitamins, vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium.
Cottage cheese made from the curds of pasteurized cow’s milk can be made with various fat levels. Cottage cheese is a popular nutritional source for athletes and weight loss plans with its high-protein content and other benefits.
Low-fat yogurt is the next item on our dairy shopping list. Yogurt comes in various flavors, ranging from Greek yogurt to fruit-infused yogurt. We’ll talk about plain low-fat yogurt for nutritional benefits. According to Health.gov, one cup of low-fat yogurt includes 154 calories, 3.8 grams of healthy fats, and 12.8 grams of protein. Yogurt is also high in calcium, bacteria, and many vitamins.
Last but not least, skim milk is a low-calorie, low-fat choice high in protein. It can be in dry milk powder form or milk boxes. One cup of skim milk has 83 calories, 8.3 grams of protein, and just 0.2 grams of fat. Like all dairy products, skim milk is high in potassium, vitamin A, and calcium.
Lactose intolerance develops in some people as they age, and it can begin as early as their teens or early twenties. While dairy is a terrific partner for high-protein snacks, persons who suffer from bloating, diarrhea, or stomach irritation from dairy products should choose lactose-free milk and yogurt. Additionally, over-the-counter lactase supplements can help break down the lactose in dairy products safely for those lactose intolerant and who experience symptoms when they eat.
The popular high-protein meal in our series is eggs, a morning staple. A single big hard-boiled egg has 78 calories and six grams of protein, illustrating once again that the finest things come in tiny packages.
Eggs are inexpensive and simple to prepare, and they provide a variety of exceptional health advantages beyond their high protein content.
Whole eggs are high in selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12, and minerals such as zinc, iron, and copper. Egg yolks are also rich in nutrients and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Other High-Protein Options for Seniors
Many other high-protein options for seniors can provide the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Some other great choices include:
- Soy beans (Tofu and Edamame)
Delicious soybean options are an excellent plant-based addition to any diet needing protein. Soybeans, considered a complete protein source, supply the body with all of the amino acids it requires.
Tofu is formed by pressing together soybean curds, similar to how cheese is made. Despite its lack of flavor, soft tofu can quickly absorb the flavor of the ingredients it is cooked with. This plant product has 94 calories per 12 cups, six grams of fat, and a robust 10 grams of protein. Tofu is also high in iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Edamame is young soybeans with a little grassy but sweet flavor. Edamame should be eaten steamed or boiled, and they make excellent complements to soups and salads. Edamame provides 189 calories, eight grams of fat, and a nutritious 17 grams of protein in one cup. These little beans are especially high in B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, and magnesium.
- Legumes (beans and peas)
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are high in protein and other essential elements, just like beans in general. Chickpeas and the nutrients they contain are beneficial for various conditions, including inflammation and weight control.
Chickpeas provide 269 calories, four grams of fat, and a hefty 15 grams of protein in a one-cup cooked meal. They are high in iron, B vitamins, magnesium, fiber, potassium, and folate.
These peas are a terrific way to add protein to any salad, soup, or chili. It is critical, however, that chickpeas be cooked. Pre-cooked, canned chickpeas contain toxins and anti-nutrients that are decreased after cooking.
- Green Lentils
Green lentils are a high-protein, high-nutrient food option perfect for seniors. A one-cup serving of lentils yields 289 calories, 0.8 grams of fat, and a whopping 18 grams of protein. They are high in fiber, which can help with digestion, and are also a good source of thiamine, vitamin B6, and magnesium.
- Black beans
Black beans are high in protein and fiber, making them a perfect choice for seniors. They are also high in antioxidants, which can help fight free radicals and reduce the risk of age-related diseases.
Quinoa is a high-protein grain that is also high in other essential nutrients, such as fiber, magnesium, and zinc. It is a good choice for elderly adults who need more protein in their diet.
- Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is a high-protein food that is perfect for seniors. It is high in calcium, vitamin B12, and zinc, and it has a creamy texture that most seniors enjoy. Try incorporating Greek yogurt into your diet by adding it to your breakfast cereal or smoothie, or use it as a dip for fruit or vegetables.
- Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
Pumpkin seeds are high in protein and other essential nutrients, such as zinc and magnesium. They make a great snack for seniors and can be enjoyed roasted or salted.
- Chia seeds
Chia seeds are high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. They are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation and promote heart health. You can add chia seeds to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal, or they can be eaten plain as a snack.
Flaxseeds are also high in protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids; just the right match for seniors. They are also high in antioxidants, which can help fight free radicals and reduce the risk of age-related diseases.
Can seniors take powdered or liquid protein supplements? There’s generally no need for supplements unless someone is malnourished, sick, or hospitalized. There is a study on the feasibility of supplementing the diets of older adults discharged from the hospital with extra protein for a month. Preliminary data show that protein supplements can improve recovery from hospitalization.
The first line of defense should always be real food. But if someone isn’t able to consume a turkey sandwich and would rather sip a protein shake during the day, then you can try taking protein supplements.
However, older adults should not routinely drink protein shakes instead of meals. That’s a bad idea that can actually result in reduced protein and calorie intake over the long term.
Seniors may not need a full 2,000 calories a day, but a good portion of their daily intake should come from lean proteins if they don’t have a contraindicated medical condition such as kidney disease.
In addition to protein intake, seniors must maintain a consistent water intake. The ideal method to accomplish this is to drink water, although sparkling water, unsweetened tea, or coffee all qualify. It is very normal for seniors to become dehydrated rapidly, especially in the warmer months or on certain medications, so make sure that they are getting enough liquids.
Herbal teas, low-fat milk, or milk substitutes such as almond milk, juices, and even clear soups can count toward their liquid consumption, so make sure they are readily available and simple to get. Every day, women should strive for nine glasses of fluid, while males should aim for 13 glasses.
Senior diets don’t have to be all bran muffins and TV dinners, and they shouldn’t be. As long as your loved one is willing and able to make healthy choices in their diet, they should get all the nutrients they need. With a little planning, your loved one can eat a healthy diet for many, many years to come.