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The Importance of Protein in Seniors’ Diets

Most people don’t realize that protein needs don’t change with age. However, as the human body ages it does become less efficient in making use of the protein that is eaten. What that means is that the older person often needs more protein as compared to a younger person to get an equal benefit. Protein is a key nutrient that plays a role in virtually every system and function in the body. It is especially important for:

  • Maintaining and/or replacing muscle which helps in maintaining strength
  • Helping to keep the immune system healthy
  • Promoting wound healing – from simple cuts or scratches to pressure injuries or surgical wounds
  • Keeping bones strong

The importance of protein makes it an essential part of the senior’s daily food intake. Older people often have smaller appetites so some form of protein should be offered as a part of each eating occasion to help meet the day’s protein requirements. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and select plants (soy, nuts and legumes) all offer a good source of protein. Keep in mind that meats can be tougher and harder to chew as people age. A variety of protein sources along with “tried and true” recipes make it easier to help ensure an adequate protein intake.

Ref. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 2013 14, 542-559DOI: (10.1016/j.jamda.2013.05.021)

Bauer J, et al. JAMDA 2013;14:542-559.

Houston DK, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87:150-155.