Getting older: some say it’s the pits, some say it’s a privilege. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, one thing holds true: aging creates a variety of changes in the human body. It is important to be aware of the importance of nutrition as we age. Being aware of how our body changes (and how to adjust for changes) is essential to feeling good well into the golden years. Some of the most notable changes the body goes through are metabolic. As we get older, our resting metabolic rate declines. This can lead to weight gain and an increased risk for certain chronic diseases.
Fortunately, it’s possible to avoid many of these unwanted side effects by understanding nutrition as you age, and how to eat for wellness as you get older.
In this post, we’ll discuss how to use nutrition for anti-aging benefits, and what you need to know about your changing metabolism as you age. Let’s dive in.
The Benefits of Nutrition as you Age
As you probably know, healthy eating is about much more than just food. It’s also about consuming fuel that helps your body stay strong and healthy, and adding vital nutrients and vitamins to your diet. Here are a few benefits of healthy eating for older adults:
- A longer, healthier life. Studies have shown that good nutrition helps boost immunity, fight illness, prevent weight gain, and reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, among other chronic conditions. Combined with adequate physical activity, a healthy diet can help you remain independent as you age.
- Avoid dementia and cognitive decline. Research shows that people who eat leafy veggies, nuts, fish, and fruit may decrease their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.
- Enjoy life more. The old saying “you are what you eat” holds true. When you consume healthy, wholesome food, you have more energy to do the things you love. Healthy eating can also improve your mood and self-esteem, causing you to feel better inside and out.
As you can see, the benefits of healthy eating are both physical and mental. If living a long, healthy, and active lifestyle is important to you, nutrition should be as well.
What Changes in Nutrition as you Age?
Aging is linked to a variety of changes that can lead you to become deficient in various minerals and vitamins. Specifically, aging may cause calcium, Vitamin D, iron, magnesium, or Vitamin B12 deficiency. Aging may reduce a person’s ability to recognize sensations like thirst, hunger, and eating satiation.
Here are a few ways nutritional needs change as you age:
Caloric Needs May Change
Aging leads to changes in the resting metabolic rate. Over time, this can cause us to lose lean body mass. To help lessen the impact of this change, nutritionists recommend:
- Increasing your physical activity to burn more calories each day
- Starting resistance training to add lean muscle and raise metabolic rate
- Improving the quality of your diet by eating more vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy
- Practicing portion control
Remember: there’s no one-size-fits-all rule for caloric needs. Everyone is different, and your caloric needs depend on your body type and weight, activity level, and overall health. Consult with your doctor to learn more about how you can control metabolic changes as you age.
Protein Requirements Remain Stable
No matter how old you are, protein is essential for tissue repair, growth, and maintenance. While you may need fewer calories as you get older, your protein needs remain relatively constant. Today, most nutritionists recommend adults eat about 45-60 grams of protein each day. Eating high-quality protein foods, like chicken, low-fat milk, and legumes is a great way to fulfill your daily protein needs without adding unnecessary calories to your diet.
Antioxidants Become More Important
Today, most dieticians agree that consuming ample antioxidants, including Vitamin C and E, can help delay the aging process. Studies have found that foods rich in antioxidants, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are more beneficial than antioxidant supplements. With that in mind, nutrition as you age should focus on adding more of these to your plate:
- Bell peppers (especially red and orange)
- Dark green leafy vegetables
Calcium Becomes More Important
As we age, we experience an increased risk of conditions like osteoporosis and arthritis.
Fortunately, consuming adequate levels of calcium can help decrease the risk for these conditions while also improving the function of your nervous system, blood clotting, and muscular system. Remember that dairy is still the most easily absorbable form of calcium and we do not always find Vitamin D in food sources, except fortified dairy products.
If you eat little dairy in your daily diet, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement. According to Harvard Health, new recommendations for vitamin D intake are 600 IU for adults 19 to 70 years old, and 800 IU for those over 70.
Water Needs Remain – Although Thirst May Decline
One thing people rarely tell you about nutrition and aging is that, while many of your needs remain the same, some sensations associated with those needs may decline.
Specifically, sensations of hunger and thirst may decrease as a person ages. This leaves older adults vulnerable to malnutrition and dehydration.
To avoid the latter, be sure to drink about 1.5-2 liters of water per day. Focus on fluids that are not diuretics (like coffee). Decaffeinated teas, fruit juices, low-fat milk, and water are all excellent options.
Nutrition and Aging: Alloy can Help You Find a Balance
Fitness is a holistic process. You can’t be fit and healthy if your nutrition is lacking. Fortunately, our team of experts can help you find a balance.
If you’re wondering “how do nutritional needs change as you age?” or you need some guidance figuring out how to fill your plate, we’re here for you. Besides offering industry-leading personal training services, we also provide tailored nutrition plans designed to help you eat healthily and live longer.
Get in touch with our team today to learn more.
Article by Rick Mayo