Aging is inevitable and the changes that come with it. At age 50, your skin starts to wrinkle. Your muscles start to lose tone. Your bones become weaker. Your metabolism slows down. Your immune system is not as strong as before. You are prone to developing chronic illnesses. But, you know what? Now more than ever is the best time to take more care of your body.
You cannot avoid aging; however, you can slow it down and minimize its effect on your body. One of the most important factors to consider when it comes to combating aging is your lifestyle. Do you exercise? Do you get enough sleep? Do you drink or smoke? How do you deal with stress? Most importantly, what foods do you eat?
Fruits And Vegetables
A healthy diet is important at any age, but it is even more important when you reach 50. Two of the foods you should include in your daily diet plan are fruits and vegetables. They are excellent sources of vital nutrients and are the best foods for preventing age-related diseases.
Here are the reasons why you should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables at age 50 and beyond:
- For Longer Life
If you want to increase your life span, you need to eat more fruits and vegetables. Research found that increased intake of these foods decreases the risk of mortality from diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases and various types of cancer, among older adults.
- Reduces Risks of Chronic Diseases
As numbers add up to your years, your risk of developing chronic diseases also increases. Hypertension, stroke, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease are chronic diseases common among older adults. An unhealthy diet can put you at risk or exacerbate these medical conditions, but a diet mainly of fruits of vegetables does the opposite.
Fruits and vegetables, unlike other unhealthy food choices, are mostly low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium which if consumed regularly in large amounts may put your cardiovascular health at risk. Moreover, fruits and vegetables are not only healthier choices but they provide your body vital nutrients that help to sustain your body’s functions especially when you’re suffering from an illness.
- Helps to Prevent Bone Loss
Contrary to popular belief, it is not only women who suffer from bone loss. Although, bone loss is more common in women, men can suffer from it too. Calcium and vitamin D are key nutrients in keeping your bones strong. However, research suggests you also need vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium to prevent bone loss. You can provide your body with these key nutrients by increasing your intake plenty of varied fruits and vegetables.
- Helps to Preserve Cognitive Functions
As you get older, your memory and other cognitive functions also start to decline. Regular consumption of fruits and vegetables can help to prevent age-related decline of cognitive functions because these foods have protective effects on the aging brain.
Findings of previous prospective research showed that participants with higher consumption of fruits and vegetables scored higher on cognitive and neuropsychological evaluations. They also had improved scores in memory, rate of learning, and verbal fluency tests after the diet change.
Another research showed that Mediterranean diets consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and oils may be beneficial in reducing risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Helps to Reduce Risks of Geriatric Conditions
The body becomes frail as you age. You may not be totally weak, but you are just not as strong and sharp as before. You become prone to falls which can result in injuries that may require hospitalization and special health care services.
A number of emerging studies suggest that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps to prevent physical decline and to reduce risks of disability. In these studies, improved bone density and muscle strength were seen in participants with higher serum carotenoid levels, the biomarker of fruits and vegetable consumption.
Additionally, increased intake of these foods may prevent the progression of cataracts in women and consumption of varied fruits and vegetables may reduce risks of inflammation.
When it comes to defying aging quantity and quality are two words you should keep in mind. Eating plenty of varied fruits and vegetable provides your body nutrients and substances necessary to keep you looking and feeling young.
Starchy foods: Choosing Whole Grain Varieties When Possible
Carbohydrates are bad and you should avoid them because they can make you fat. This is a common misconception in the fitness world many people are led to believe. To be clear, you need to consume carbohydrates because it provides your body energy, in the form of glucose, spent for your daily activities. In fact, carbohydrates are one of the macronutrients, a nutrient you should take in relatively large amounts.
Moreover, you get fat when you consume too many calories, a unit of energy foods provide, more than you can burn through physical activities. Glucose travels in your bloodstream waiting to be utilized through physical activities. When unused, your body will store them as fats.
Fatty foods and foods containing carbohydrates are high in calories. One of the major sources of carbohydrates is starchy foods, such as:
- Sweet Potatoes
At age 50, you start to lose muscle mass and bone density. These changes may result to reduced physical activities which mean your daily calorie needs may not be as high as before. Nevertheless, you still need to include starchy foods in your diet for these reasons:
- Healthier Energy Source
Carbohydrates are classified into two: simple and complex. Examples of simple carbohydrates, also called simple sugars, are candies, pastries, donuts, syrups, and sodas. Simple sugars are quickly broken down into glucose, transported into the bloodstream and be readily available for use as energy. High intake of these foods can result to sugar spikes or increased blood sugar levels. Fruits and milk are also examples of simple sugars, but are healthier and have more nutritional value.
Complex carbohydrates, also known as starches, take longer to digest and are a healthier source of energy. Starches are not likely to cause sugar spikes because they have longer sugar molecule chains that take longer to break down. Starchy foods also contain essential vitamins and minerals unlike most simple carbohydrates.
- Great Source of Fiber
Starchy foods are great sources of fiber, a substance largely beneficial to your health. As you age, your digestion may not be the same again. Dietary fiber plays a major role in proper digestion, regular bowel movement and in reducing risks of various diseases.
Dietary fiber comes in two types, insoluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and will pass through your bowel undigested. Its main role is to add bulk to your stools for easier bowel movement. Several studies show that higher intake of insoluble fiber reduces risks of developing bowel disorders. If your diet is high in insoluble fiber, one important thing you need to keep in mind is to increase water intake to prevent constipation.
Soluble fiber attracts water and turns into a gel-like substance. As it travels to your intestinal tract, it attracts cholesterol which will also be expelled during a bowel movement. High level of cholesterol in the body increases your risk of developing heart diseases which are common in older adults. Research shows that increased fiber intake can help reduce absorption of cholesterol and therefore lower risks of heart diseases.
To reap the health benefits of dietary fiber, it is important to choose the types of starchy foods you will include in your diet. Potatoes, bread and pasta made from whole wheat, whole grain cereals, and brown rice contain greater amount of fiber and less sugar compared to bread, pasta, and rice made from grains that went through refining.
- Provides B-vitamins
Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and beans are good sources of B-vitamins particularly vitamin B6 and folate. B-vitamins help to boost your mood because they help your brain produce feel-good chemicals dopamine and serotonin. They can also help to prevent memory loss.
In addition, findings of some research suggest that B-vitamins may help lower risks of stroke and heart diseases, although these benefits need further scientific evidence.
- Rich in Minerals
Starchy vegetables contain significant amounts of potassium and magnesium, minerals that may to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. A cup of boiled potatoes gives your body 38 percent of its daily potassium need and 8 percent of its magnesium needs.
Not all starchy foods are good for you. Choose the ones with high nutritional value and are beneficial to your health, such as whole grains, whole wheat, beans, and potatoes.
Milk and Dairy Products
Milk is one of the most consumed beverages around the world. As a kid, you were probably told to drink your milk every day so you can grow tall and strong. At age 50, this line may not convince you to drink milk anymore. But, did you know that drinking milk is important to older adults as it is to kids?
Drinking milk and consumption of dairy products every day offers numerous health benefits especially to an aging person like you. You may hate the thought of drinking milk daily, but these reasons might convince you:
- Improves Bone Health
Bone loss is one of the common changes aging men and women experience. The bones lose density and become brittle making you prone to injuries such as fractures and sprains.
Low intake of calcium, among other several factors, contributes to bone loss. Milk is one of the best sources of calcium and according to previous research daily intake of milk can help prevent bone loss or osteoporosis.
Along with daily milk intake, you also need to be more active, quit smoking and moderate alcohol intake to keep your bones strong at old age.
- Helps Build Muscles
Apart from bone loss, aging men and women can also suffer from loss of muscle mass. Milk is an excellent source of protein, a nutrient necessary for muscle growth.
Milk contains two high quality proteins whey and casein. Whey gets broken down into amino acids quickly and can provide your muscles protein during exercise to stimulate growth. Casein, on the other hand, takes more times to digest and can serve as a ready supply of small amounts of protein whenever your body need it.
If you do not want your muscles to shrink and lose its strength, you should include milk in your daily diet.
- Helps Manage Weight
As you age, you tend to lose muscles and gain fat. Lack of physical activity due to diminishing strength and energy makes you susceptible to weight gain. Being overweight or obese, especially at your age, increases your risk of developing chronic illnesses.
According to a study published in the Internal Journal of Obesity, increased intake of calcium daily helped reduce body fat and overall weight. Participants had to under diet changes of mainly low calorie intake, low calcium intake, high calcium intake through diet and supplements and high calcium intake with dairy products.
The two groups with high calcium intake daily observed reduction in their total body fats and overall body weight than the groups with low calorie and low calcium diets.
- Prolongs Your Life
To be clear, milk is not a miracle drink that can increase years to your age. But, it does help increase your chances of living longer. According to researchers from some universities in Europe, drinking milk regularly reduces risk of dying from a stroke or heart disease by up to 20 percent. This is their findings after reviewing 324 previous published studies on the effects of milk intake.
- Excellent Source of Other Essential Nutrients
As you get older, your nutrient needs become greater. Milk is not only rich in calcium and protein, it provides your body other essential nutrients beneficial to your health.
These key nutrients are:
- Vitamin A- Promotes good skin, better eyesight and boosts your immune system.
- Vitamin B2- Also known as riboflavin, it helps your body convert food into energy.
- Vitamin B12- Keeps your red blood cells healthy and protects your nerve tissue.
- Vitamin D- works with Calcium to prevent bone loss.
- Niacin- Aids in breaking down fatty acids and sugar
- Phosphorus-Helps to strengthen bones and boosts your energy.
- Potassium- Helps prevent high blood pressure.
How much milk do you need? According to the US Department of Agriculture, an adult should drink up to 3 glasses a day or eat three servings of dairy products, such as plain yogurt or cheese.
Milk comes in many different types, but not all have the same nutritional value? How do you know which milk is best for you?
If you are looking to increase calcium intake, cow’s milk from grass-fed cows is your best choice. The downside with cow’s milk is that they can contain hormones from the mother cow. Skim milk is another great choice. It is free of saturated fat and has fewer calories. For vegetarians, almond milk and soy milk are great milk substitutes.
Meat, Fish, Eggs, Beans and Other Non-dairy Sources of Protein
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the fountain of youth is a myth. Everybody will wrinkle and weaken with age. Do not despair yet because it is possible to minimize or slow down aging through a healthy diet and there are studies to prove this claim.
A healthy diet mainly consists of fruits and vegetables, but these types of foods are usually lacking in one vital nutrient, protein, which is abundantly found in foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, and beans.
Defying Muscle Mass Loss with Protein
Why do you, as an adult aged 50, need to include these protein-rich foods in your diet? Because it is at this age you start to lose muscle mass at a rate of 0.5 to 2 percent of muscle mass per year. If you noticed, older adults tend to have saggy arms and legs. This is not mainly due to sagging skin, but also due to the shrinking of the muscles underneath the skin. Along with this physical change, muscles weaken and lose its strength.
To restore and maintain muscle mass at this crucial age you need daily sufficient intake of protein, a nutrient central to muscle growth.
How much protein do you need? On average, an active adult needs to consume 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, but an older adult may reap the benefits of protein by increasing daily intake. There is no stated recommended daily intake for adults age 50 to 65, but according to a review published in Clinical Nutrition 0.68 grams per pound of body weight will suffice.
Not too long ago, increasing protein intake in older adults is a controversial matter because it is said to cause kidney problems and bone loss. However, recent studies show that slightly increasing protein intake from the recommended daily allowance is actually good for bone health in the elderly. Moreover, higher protein intake can become risky only if you increase your daily protein consumption up to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake and if you already suffer from kidney problems.
Still, increasing protein intake alone is not enough to encourage muscle growth you also need to be more physically active. Increased protein intake and increased physical activity go hand-in-hand because exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis in your body.
A research found that people with less physical activities are likely to suffer from muscle loss at an earlier age and for someone who has poor protein intake and is physically inactive, muscle loss becomes an inevitable part of aging.
Other than protein, meat, fish, eggs, and beans are good sources of other nutrients, such as:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Vitamin B12
- Other B-vitamins
Your body needs these nutrients for improved body functions and maintaining health.
Adding Protein Sources to Your Daily Diet
Making sure you get enough protein from day to day as a younger adult is difficult enough. How much more now that you have to increase your intake?
First, identify excellent food sources of protein. Protein is mostly found in fish, eggs, meat, and meat products. Some plant foods also contain protein, but unlike meat they contain incomplete protein. Several types of amino acids make up protein. Plant foods do not contain all of these amino acids so you need to eat two or more complementary plant foods to get all these amino acids.
Second, determine how much protein do you need based on your body weight. On average, adults need 0.36 grams of protein per pound. A slight increase is necessary for older adults like you. According to diet experts, you do not have to obsess over significantly increasing your protein intake unless you are aiming for a gold medal in bodybuilding.
Third, after calculating your daily protein intakes create a diet plan that allows you to achieve this goal. You do not have to necessarily get all these protein in one meal. In fact, distributing protein intake on meals and snacks throughout the day maximizes protein synthesis in your body.
Aging brings undesirable body changes you cannot avoid, but you can slow them down by eating healthy and nutritional foods.