Everyone knows our diets are supposed to change and evolve as we pass into middle age and beyond. But for many, even the elderly among us, what these changes entail remains a mystery. You may know to pump the breaks on French fries, soda, and candy, but, if you’re over fifty, what should you be eating instead? How much, and why?
The body changes as we age
If you’re anywhere close to your golden years, you’ve likely noticed that the food you used to gorge on is attaching itself to your legs, butt, and midsection like it never used to before. With each passing year we age, our metabolism slows. The first thing to consider, diet-wise, is caloric intake. Women over fifty need 1600 calories a day, if they are not active, and 2000 calories/day if they are. Non-active men, on the other hand, require 2000 calories/day, while their physically active counterparts should consume 2400-2800 calories/day.
Another well-known change is in the body’s susceptibility to illness. As you age, your likelihood to become ill increases. The immune system begins to operate less efficiently, subjecting us to more frequent contagious viruses, like colds and flu, as well as many chronic, serious illnesses as well—illnesses like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
Instead of worrying or panicking about the possible decline of your health, realize that you can take action in order to stay healthy. Eating well can counteract these greater risks. The right foods, if properly consumed, don’t only boost resistance to common colds and speed healing; they can also help to prevent disease and to mitigate chronic health issues. The right foods will even improve the relatively healthy middle-aged person’s general quality of life by raising energy levels and improving mental function, such as mood, concentration, memory, etc.
The four most important nutrients for middle aged people
While fiber is well known as an essential nutrient for colon function, its health benefits are incredibly far-reaching, and critical for anyone over fifty. Fiber lowers the risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. Moreover, it can help you lose weight, and bolster your immune system. Look for your daily fiber in grains (whole grains are best), fruits, and vegetables.
Recommended Daily Fiber: 21 grams for women, 30 grams for men.
As you age, your bones are likely to grow brittle and frail. To counteract this process, you must raise your calcium intake, decreasing your risk for osteoporosis and the potential for fractures. Aging adults can find needed calcium in milk, yogurt, cheese, broccoli, almonds, kale and fortified orange juice.
Recommended Daily Calcium: 1,200 mg.
Protein is essential for maintaining muscle and bone health. It has also been linked to brain function (particularly acuity) and, according to many new studies, may ward off strokes. If you eat fish, nuts, beans, eggs, seeds, or dairy, you’ve already found a few good sources.
Recommended Daily Protein: 1 to 1.5 grams/2.2lbs of bodyweight
Make sure you eat your fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with fiber, complex carbohydrates, and a variety of vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients found in no other foods. As we age, this food group becomes increasingly important for keeping us fit, healthy, and vibrant. Here's how to incorporate the right fruits and veggies into your diet
It's reccommended that you consume 2 to 2½ cups of vegetables per day. Try kale, spinach, and broccoli. And think color. In addition to dark green, pick orange, yellow, or red veggies — like squash, carrots, or yams. A general rule of thumb: the richer the color, the higher the content of antioxidants, nutrients, which are known to boost immunity and ward off chronic diseases of all kinds. The best veggies are raw veggies, because heat causes some them to lose many of the beneficial nutrients. To add raw veg to your diet, make salads regularly and prepare snacks of raw sliced veggies with low-fat dip.
Eat 1½ to 2 servings per day. The color rule applies here as well — try to choose a rainbow of bright fruits. Dieticians recommend eating fruit raw and whole, if possible, because much of the nutrient value (in vitamins or fiber) is held in the pulp or physical fruit itself. Baking fruit into something like a pie or jam causes it to lose nutrients, and usually involves adding unnecessary sugars. Keep in mind that juices also don't typically provide a healthy serving of fruit, as much of the nutritional value has been stripped from the fruit, while excess sugar has been added — what’s left is a glass of empty calories. If you want drinkable fruit, try making smoothies instead — the fiber and nutrients remain in tact. As a bonus, you can add raw vegetables to your smoothie, too — like kale or spinach — providing much of your daily dose of fruits and veggies, all at once!
CATEGORIES: Diet, Healthy Food, Eating Habits, Aging, Over 50, Middle Aged