Anti-aging Diet – Eat right to age well

Life expectancy has increased, proving that today you can live longer and healthier if you practice good health habits. A good diet along with a prudent lifestyle results in an increase in life expectancy. Different cultures propose different diets for longevity, but they all boil down to healthy choices, packed with nutrition.

The body's energy requirement drops substantially, as you grow old. At the same time, there is a sharp rise in the need for certain nutrients. Research carried out on older people illustrates how a balance between foods to meet the energy and nutrition requirement can actually help slow the entire aging process.

There is no magic potion to stop the aging process – as that remains an inevitable part of our existence. However, a number of degenerative changes that affect us, post middle age, can be thwarted, provided preventative steps are taken, early on in life. Nutritionists, doctors, scientists and medical experts are of the belief that proper nutrition can foil or at least slow several debilitating medical conditions such as diabetes, osteoporosis and heart ailments. The same group of people estimate that roughly half of the medical conditions of individuals over the age of 65 can be linked to poor dietary choices.

The right dietary choices are a critical part of all 'aging-well' stratagems. Yet, when it comes to the elderly they are most often the most undernourished. There are many reasons for malnutrition among the senior citizens:

  • Appetite declines as we age, leading to lesser food intake that results in nutrient deficiencies
  • Taste buds become sluggish, making food unappealing, so we tend to eat less
  • The olfactory senses also decline and the food no longer smells appetizing, cutting down on the quantity of food intake
  • Age also causes loss of teeth, making chewing food difficult
  • Added to this are problems like acidity, lactose intolerance, constipation and other digestive complications that contribute to poor nutrition
  • The release of digestive acids in the stomach regresses with age and impairs the digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • The death of a spouse, or the problems associated with shopping for ingredients and preparing healthy meals can sometime result in the seniors subsisting on unhealthy foods that provide little or no nutrition
  • Many older people do not have a steady income and can barely afford nutritious foods such as fresh vegetables, fruits, meat and fish etcetera

Changing needs with changing age

As we age, our body composition changes too. Muscle mass reduces considerably, and there is a marked increase in fatty tissues. In addition to this our metabolism slows down with age, which necessitates a cut in calorie intake. An average person cuts down his calorie intake by 10% for every decade, after the age of 50. So, someone who consumes 1800 calories at 50 will be taking in approximately 1450 calories at 70 or fewer calories depending on their lifestyle. Someone who chooses to continue eating the same number of calories as they did when they were younger is most likely to become overweight and up their risk of diseases like diabetes, heart ailments and osteoarthritis.

As we age our body loses its ability of absorbing nutrients and using them effectively. Older people are also most likely to suffer from medical conditions which demand a change in nutritional needs.

Consequently, older people are most likely to require extra quantities of the following essential nutrients:

  • Calcium – Helps in maintaining healthy bones and prevents osteoporosis. Calcium is also vital to nerve and muscle function, metabolism and blood clotting. It also helps regulate blood pressure.
    Dairy, fortified soy products, canned salmon and sardines and green leafy veggies are good sources of calcium.
  • Vitamin D – Essential for the absorption of calcium.
    The human body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Dietary sources of the vitamin include fish liver oils, fatty fish and egg yolks. Butter, milk and other food products fortified with the vitamin are also good sources
  • Vitamin B12 – Required for making red blood cells, DNA and RNA. It also makes myelin to help maintain nerve fibres.
    Vitamin B12 is found in all animal products.
  • Zinc – The mineral is essential as it supports the immune system and helps in compensating the lowered immunity levels associated with old age. It is also instrumental in the metabolic function of enzymes.
    Foods rich in zinc include eggs, meat, nuts, wheat germ, milk, curd and oysters.
  • Potassium – This mineral is especially helpful for patients of hypertension and those on diuretic medication. Potassium maintains the body's fluid balance, promotes muscle function and aids in metabolic processes.
    Bananas are an excellent source of potassium. Other foods rich in the mineral include dried fruits, citrus fruits, avocados, whole-grain products and legumes
  • Folic Acid – Also known as folate and folacin, folic acid is a B vitamin that is essential for making red blood cells and DNA and RNA. The vitamin is also required to synthesize certain amino acids. Folic acid can also lower levels of homocysteine, a compound present in the blood that is known to increase the risk of heart ailments.
    Vegetarian sources of folic acid include broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, raw veggies, avocado and legumes. Yeast and liver are also rich in folate.
  • Fibre – Fibre helps prevent constipation. Symptoms of haemorrhoids (piles) and diverticulosis can be relieved by increasing the fibre intake. Fibre is also known to reduce the risk of colon cancer. Fibre is filling and helps in losing and maintaining weight. Soluble fibre can help lower cholesterol levels.
    Most dietary fibre comes from vegetables, fruits, nuts, cereals, seeds, grains, dried beans and legumes. Unprocessed foods sourced from plants have high fibre content. Psyllium husk known as Isabgul, is a supplement that is easily available commercially and may be taken to increase fibre intake.

Move and shake to stay fit and in shape

A change in diet alone cannot provide complete health benefits. Complement the diet with exercise. Exercise pumps feel good hormones into your blood that will keep you feeling positive at all times. Exercise also makes your body supple and it helps with weight loss and weight maintenance. Relief from minor aches and pains is possible through regular exercise.

Apart from that exercise lowers blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. Exercise can be a stroll in the park or a brisk walk. Enjoy a sport or a swim or cycling? Indulge yourself in these activities and let them tweak your health.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 547 articles authored by Juana

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