Healthy Aging - Getting the Nutrition You Need
As you get older,
good nutrition plays an increasingly important role in how well you age. Eating
a low-salt, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber can
actually reduce your age-related risks of
osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases. By eating a
wide variety of foods, you can pretty easily get what your body needs,
- Protein, which is needed to maintain and rebuild
muscles. You can get low-fat, quality protein from poultry, fish, eggs or egg
substitutes, soy, and limited amounts of nuts and low-fat meat and
- Carbohydrate, which is the body's
preferred source of energy. There are two main sources of dietary
carbohydrates: simple sugars, such as sucrose (the
refined white sugar added to sweets and desserts), fructose (the sugar
contained in fruit), and lactose (milk sugar); and complex carbohydrates, which come from vegetables and grains. Unlike refined
sugars, fruits contain vitamins and fiber, dairy products contain nutrients
such as calcium and vitamin D, and complex carbohydrates contain vitamins,
minerals, and fiber. Get most of your carbohydrate calories from vegetables,
grains, and fruits. Limit drinks and foods with added sugar. And try to replace fat calories with complex carbohydrates
in your diet.
- Fat, which also provides energy. To help keep your
blood cholesterol levels low, get most of your limited fat
intake from the polyunsaturated fats (as in liquid corn oil or soybean oil) and
monounsaturated fats (in olive oil, avocados, and nuts). Limit
saturated fats (beef, pork, veal, butter, shortening,
and cheese). You can do this by eating these foods less often, having smaller
servings, choosing less fatty cuts of meat, and by using stronger tasting
cheeses so you can use just a little and still get the cheese flavor. Try to
avoid the trans fats (hydrogenated fats) found in stick margarine and in many
processed foods such as crackers and cookies. Trans fats are now shown on the
nutrition facts labels found on most packaged foods.
- Water, to
replace water lost through activity. Be sure to drink plenty of
water each day.
As you take a look at your daily diet, remember that as you
- Your body's daily energy needs slowly decrease.
So you need fewer calories a day than when you were younger. Your doctor
registered dietitian (RD) can help you calculate your
ideal calorie intake.
- Natural hormone changes make your body prone
to depositing more body fat (especially around your middle ) and less muscle. Eating
a healthy, balanced diet and limiting your intake of saturated fat, along with
increased activity and muscle strengthening (muscle cells are the major calorie
burners in your body), can help you stay at a healthy weight.
- Your bones lose mineral content more rapidly than before,
especially if you are a
postmenopausal woman, because having less
estrogen increases bone loss. As a result, you need to
have calcium and vitamin D in your diet to help prevent osteoporosis. Your
doctor may recommend that you take a calcium and vitamin D supplement.
- Plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) can naturally occur on the inside of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and brain. You can help slow this plaque buildup by eating heart-healthy foods such as lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A healthy diet can help lower cholesterol and high blood pressure and prevent heart disease and stroke.