Geriatric nutrition uses dietary approaches to help delay the effects of aging, as well as to help fight degenerative diseases associated with the aging process. Often, this involves using foods, supplements, and healthy eating plans that will provide the proper nutrients to help fight the aging process and strengthen mobility. With holistic or natural geriatric nutrition programs, herbs and healthy exercise are involved within the plan for protecting and strengthening the body. Most nutritional needs are obtained adequately in a whole food eating approach, which helps provide the body with raw and natural materials for the proper building and strengthening of muscles and bones.
An aging body will usually require an adequate amount of protein to help fuel muscle growth, as fat normally starts to replace muscle when the body reaches a certain age. With geriatric nutrition programs, protein is often obtained through healthy complete protein sources, such as eggs, dairy, and lean meats. Other sources of protein include nuts, seeds, and some grains, as well as vegetables and various fruits. Combining healthy and appropriate exercises to help build muscle strength is also used, especially in holistic and whole body approaches to delay the process of aging.
Cardiovascular changes also occur as the body matures, so most geriatric nutritionists advise patients to seek out healthy sources of fats in their diet. These fats include mono-unsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids, such as the ones found in olive oil and fatty fish, as these have been shown to be the most beneficial for the heart. Getting enough vitamin D, whether through diet, the sun, or supplementation, is also advised by most geriatric nutritionists and dietitians, as some research has shown it to be protective against stroke and heart disease. Good sources of calcium and magnesium, which are required to help strengthen bones and fight osteoporosis, are also needed in abundance within a geriatric nutrition plan.
Many dietitians will coordinate an eating plan that incorporates many vegetables and fruits, as it provides ample amounts of dietary fiber. The digestive system can become suppressed as the body grows older, so fiber is needed to help reduce symptoms of constipation and aid in the absorption of essential nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are also a good source of antioxidants, which have been known to help fight the aging process and prevent degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease. Holistic approaches to geriatric nutrition may also include herbs and herbal medicines, which also provide antioxidants; caution should be taken to make sure that the herbs do not interfere with any medications.