An apple a day keeps the doctor away, goes the old adage. But while that works when you're younger, the script changes as you age. Growing older also implies dietary evolution, so food now needs to include several types of vitamins, dietary fibres, fortified food, nutritional supplements, such as fish oil, vitamin B12 tablets and more.
Your nutrition fuels you, of course, toward overcoming challenges and reaching your goals. In a survey of 1,200 young working professionals, men and women (aged 25 to 40 years old) and their parents (aged over 50) across India, a striking 90 percent of those over 50 have dreams focused on their children, and 65 percent of these parents have unfulfilled dreams relating to their own desires. Ironically, 97 percent of the parents agreed that if they had sufficient physical strength, they could realise their dreams.
So while that daily apple certainly won't hurt, you should be ready to optimize your diet with nutritious elements depending on the stage of life you're in. Here are some nutrition facts to keep in mind.
Changing Nutritional Needs
With each passing year, the body undergoes various transformations — your hormone secretions, metabolism and digestive system all go through significant changes, and your appetites and tastes may fluctuate. You may need to drink more water to stay hydrated; you may need to add more fibres to your diet for better nutrient absorption. You may also need to make certain lifestyle adjustments depending on your goals (i.e., pregnancy, weight loss, running a marathon).
Older survey respondents said that lack of strength is a key deterrent to both quality of life and fulfillment of dreams. As you age beyond a level, say 50, you may have to cut down on travelling and socializing due to pains and aches, and an overall diminishing sense of physical strength. Inability to do daily activities as desired and even exercising to stay fit becomes a challenge.
Recognizing these phenomena, the National Institute of Nutrition in their Dietary Guidelines for Indians manual has suggested that calorie needs generally decrease for adults, and that once you hit your golden years, you should avoid fatty foods, too. This only implies that as we grow older, the importance of protein sources like eggs, legumes, and meat in our diets increases along with the need for good fat (i.e., olive oil), calcium (i.e., paneer) and various types of vitamins.
Dietary Needs Differ for Men and Women
Compared to women, men need more calories and different types of vitamins and minerals. On an average, women have lesser lean body mass compared to men. Hence, men need to consume more protein to maintain stable muscle mass, to maintain their levels of strength.
For example, a man of the same age and body weight as a woman may need to consume more protein and calcium in order to maintain his muscle and bone strength. Depending upon the age and gender, one has to tweak the proportion of whole grains, fish, poultry, vegetable oils, beans, seeds and nuts in one's meals. In addition, the National Institute of Nutrition suggests a gradual shift towards age-specific healthy food habits as we age to prevent or better manage hypertension, diabetes, and osteoporosis — embrace whole grains and chuck the sugars, include fresh food and eliminate processed ones.
Women who are pregnant or lactating should also be consuming more nutrients depending on their situation. Pregnant women should include more good fats, milk, fruit and leafy greens to support a healthy pregnancy while lactating women should seek out more cereal, pulse, good fat, milk, fruits and vegetable servings.
Overall, Keep Your Diet Wholesome
We need nutrient-rich, unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids in our diets to age gracefully and prevent coronary artery diseases, strokes, and heart attacks. An adequate diet also helps tackle daily stress arising from work and lifestyle. If you are not much of a fish-eater, whisk quick and wholesome salads with olives, nuts, avocados, seeds from sunflower, sesame, pumpkin, chia, flaxseed, fresh fruits or blanched vegetables.
Fibre reduces cholesterol and sugar levels in our blood, and helps digestion and absorption of micronutrients. So don't skimp on the vegetables, cooked dry beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains, peas and lentils. Remember to drink plenty of water because that is what your body needs to make the best use of the fibre in your food.
It is always a good idea to consult a registered dietician and keep a check your nutrition requirements rather than try to do it all yourself. It's best to satisfy your nutrition needs through natural diet, though nutritional supplements can help you fill those gaps to meet the required thresholds if that's what the doctor orders.
On the surface, these are really just plain good eating habits forming a healthy, wholesome diet for a fitter, better you. These will benefit the old as much as they will the young. Though, as you age, these start to transition from being good-to-follow recommendations to must-have dietary dictates. Remember, a good diet goes a long way in proving true the saying "age is just a number." Embrace healthy eating — and know your nutrition facts — to look and feel younger at any age.
Disclaimer: This publication / editorial / article is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/ healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.