Nutrition and aging: What changes as I get older?
As we get older, our food and activity choices become even more important to our health. Eating well and being active can make a huge difference in terms of strength, energy levels and overall quality of life. Here are some things to consider as we age:
Focus on quality, not quantity: As we age, our metabolism slows, and as a result we need fewer calories to maintain weight. However, certain nutrients become even more vital to overall health. Choose whole and fresh foods from all the food groups, and eat minimally processed food. Here are some nutrients that you may need to focus on:
- Calcium and vitamin D: Be sure to have three servings of vitamin D-fortified low-fat milk or yogurt each day. Other calcium-rich foods include fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables and canned fish.
- Fiber: The current recommendation is 25-35 grams per day (less for women, more for men). Include whole grains, beans and lentils, and fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Potassium: Increasing potassium along with reducing sodium may lower your risk of high blood pressure. Good sources are fruits, vegetables, milk and yogurt.
- Healthy fats: Eat more unsaturated fats (plant-based foods), and less saturated fats (animal-based food sources and highly-processed foods). This may help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Keep moving: In order to preserve muscle mass, mobility and endurance, we need to continue to exercise well into the golden years. Aim for 150 minutes each week, or 30 minutes per day most days, of aerobic activity and strength training. Find an activity you enjoy and make it part of your daily routine. If your mobility is limited, focus on what you can do for exercise. For example, someone who has significant knee pain or is wheelchair bound may not be able to walk for exercise, but can do sitting aerobics and strength training or exercise in the water.