Eating Healthier with Age
As we grow older, our bodies change. And as our bodies change, our diets are forced to adapt.
For those of us past 50, changes in how we use energy, our levels of muscle mass, and the way our bodies convert certain nutrients mean that we need to make changes to the way we eat. One of the ways Visiting Angels helps seniors with our home care services is by providing help with eating right – from guidance and information to in home meal preparation assistance. Below, we look at some big picture ways you can make improvements to your diet as you age, as well as some detailed changes that can have a big impact on your health and well-being.
The biggest difference in younger people’s and older people’s diets are the level of calories we need to live well. Starting around 40, our daily calorie needs begin declining, from 2400 for men and 2000 for women to 2000 and 1600 respectively.
Why is this? Two reasons. First, as we grow older, we tend to use less energy. This accounts for roughly 2/3 of the drop in our caloric needs. The other third is due to loss of muscle mass, caused by lowered hormone and activity levels.
The solution seems simple – we just need to eat fewer calories. The problem, of course, is that without a change in the foods we eat, less calories also means less nutrients. So instead of just eating fewer calories, it’s important to also increase the percentage of our diets made up of vitamin- and nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
How our bodies deal with calories isn’t the only thing that changes as we age. Our bodies also begin to process certain nutrients and vitamins differently. This change can increase vulnerability to conditions and illnesses that can be prevented through changes in our diet.
With that in mind, here are 7 nutrient-specific changes you should look to make to your diet as you grow older:
- Vitamin B-12: As we grow older, our stomach acid has more trouble absorbing the necessary levels of B-12, meaning you should increase your intake.
- Vitamin D: Fights osteoporosis, certain cancers, Alzheimer’s, and many of other diseases.
- Calcium: Helps fight the decrease in bone density that accompanies aging.
- Fiber: Great for your digestive system, aids with calorie reduction, and helps maintain blood sugar and insulin levels.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Proper levels help maintain brain function, improve circulation, and lower the rate at which our body's age, among a wealth of other benefits.
- Magnesium: Considered a vital mineral for body maintenance, strengthening bones, improving circulatory and nervous function, and reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Probiotics: Aid your digestive system, boost immunity, and lower bad cholesterol.
While it can be tough sticking to a new diet, there are ways to make this easier. At Visiting Angels, we help by making grocery shopping and meal preparation a part of our home care services. So be sure to advise your home care services provider about improvements you’d like to make to your diet.