As the adage goes, you are what you eat. So to age well, you need to eat well. Here are five easy ways for you—and the seniors you love—to eat better after age 50.
- Consume the right number of calories for your age and activity level. How do you know how much you need? The National Institute on Aging offers these guidelines: Sedentary women, aged 50 and older, need about 1,600 calories daily; more active women, who walk or do other activity that equals at least 1.5 to 3 miles daily at a brisk pace of at least 20 minutes per mile need about 1,800 calories daily; and active women, such as those who walk 3 or more miles per day at a brisk pace, can eat about 2,000 to 2,300 calories daily. Sedentary men, 50 and older need 2,000 to 2,200 calories; more active men need 2,200 to 2,400 calories daily and men who walk 3 or more miles per day at a brisk pace (or get equivalent exercise) can eat 2,400 to 2,800 calories daily.
- Get enough protein. Not only does lean meat, poultry, seafood, dried beans and eggs help you feel fuller, but a study published in the British Medical Journal found that adequate daily protein plus weight training was key to preserving muscles in those aged 50 and older. Download a free copy of Growing Stronger: Strength Training for Older Adults, developed by a team of scientists at the John Hancock Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston.
- Reach for whole grains and fiber. Enriched grains found in many products from crackers to breakfast cereals are fortified with the B vitamin, folic acid. That helps prevent birth defects in women of childbearing ages. But there’s growing evidence to suggest that high amounts of folic acid may have some downsides for older people, including possible increased risk of colon polyps—just one more reason to reach for whole grains, which are less likely to be fortified with folic acid. Most people also fall short on fiber. Women, 51 and older, need 21 grams per day; men 30 grams daily. Half a cup of lentils packs 8 grams of fiber. Shredded wheat with bran has 9 grams per serving. Confused about whole grains? Then check out this guide from Oldways Whole Grains Council.
- Finesse the fat.
Healthy types of fat are good for your brain, your joints and your heart. So where possible, reach for olive, corn, safflower and other healthy oils and healthy margarines. Don’t forget to savor seafood, which packs healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and small amounts of tree nuts—a good source of healthy fat and protein—in small portion, of course. The Mayo Clinic offers a free guide to choosing healthy fat.
- Take a vitamin B12 supplement or eat food fortified with vitamin B12.
Here’s why: up to nearly a third of people, aged 50 and older, are less able to absorb vitamin B12 found naturally in foods, such as red meat. The form of vitamin B12 found in vitamin supplements and fortified food, such as breakfast cereals, is better absorbed by older people. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B12 for those aged 51 and older is 2.4 micrograms.
Editorial note: An earlier version of this blog was published by Sally Squires
on Oct. 1, 2013 at www.Everydayhealth.com
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