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Eating Healthy as You Age

Elizabeth Meyer | Nov 12, 2014

Obesity, diabetes, and a host of other health issues are increasingly problematic in the United States in the 21st century. Generally speaking, people lead more sedentary lives and have turned to pre-packaged meals and fast food as a source of nutrition. The combination of these factors has led to a vast array of health issues for individuals and the country as a whole.

Americans are being encouraged to change their eating habits, especially children and young adults. Focusing on these age groups alone ignores the fact that eating habits need to constantly change, especially as you age. Healthy eating is important for everyone, from toddlers to seniors. For older adults reading this, you’ll learn the many benefits of eating healthy as you age.

Preventing illness

Just as a proper diet benefits growing children and young adults, it also helps older adults. While children and young adults rely on a healthy, balanced diet to grow strong bones, muscles, and joints, older adults rely on a proper diet to hold onto the gains they made while eating healthy in their youth.

In 2010, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released two meal plan options aimed at older adults. In one plan, they are encouraged to select from the following food categories on a daily basis:

  • Fruits – 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups
  • Vegetables – 2 to 3 ½ cups
  • Grains – 5 to 10 ounces
  • Protein – 5 to 7 ounces
  • Dairy – 3 cups of milk
  • Oils – 5 to 8 teaspoons

This food plan is known as the USDA Food Patterns diet and is designed to provide seniors with a balanced, healthy diet that assists in maintaining a healthy weight, providing good nutrition for muscles, joints, and organs in the body, and protection against heart disease, diabetes, and blood pressure issues. Perhaps more important for adults already battling with diabetes and hypertension as they age, healthy eating makes it easier to control these issues.

Another dietary plan designed for older adults and released jointly by the USDA and HHS is the DASH Eating Plan. DASH is designed for seniors with hypertension issues and stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Adjusting to change

As you age, your metabolism and digestive trends are going to change. Older adults, especially those with physical ailments that make active lifestyles difficult, have lower rates of metabolism. For many seniors, metabolism rates decrease as a result of natural aging processes. For those with physical ailments, a lack of mobility further decreases metabolism.

When you were younger, your active body craved more nutrients to sustain your activity and help build muscles. The amount of food you ate to sustain your body then is not the same amount it needs now. The average female over the age of 50 who is moderately active needs only 1,800 calories a day. The average male in the same age and activity group needs roughly 2,200 calories a day.

Adjusting the type and amount of food you eat on a daily basis will also help you maintain a healthy body weight, fight off illnesses, and prevent chronic diseases.

Eat better, feel stronger

Finally, eating better can help you feel stronger as you age. The nutrients you get from your daily diet helps power your muscles and your brain, sustain your bone structure, maintain joint health, and help you keep your weight in check. When you accomplish all of these feats through healthy eating, you can wake up every day feeling stronger and ready to maintain an active physical lifestyle during your Golden Years.

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