Aging and getting older involves much more than just the number of birthdays we celebrate and our genetics. Science and experience show us how diet and nutrition affect our skin and bones, so we need to understand that they play an important role in the aging process.
As our bodies age, changes happen in all our body systems. These changes are influenced by stress, illness, genetics, and socioeconomic factors. Some of these changes include:
- Changes in your senses: A decrease in sight and peripheral vision, hearing, smell, and taste. These affect what and how we eat.
- Changes in muscle mass: Reduced muscle mass affects our vital organ function, with the most important being the heart. These are influenced by what we eat.
- Changes in metabolism: A result of the loss of lean body mass is a decrease in energy metabolism. The end result of this is increased body fat. These are influenced by what we eat.
- Bone density: Reduced bone density is natural as we age, but can be slowed by exercise and the food we eat.
All of these affect how long we’ll live, and nutrition plays a prominent role in every one of them.
Keeping your diet simple with a focus on low-sodium and low-fat foods, plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fiber can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and many chronic diseases. Eating a variety of foods makes it easy to give your body what it needs to age well while you enjoy the process.
Food and food types you can keep in your diet include:
- PROTEIN: needed to maintain and rebuild muscles. Get low-fat, quality protein from poultry, fish, eggs, and limited amounts of nuts like walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and low-fat meat and dairy.
- CARBOHYDRATES: the body’s preferred source of energy. Make sure you are eating complex carbohydrates which come from vegetables and grains. Fruits contain vitamins and fiber; complex carbohydrates contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Get most of your carbohydrate calories from vegetables, grains, and fruits.
- FAT: provides energy. Get your fat from polyunsaturated fats (liquid corn oil or soybean oil) and monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, and nuts). Eat less beef, pork, veal, butter, and cheese because they are high in saturated fats.
- WATER: Be sure to drink plenty of water each day, spacing it out evenly at regular intervals. Being dehydrated at just 2% taxes your internal organs.
It isn’t difficult to stick to a diet of these foods. Actually, it’s pretty easy. Look in the produce aisles for your nutritional needs.
Researchers have proven that when vitamins, minerals, and other compounds needed by our bodies are obtained by eating certain foods – in combination – we receive a huge benefit in quality nutrition that will help us age better and live longer.
NOTE: Those baby carrots you find in packages in the produce aisle may be convenient, but they’re formed from grinding up regular carrots that would otherwise be thrown away because of their appearance and/or lack of freshness. Then they’re put through a ‘bath’ with trace amounts of chlorine to give them that bright orange color and formed into that stubby baby carrot shape. In my opinion, they don’t even taste like a real carrot!