Nutrition as You Age

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Eating a wide variety of nutritious foods is one of the best things you can do for your health. But how do you know if you are getting enough of what you need?

Exact nutritional needs vary based on your age, height, weight and any medical conditions you have, such as diabetes and food allergies. Since there are so many variables that go into developing a healthy diet, nutritional counseling with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can be helpful.

Nutritional Considerations with Aging

Although not everyone ages the same, some common changes take place. During adolescence, a teen requires a lot of calories to maintain their development. Their bodies are still growing, and metabolism is high. But your needs are not the same throughout your life.

It is important to understand that your nutritional needs may change as you age. The number of calories you should eat depends on your activity level, gender and height. But your calorie needs are usually the highest in your 20s and decrease in the following decades.

There are several reasons for the decrease in calorie requirements. For example, muscle mass often decreases with age. If you are not doing strength training, you may lose a little muscle as you age. Muscle tissue requires more calories to maintain than fat. So, it makes sense the less muscle you have, the fewer calories you need.

It is also important to pay a little more attention to your cardiovascular health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease continues to be the number one killer of adults in the United States. Your diet can play a role in preventing heart disease.

Foods high in trans-fat are thought to contribute to heart disease according to the American Heart Association. Trans-fat appears to decrease HDL cholesterol, which is considered “good” cholesterol because it offers some protection against heart disease. LDL cholesterol, which is “bad” cholesterol may increase with a diet high in trans-fats. High trans-fat foods to avoid include fried foods, crackers and donuts.

Dietary Recommendations in your 40s, 50s, 60s and Beyond

Regardless of age, to maintain good health, adults should eat a variety of fresh veggies, fruits, lean protein, healthy fat and complex carbs. Simple carbs, such as sweets, chips and soda should be limited. Excess added sugar, sodium and saturated fats should also be limited. Also, consider the following:

Considerations in your 40s

During your 40s, your calorie needs may have slightly declined from your 30s. Your 40s may mean juggling working and raising a family. Healthy eating may take a back seat for both men and women. But your 40s is a bad time to neglect your health. How you eat and take care of yourself during your 40s and 50s sets the stage for your retirement years. It is important to be sure you are getting enough of the following:
Vitamin D: We typically get vitamin D from the sunlight. But if you are like many busy adults, you may not be spending enough time outside. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with heart disease and depression. Good sources of vitamin D include eggs, fatty fish and milk.
Protein: Protein helps you feel full and aids in muscle repair and growth. Don not skip on protein during your 40s. Good sources include eggs, lean red meat, and tuna.

Considerations in your 50s

If you are not careful, you might start to see your weight creep up in your 50s. Most women also have reached menopause sometime during their 50s, which increases their risk of osteoporosis. Some nutrients to keep in mind include:
Calcium: Eating foods high in calcium may combat bones loss that can occur in middle age and beyond. Calcium is not just important for women. Men also need it to maintain strong bones. Good sources of calcium include fatty fish and low-fat dairy including milk and cottage cheese.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3 fatty acids are said to provide some cardiovascular health benefits. Studies have indicated that omega 3’s may lower triglyceride levels and decrease blood pressure. Tuna and salmon are good choices for foods rich in omega 3.
Potassium: Blood pressure may increase as we age. Decreasing sodium intake and increasing potassium may help. Plus, if you are taking medication for hypertension, it can decrease potassium levels in the body. Good sources of potassium include broccoli, baked potatoes with the skin on and bananas.

Considerations in your 60s and Beyond

Your 60s and beyond may mean retirement and other life changes. You may be busier than ever. But exercise and healthy eating should be a priority. Do not forget to include the following:
Antioxidant Rich Foods: Antioxidants help combat cell damage. They may also help fight disease, protect memory and prevent age-related changes in the vision, such as macular degeneration. Antioxidants are found in foods including blueberries, kale, red grapes and broccoli.
Fiber: Constipation is common as we age. Be sure to eat enough foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits.