A healthy balanced diet benefits everyone, but for seniors, the good news is that the government is getting involved.

Vice President Joe Biden recently announced an award of “$100 million in Recovery Act funding to support Senior Nutrition Programs. Approximately 14 million meals will be provided through the HHS Administration on Aging’s community senior nutrition programs.” Among other provisions, The Recovery Act allows for:

• $32 million for meals delivered to seniors at their homes, and
• $65 million for meals provided at senior centers and other community programs.

It may seem odd that this kind of money is being spent on senior nutrition in a faltering economy, but Older Americans Act-related services, including meals on wheels delivered to elders’ homes, have been severely reduced across the country. A poor economy means that many seniors cannot afford to buy supplies to help them prepare their own meals, or they may be physically unable to cook for themselves. Without regular, nutritious meals, seniors’ health will suffer, and they may be increasingly susceptible to diseases. They may also be unable to manage their medications and their chronic diseases, and may be forced out of their homes, thus losing their independence and their place in the community.

A healthy, balanced diet brings many benefits to seniors. The risk of stroke, bone loss, some types of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and anemia may be reduced. Seniors who already suffer from such conditions may find that a healthy diet will help them better manage their illnesses. It may also bring down the blood pressure, help in managing diabetes and lower high cholesterol.

Nutrients available through a healthy, balanced diet, such as protein, fats, protein, vitamins and minerals—plus water—are delivered to help people remain healthy throughout life. It is important for seniors to remain active, and good nutrition can help keep their energy levels up. How many actual calories seniors should eat per day depends on gender, the level of physical activity, and the senior’s actual age.

Seniors who consume the recommended calories for their activity level may find it easier to control their weight. Being overweight is a real concern for elders as it may increase their risk of contracting type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and suffering joint pain. Too many calories for the activity level will put on the pounds. Chooser to eat less food, while picking food with more nutrients, will help seniors from accumulating extra calories and unwanted weight.

Stinting on fluids or fiber can cause constipation. If seniors will choose more fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods, they may avoid such problems, according to the National Institutes of Health.

As people age, they may lose interest in food; the body seems to sense the need for fewer calories. Having to eat alone, dental issues that make chewing difficult, medications, and reduced mobility may also decrease the appetite.

It is important for seniors to stay active, for physical activity increases their metabolism and their inclination to consume essential nutrients, and will help with the appetite. Consuming plenty of dietary fiber can help ward off hemorrhoids and diverticulosis. Some foods high in fiber are vegetables, fruits, bran cereals, and whole grains. People over 50 may take anti-aging vitamins like camosine as a supplement, but they should make sure they consume 1.7 mg of vitamin V6, and 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. These elements reduce the levels of homocysteine in the blood, a recognized risk factor for stroke and heart disease.

Seniors who want to be happy and healthy in their Golden Years will develop good eating habits and make monitoring their diet a high priority.