Aging and getting older involves much more than just the number of birthdays we celebrate and our genetics. Science and experience show us that diet and nutrition can play a major part in how we age.
As our bodies age, changes happen in our bodies and our body systems. These changes are influenced by stress, illness, genetics, and socioeconomic factors.
Some of these changes include:
- Changes in your senses: A decrease in sight and peripheral vision, hearing, smell, and taste. These affect what and how we eat.
- Changes in muscle mass: Reduced muscle mass affects our vital organ function, with the most important being the heart. These are influenced by what we eat.
- Changes in metabolism: A result of the loss of lean body mass is a decrease in energy metabolism. The end result of this is increased body fat. These are influenced by what we eat.
- Bone density: Reduced bone density is natural and can be slowed by exercise and the food we eat.
All of these affect how long we will live, and nutrition has a role in every one of them.
Keeping your diet simple with a focus on low-salt and low-fat foods, plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and many chronic diseases. Eating a variety of foods makes it easy to give your body what it needs to age well while you enjoy the process.
You should include these foods in your diet:
- Protein: needed to maintain and rebuild muscles. Get low-fat, quality protein from poultry, fish, eggs, and limited amounts of nuts and low-fat meat and dairy.
- Carbohydrates: the body’s preferred source of energy. Make sure you are eating complex carbohydrates which come from vegetables and grains. Fruits contain vitamins and fiber; complex carbohydrates contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Get most of your carbohydrate calories from vegetables, grains, and fruits.
- Fat: provides energy. Get your fat from polyunsaturated fats (liquid corn oil or soybean oil) and monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, and nuts). Eat less beef, pork, veal, butter, and cheese because they are high in saturated fats.
- Water: Be sure to drink plenty of water each day.
It can be pretty easy to keep these foods in your diet as long as you’re aware. Researchers have proven that when vitamins, minerals, and other compounds needed by our bodies are obtained by eating certain foods – in combination – we receive a big benefit in quality nutrition that will help us age better and live longer.