As we age it isn’t just the outside of our bodies that change, but the insides too. The nutritional needs are obviously very different for a senior than they are for a growing teenager, but it is still important to maintain light physical activity and a healthy diet. Sometimes, you may even find your appetite and energy levels decrease making it difficult to feel enthusiastic about preparing your own food. This could potentially mean you are missing out on important vitamins, fibres and minerals which could effect your overall health.
If you feel like you not getting the most out of your diet, here are a few tips to set you on the right track for healthy ageing:
Cut down on the salt
While the key is moderation and a small amount of salt in your diet is not going to hurt you, too much salt could have a negative result. High levels of salt can raise your blood pressure and increase your chance of a heart attack, two things we all want to try to avoid! Many foods available at the supermarket have added salt, and among the foods to be aware of include bacon, ham, salted nuts, salami, potato chips and sauces. Look for canned and packaged foods which are salt reduced, or those which have no added salt.
Cut down on saturated fats and trans fats
Some fats are better than others, and the ones to be mindful of are saturated fats and trans fats. Eaten in excess you may see an increase in blood cholesterol levels which can increase the risk of heart disease. So, what should you be looking out for? Foods which should be only eaten in moderation include pies, pasties, fried foods, cakes, biscuits, chips and processed meats such as ham, sausages and salami. If you are looking for something to put on your sandwich, try leftover roast meat or BBQ chicken with the skin removed.
Choose your drink wisely
Alcohol is not the best choice for any of us as there is no nutritional benefit and often unwanted calories. But, most of us like to enjoy an occasional drink and it is not always realistic to eliminate drinking entirely. Try to stick to a maximum of two standard drinks per occasion as this is the Australian guideline for healthy adults. If you find it difficult to drink slowly, try to mix it up with a glass of water between each drink. We hear it so often, but water really is an important part of maintaining health, particularly as we age. Water helps to prevent dehydration, aids in digestion and helps all those important organs in your body do their job properly. Try to limit sugary drinks as not only do they lack the nutrients you need, they will fill you up with empty calories. If you really feel like something fizzy, opt for sparkling mineral water with a squeeze of fresh lemon, lime and mint.
Do you really need those vitamins and minerals?
Vitamins and minerals can often be expensive and unnecessary if you have a varied diet. However, as we age there may be particular deficiencies in the body which could be caused by illness, medication, inability to eat or a variety of other factors. If this is the case, a consultation with a qualified dietitian can help you assess your dietary needs.
Increase the calcium
Osteoporosis is not uncommon as we age, particularly for women after going through menopause. Osteoporosis affects the bone density which can potentially cause painful fractures. We all need a strong frame to support our bodies, so it is important to take care of our bones the best we can – once those bones begin to deteriorate they cannot be restored. Keeping up your intake of calcium, fluoride and Vitamin D while participating in regular exercise will give your bones a better chance, and slow the progression if you are diagnosed with the disease. If you are a female and over 50, the recommended guidelines for calcium is 4 servings of calcium each day. For men this is 2 and a 1/2 serves per day, increasing to 3 and a 1/2 serves per day after the age of 70. 1 serve is equivalent to 1 cup of milk, 2 slices of cheese, 3/4 of a cup of yoghurt or 100 grams of almonds. Additionally, look for fish with small bones such as canned salmon and canned sardines as these also contain calcium.
As you age, exercise can become difficult but it is important to do what you can to maintain optimum health. Exercise assists with digestion, brightens your mood and keeps your body strong and fit. Exercise can also help prevent diabetes, joint pain, arthritis and high blood pressure – all while assisting with weight control and helping you to sleep better at night! Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity (for example, walking, swimming, bike riding or gardening), five times a week.
With a balanced diet, (and the occasional treat) and regular exercise – healthy ageing is possible!