What can you do to support your body, through the food you eat, as you age?
Aside from exercise and mobility requirements altering to assist you in feeling young and remaining mobile, there are a few nutritional considerations to think about too. The body goes through a number of stages throughout life and older age is just another one of those stages. Ageing is linked to a number of changes including muscle loss, thinning hair and less stomach acid which may contribute to absorption troubles of key nutrients, especially magnesium, B12, calcium and iron. On the brighter side, ageing is also associated with greater wisdom, a fuller family and a happier quieter life, so it’s not all bad! Looking at aging from a nutritional approach there are a few challenges which you may face.
A tendency to loss or a change in appetite and taste in the ageing is not uncommon and one may lose the ability to notice thirst and hunger signals. Elders need the same, if not more nutrition but nutrition from a reduced calories intake as the energy output of the body and metabolism decreases and slows down. Although the retirement age may seem like the ideal time to eat all the cream cakes to enjoy the latter years in life, considerations to sugar and calorie intake are still very important, especially since two diabetes is one of the number one diseases for people over the age of 50 – A disease that is extremely debilitating, but also one which is very much avoidable and influenced by lifestyle choices.
Here are a few things you can do to help you or a loved one avoid or limit the risk of Type II Diabetes;
• Include healthy staples such as fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks can help you fight nutrient deficiencies, without expanding the waistline. Especially include nutrient denser foods and ones rich in vitamin D and minerals and calcium for bone health. Tinned fish or sardines and salmon are excellent choices for these.
• Reduce refined or added sugars wherever possible and read product labels. Cook from whole foods and choose complex carbohydrate over simple carbs to prevent a constant spike in blood sugars. Brown rice, legumes, vegetables and quality proteins are key.
• Quit smoking and limit alcohol intake and exercise regularly.
• Reduce portion sizes and maintain balanced plate sizes.
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Ask your GP for an annual cholesterol and blood tests and request checks for HbA1C levels which look at the overall blood sugar level over a longer period of time (approx. three months) in comparison to random glucose testing which is only a snapshot. These are extremely good indicators of whether or not you are border lining or need to be considered at a higher risk of in developing Type II diabetes and lifestyle changes for the better can be recommended.
• Seek professional advice to assist you with any lifestyle changes and to discuss your health in more detail. Specific tailoring is important to your individual requirements, as these vary greatly from person to person!
Other things to you can do to help an ageing body;
1. Add more fibre! Constipation is a common health problem among the elderly, especially common in people over 65 particularly because people at this age tend to move less and more likely to take medications. Prunes and pears are great choices to include in the diet. Eating more fibre may help relieve this, passing through the gut undigested, helping form stools and promote regular bowel movements.
2. Ensure you drink plenty of water. This is key throughout life but particularly one to remind yourself or a loved one, as thirst levels are more difficult to recognise.
3. Soups and softer foods may be a good idea to help elders who have a challenge chewing and a great way of including more fluids into the diet. Drinkable supplements or milky fortified beverages are another great way to ensure vital nutrients are not missed when appetite and thirst may be low. Above all, remember to embrace again, the beauty that surrounds us and the process of life as a whole!
Feature article written by: Kirsty Grace @misskirstygrace
Kirsty Grace is Mindfulness Practitioner and holds a Diploma in Mindful Self Compassion and a MSC Certificate, Nutrition Diploma.