As we age, diet plays an important role in maintaining health and independence. But it’s a little more complex than you’d think…
As research reveals more, experts are making some recommendations — and some precautions — about what we should and should not be eating to make sure we age as vibrantly as possible.
Recently, they delved into what we need to eat more of to avoid a major pitfall of aging — as well as a certain “healthy drink” that seniors shouldn’t give up, but should change their habits around consuming it so the benefits don’t turn to drawbacks.
Here’s what you need to know…
Seniors need more protein
The study of over 630,000 seniors in Ireland looked at older adults who spanned the spectrum of health including:
- People who were still capable of living healthy and independently
- Those with chronic health problems who required regular care
And the number one recommendation?
As you age, you should also add more protein to your life!
Yup, the researchers say that even though seniors may share some of the same dietary goals as younger adults, their needs are different.
And getting more protein could help you avoid frailty — a condition that involves a decline in function across all of your body’s systems. Frailty vastly increases your chances of suffering a catastrophic health event.
According to Barbara Nicklas, professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest Medical School in North Carolina signs of frailty include:
- Low grip strength (here’s how to improve this measure)
- Muscle weakness
- Slow gait or walking speed
- Weight loss
It can also involve just how sick you are. And unfortunately, a whopping 50 percent of people over the age of 85 already fall into this category.
So what foods did the Irish team recommend to leverage the power of protein to combat a frail older age?
High-quality proteins that are capable of stimulating muscle protein to keep you strong, like meats, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs.
Now if you’re a vegan and can’t bring yourself to at least consume dairy and eggs, be sure to get extra protein sources in your diet like bean and peas or mycoprotein. A study from researchers at the University of Exeter shows that mycoprotein promotes muscle growth better than protein from milk.
About tea time and your nutrition
That healthy drink we mentioned at the beginning is tea. The researchers found that although tea isn’t necessarily bad for you as you get older, there is a bad time to drink tea.
Specifically, it’s best to avoid drinking tea with your meals.
The reason is that tea actually blocks the absorption of iron and zinc from the foods you eat.
This is important because low iron levels can decrease your strength and endurance and leave you feeling run down. Zinc on the other hand is vital to keeping your immune system running strong to reduce your risk of infections, such as pneumonia that can become complicated in seniors.
Therefore, the researchers say that older adults should skip the tea while eating, and only have it between meals.
If you’d like to see if your zinc levels are low, there’s an easy at-home test you can see instructions for here.
Other recommendations to remember
In addition to adding more protein to your diet and saving tea for a between-meal treat, the research also revealed a few more important clues to staying healthy over 65…
#1 – Increased hydration
The report showed that with age also comes a higher risk of “low intake” dehydration. To combat this risk, it recommends focusing on getting plenty of fluids throughout the day. Women should shoot for at least 1.6 liters and men for two liters (or around a half-gallon).
#2 – Thoughtful weight loss
Weight loss after the age of 65 can lead to a loss of muscle mass, which — you guessed it — can lead to frailty. Because of this, the researchers only recommend dieting for those who are obese and at risk of health problems due to their weight.
#3 – Decreased salt intake
And when it comes to salt, they say to be careful. As we age, our taste buds may weaken, leading to added helpings of salt that could accelerate health-related issues, like high blood pressure.
Instead, they recommend cutting back on the salt and focusing on healthy herbs and spices for seasoning.
Finally, to maintain your overall health, you should also supplement with the sunshine vitamin (vitamin D, daily) because older adults do not process vitamin D from natural sunlight efficiently. And, eat less sugar and more fiber.
Editor’s note: Are you feeling unusually tired? You may think this is normal aging, but the problem could be your master hormone. When it’s not working, your risk of age-related diseases skyrockets. To reset what many call “the trigger for all disease” and live better, longer, click here to discover The Insulin Factor: How to Repair Your Body’s Master Controller and Conquer Chronic Disease!
How to avoid frailty and stay strong as you age — American Heart Association
Updated Scientific Recommendations for Food-based Dietary Guidelines for Older Adults Published — Food Safety Authority of Ireland