Eating Well Over 50

It's never too late to start eating well. When you're in your teens, twenties and thirties, an active metabolism may help to make up for any deficiencies in diet, but that all changes as we age. It takes our bodies longer to process the nutrients in our food and our skin, bones, muscles and tendons start to decline. We slow down and we don't burn calories the way we used to.  Even if our diet hasn't always been the best, eating well over 50 can help us to mitigate the effects of aging.

Eating well as we age can help our skin to stay more supple, our bones to remain stronger and our senses to be more alert. Our risk of contracting some of the major causes of death - heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes - is reduced when we improve our diets. At the age of 50, following sensible guidelines for eating can set us on the road to a long, healthy and comfortable life. To maintain healthy eating habits, it's wise to pay attention to the way our nutritional needs change as we age.

Why Eating Well Is Important
As you age, you become more prone to diseases affecting your major organs. Eating well gives the resources you need to prevent or fight disease. The right diet helps to keep your immune system and your tissues strong and your energy high.

At the age of 50, you should follow a normal healthy diet which includes proteins (meat, fish or substitutes), carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, cereals, pasta and bread), vitamins and minerals (from fruit, vegetables and other food), fiber and at least eight glasses of water a day. Milk and dairy products and the recommended amount of fats and sugars are also important. If your diet contains all of these, you may not need nutritional supplements, though you should take appropriate advice before making that decision. Reducing the amount of salt and sugar in your diet is also a wise decision.

Eating Well As We Age
Sometimes you begin to slow down as you get older, which means that your body is not burning off all of the energy you take in when you eat.  To counter that, you need to reduce the intake of some of the foods that you ate when you were younger.

As a senior, it's wise to avoid taking in too much saturated fat, unless you have lost weight or have a small appetite. If you are over 75, then fat restrictions are usually unnecessary. A balanced intake of fiber can help you to digest food and avoid constipation. This should come from cereals, fruits and vegetables rather than raw bran. Help the fiber do its work by drinking plenty of water. Whether your diet should include sugar depends on whether the rest of your diet is balanced. If you need to gain weight as a senior, then sugary foods may even be recommended.

Vitamins and Minerals
Some vitamins and minerals become more necessary as you age. For example, it is essential to take in milk and dairy products to counteract the loss of calcium from the bones, which may lead to osteoporosis. Taking a Vitamin D supplement will help the body to process the calcium.  Eating meat, bread, beans and shellfish will help to keep your immune system healthy, preventing the onset of disease and promoting healing if you become ill.

As you age, it becomes harder to absorb iron, so many suffer from anemia. Eating iron rich foods such as red meat, leafy green vegetables and dried fruit can help to avoid this. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb iron, so accompany your meal with a glass of fruit juice. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will also provide the Vitamin B you need.

Taking Supplements
Although following a healthy diet should provide the vitamins and minerals you need, some doctors recommend that seniors take supplements to make sure that they receive adequate nutrition. Possible supplements include:

  • a multivitamin suitable for your age
  • a calcium supplement (1000 to 1500 milligrams a day)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D (daily requirements double over 50)

Men may take selenium supplements to help protect against prostate cancer. In addition, reducing alcohol intake and quitting smoking will help the body to absorb the nutrients more easily.

No matter what age you are, eating well will help to improve your health. However, you can get even more from your balanced diet by adding an exercise program to your daily or weekly routine.

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