‘We are what we eat.’ Eating wisely goes a long way in determining how healthy your old age is likely to be.
Eating Well: The Importance of a Balanced Diet
The importance of eating healthy increases as we age. Reason? Well, as we age, our bodies undergo many changes, some of which can be dramatic and the nutritional requirements of our body change.
With age, our body starts to lose muscle mass. Without healthy muscle, performing routine activities like getting up from a chair or walking down stairs become difficult. So, in order to maintain muscle strength and its functionality, it is important to up the protein quantity in your diet. While animal sources like meat, fish and eggs are the richest sources of proteins, including legumes, pulses, and nuts is a great way for vegans and vegetarians to maintain their muscle strength, muscle mass and functionality
As you age, your body processes begin slowing down. One such process is your bowel movements. Constipation is relatively more common as people age. However, resorting to laxatives is not ideal.
The best way to prevent constipation is to include fibre-rich foods in your diet such as wholegrains, cereals, fresh fruits, and vegetables, brown rice, beans, and lentils. Drinking plenty of water along with consuming lots of fibre is a great way to relieve the digestive troubles you may have.
Though a small part of your diet, minerals perform critical and essential bodily functions in your body. It is important to maintain a healthy balance and quantities of all minerals in your body and to do this, eating a diet rich in them is a good way.
Minerals like sodium and potassium can be obtained from salts in your diet. However, an excess of salts can put you at risk of developing high blood pressure and subsequent heart trouble. Naturally occurring salts like those found in eggs, meat, milk and some vegetables is a great way to ensure a healthy supply of minerals to your body. However, try and avoid salts that are found in processed foods as these can have adverse effects on your body.
Other minerals that are required by your body as you age are calcium (for strong bones and a healthy nervous system), iron (for blood and the haemoglobin in it), magnesium, phosphorous, etc.
13 vitamins are considered important for our body. These include vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and B complex (thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, B12, folic acid, etc.). Did you know our body makes only a few vitamins and the rest need to be supplied to it via the food we eat?
To make sure your vitamin levels remain adequate, you can include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, seafood, nuts, and legumes. These food items must find their way to your meal plate to maintain a healthy level of vitamins and minerals in your body.
The most infamous dietary food group is fats. The main reason is that we often confuse dietary fats with other types of fats that are harmful to our body. Let’s simplify this for you – dietary fats are an essential part of your diet. These dietary fats enable the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. They are also stored in your body and help keep your body warm. This becomes essential during old age.
When we say ‘dietary fats’ we are referring to monounsaturated fats. Some great ways to include healthy dietary fats in your diet are – using olive oil in cooking or in your salad dressings, having a handful of nuts for a healthy snack, or having a portion of omega-3 rich fish during your meal.
While monounsaturated fats are essential, consumption of other fat types like saturated and trans fats must be kept to a minimum.
Wrapping it Up!
As you revamp your menu to ensure a healthy dietary intake of nutrients, remember to keep yourself hydrated. As we age, your body’s fluid content begins to reduce, making it imperative to drink adequate amounts of water. Surprisingly, as you age, you begin to feel less thirsty even if your body requires water. This puts you at risk of dehydration, especially if you live in a warm climate.
Apart from water, you can also sip on some fresh juices or eat fruits and vegetables that have high water content like watermelon, citrus fruits, cantaloupe, and others.
With some minor changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can look forward to ageing in a healthy manner.
If you ever feel a slight imbalance in your diet, feel free to visit your healthcare provider or nutritionist for more clarity. Many a time, your healthcare provider may prescribe nutritional supplements if your dietary intake of nutrients is less or your body is absorbing less of them.
Happy eating, healthy ageing!
Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide