Nutritional Needs. What seniors need to watch to maintain a healthy lifestyle."The older I get, the harder it is to maintain my youthful weight." Heard this before? Feel this way now? Well, you're not alone. For nearly 30 years, I managed to maintain my college weight - it fluctuated from time-to-time, but I was always able to get it right back to where I was when I was in my early 20's. Then I hit 50. For almost 10 years, I have had to work harder and harder to maintain that weight; and I have definitely enjoyed it less and less. So why is that happening? What can we do about it? Let's take a look at this phenomenon. Diana Rodriguez has written a wonderfully brief, and to the point article, on www.everydayhealth.com entitled, Meeting Your Nutritional Needs as You Age. In this article, (from which I shall borrow many ideas) the simple premise is offered: as we age, our nutritional needs change. "Age-related changes can affect how your body processes food, which influences your dietary needs and affects your appetite." Listed below are some of these changes: • Your metabolism slows down. As we age, we naturally tend to slow down our exercise routine, which in turn, slows down our metabolism. This means we burn fewer calories, meaning we need less caloric intake. Two consequences of this change are: 1. We need food that is as nutrient-rich as possible; and, 2. We should attempt to keep a good level of exercise • Your digestive system changes. As we age, our bodies produce less of the fluids necessary for proper digestion, making it more difficult to absorb food. As a result, we often must take supplements such as folic acid, vitamins B6 and B12. • Your appetite may change. A negative part of aging is the increase in use of medications. Some of these medications can alter our appetites. • Your emotional health may change. We all know the situations many elders face: loss of loved ones, loss of a job, physical issues, etc. All these may create some form of depression, which in turn may reduce one's appetite. As we try to stay healthier and healthier, both in our exercise programs and in what we eat, it may be useful to examine the National Institute on Aging's daily suggestions for seniors: • Grain: 5 - 10 ounces • Meats and beans: 5 - 7 ounces • Milk: 3 cups • Vegetables: 2 - 3.5 cups • Fruit: 1.5 - 2.5 cups • Oils: 6 teaspoons The following is called the DASH diet and is geared to those elders needing to be more heart healthy in their eating (i.e., those with high blood pressure, etc.): • Grains: 7 - 8 ounces • Meats and beans: 6 ounces or less of chicken, meat, or fish; plus 4 - 5 servings of nuts, seeds, and/or dried beans per week • Milk: 2-3 cups • Vegetables: 2 - 2.5 cups • Fruit: 2 - 2.5 cups • Oils: 2 teaspoons Obviously, we are all individuals with very unique systems that require, not only specific solutions to our own dietary needs, but the guidance from your trained physician. However, certain general guidelines should be considered by all of us: • Stick to healthy fats • Drink plenty of water • Opt for whole grains • Include high fiber foods • Pack in the protein • Have ample amounts of calcium • Proper intake of vitamin B12 Getting older is inevitable. Slowing down will happen whether we want it to or not. Yet, we can slow the aging process by eating healthy, exercising and having regular physical exams and consultations. Take care of yourself!!