The definition of healthy eating changes a lot as you grow older. For instance, as you age, you rate of metabolism will slow down and you will notice that you are eating less often and less amount. Your body will also start to demand more of certain vitamins and nutrients, making it vital to choose foods that give you optimal nutritional value. In this article, we will discuss what you should eat as you age, but first things first, let’s discuss the benefits of eating well as you grow old.
Eating Well as You Age Feeds Your Body and Mind
Eating well as you age improves your energy level, resistant to diseases, and mental acuteness. A healthy diet is also key to staying emotionally balanced and maintaining a positive outlook. However, eating well does not always equate to dieting and sacrifice. It’s about taking fresh, tasty meals, with wholesome ingredients and sharing the meals with family and friends. It’s about taking foods that help you to:
- Live Longer and Healthier: Good nutrition boosts your immunity, maintains your weight in check, fights diseases causing toxins, and reduces the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, cancer, bone loss, type-2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
- Sharpen the mind: Even at old age, taking leafy veggies, fish, fruits, and omega-3 rich nuts will improve your focus and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Also, drinking the antioxidant-rich green tea will enhance your memory and mental alertness, regardless of your age.
- You feel good: Donning on healthy meals helps you look better and feel energetic, in turn boosting your self-esteem and mood. Remember that we are what we eat. If you fill up with nutritious, wholesome meals, your body will reward you with a radiant skin, and you will feel happier inside out.
Eating Well as You Age: How to Prepare a Healthy Plate
The secret to taking healthy meal is focusing on eating whole, unprocessed foods that your body needs. If possible, eat fresh foods in their natural forms.
Note that people react differently to different foods mainly depending on genetics and other factors. So, figuring out the diet that works best for you may require some experimentation.
Either way, here are some ideas to help you get started:
Fruit: When it comes to fruits, the deeper the green, the darker the red, and the more the yellow or orange, the more nutritious and rich in anti-oxidants they are. Break the apple and banana rut and opt for color-rich fruits like melons and berries. Take it 2-3 times a day. Other great options include red raspberries, blueberries, and dark cherries.
Veggies: Select the antioxidant-rich, dark, leafy greens varieties such as spinach, Swiss chard, kales, broccoli, and other colored vegetables like squash and carrots. Take 2-3 glasses a day. Even better, you can munch on them all year round because when it comes to veggies, frozen is just as good as fresh.
Calcium: For you to maintain healthy bones, you must take enough calcium to prevent fractures and osteoporosis. Older people should take 1,200 mg of calcium every day.
One of the best sources of calcium is daily. In fact, 3-8ounces servings of milk will give you the recommended daily intake of calcium. Milk is also a good source of vitamin D; which is also needed for strong bones. Other healthy sources of calcium include fish canned with their bones, cheese, broccoli, almond, and yogurt.
Note: Young people can make enough calcium by just basking out in the sun, but as you age, your skin wrinkles, and you will need to supplement whatever your skin makes.
Grains: Be wise with your carbs and choose whole grains over the processed white bread; they are richer in fiber and more nutritious. Whole-grains are not hard to come by: beyond whole wheat and oatmeal, there is a wide variety such as quinoa. And just to mention, quinoa is also a good source of protein.
Healthy Fats: Fat is dense in calories, and this makes you feel full for a longer time.
Eating Well as You Age: How to Add High-quality Protein in Your Diet
As you age, taking enough, high-quality protein will boost your resistance to anxiety, depression, stress and improve your mood. However, eating too much processed protein such as bacon salami, hot dogs, or industrial grown red meat can significantly increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. Adults over 50 years, without diabetes or kidney disease, need about 1 to 1/1/2g per Kg (2.2lbs) of the body weight.
- Eat a variety of foods rich in protein. Instead of relying on red alone, explore other healthy sources of protein such as nuts, milk, seeds, peas, egg fish, and rice.
- Reduce your intake of bad carbs from sources such as cakes, pastries, pizza, cookies, and chips and replace them with good sources of proteins.
- Choose cheap cuts of organic red meat over processed meat.
- Experiment with a meatless Monday every week – Plant protein is often cheaper. It’s good for your bank just as it’s for your health.
- Trying a fish Friday will help you take more seafood.
- Fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon are good sources of Omega-3s, which are great for you. In fact, just two servings of oily fish are sufficient to meet your daily intake of these healthy fatty acids.
Note that canned salmon is a superior choice because it’s often fortified with edible fish bones which are good sources of calcium.
If you don’t cook fish at home, skip those unhealthy snacks and order it when you go out next time.
Our writer, Matthew Smith, has written a full article on the benefits of adding protein to your diet titled “Why is Protein Important? 6 Benefits.”
Minerals and Vitamin are Crucial
- Water: As you grow old, you are more prone to dehydration since your sense of thirst won’t be as sharp as it used to be. Take water regularly to avoid urinary tract infections, avoid confusion and constipation.
- Vitamin B: After the age of 50, your stomach ability to produce gastric acid deteriorates, making it hard to absorb Vit B-12. Make sure to take the recommended 2.4mcg of Vit B-12 per day. Obtain it from fortified vitamin supplements or fortified meals.
- Vitamin D: As you age, your skin’s ability to manufacture Vitamin D deteriorates. Also, if you rarely spend time outdoors for one reason or another, consider consulting your doctor so that he or she can recommend fortified foods or multivitamins.
Select Healthy Fats.
Instead of skipping fats, focus on eating healthy fats that boost your immune system, mood, and brain function. They are two types of healthy fats that you should focus on eating:
- Monounsaturated fats: Good sources of this type of fat include nuts, avocados, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and olive oil.
- Polyunsaturated fats: Refers to Omega-3 fatty acids typically found in fatty fish such as herring, salmon, mackerel, sardines and anchovies. Good sources of vegetable Omega-3 include walnuts and flaxseed.
Although many health practitioners and organizations still maintain that eating saturated fats increases the risk of developing heart diseases and stroke, recent studies are reporting that individuals who take large amounts of saturated fat are not at higher risk of getting cardiovascular diseases. In fact, some studies have shown that those who take less saturated fats are the ones at high risk of cardiovascular disorders.
Consuming whole milk products such as yogurt, milk, and cheese decrease body fat and hence, the risk of one being overweight.
No quantity of trans-fat is considered safe to eat. Trans-fats increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disorders and stroke. Common sources of trans-fats include fried foods, commercially baked foods, junk foods, and all foods that contain ingredients that have been partially hydrogenated with oil, even if the label says it’s trans-fat free.
Eating Well as You Age: Keep an Eye on Carbs and Refined Sugars
As you age, your sense of smell and taste fades away, but you retain the ability to discern sweetness the longest, putting you at risk of consuming refined carbs and more sugar than is healthy.
Unlike complex carbohydrates which are high in fiber, simple or refined carbs (such as refined sugars, white flour, white rice and more) are digested superfast, causing abnormal spikes in blood sugar levels. Also, they leave you feeling hungry and as such, at risk of overeating. Hidden sugars have zero nutrients but lots of empty calories that can wreck you hard won fight to a healthy diet.
Note that going slow on desserts, starches, and candy is just part of the dietary changes you should make. Refined sugar is found in numerous foods including pasta sauce, canned vegetables and soups, frozen dinners, margarine, and most of the foods labeled ‘reduced fat’ or ‘low fat.’
When it comes to Carbs, keep the following in mind:
- Reduce the amount of sugar in your plate gradually. This will give your taste buds adequate time to adjust and eventually you will be over the craving for sugary and sweet foods.
- Use natural herbs such as yams, pepper, and fruit rather than sugar to sweeten foods.
- Replace processed carbs with good carbs such as beans, vegetables, oatmeal, and other high fiber carbs. You will feel more satisfied, fuller, and more energetic.
- Check labels at the store and settle for “no added sugars” or “sugar-free” products. Eat frozen or fresh ingredients rather than fast foods. Also, avoid canned foods as much as possible; frozen is better, especially when it comes to veggies and fruits.
- Don’t replace good fats with bad carbs. Some food processors often replace saturated fats, like yogurt and milk, with low-fat varieties that are loaded with artificial sweeteners to compensate for the loss in taste.
- Walk away from sweetened coffee drinks and soda. A single can of soda contains as high as 10-12 teaspoons of sugar and about 150 calories. Instead, opt for carbonated water with a splash of juice or lemon.
That’s it in part 1 of this article. In part 2, we will talk about fiber (where to get it and how much you should take), coping with dietary changes as you age, and more.
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