Nutrition Choices After Age 50: What Should Change?
The senior population around the world is growing. BBC reports that in 1995, there were fewer than 9 million people over the age of 65. By the year 2030, that number is expected to jump to 13 million. People are living longer in part because they're eating healthier foods, but nutritional requirements change as your body ages. What dietary adjustments do you need to make after the age of 50?
You can expect to require fewer daily calories each decade, explains Connie Bales, Ph.D., RD. Ms. Bales, the associate director of the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Centre, claims your metabolic rate – how your body burns calories – drops as you grow older. People also tend to exercise less, reducing their muscle mass. Muscles require a lot of energy, and energy burns calories. Therefore, the more muscle you have, the more you burn.
In general, a woman over the age of 50 should eat the following:
• 1,600 calories a day if not physically active
• 1,800 calories a day if moderately active
• Between 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day if very active
Activity here refers to exercise. If your day consists of sitting in an office or on the couch with little movement, you are not physically active. Moderate exercise would include a walk each day or a regular fitness routine such as yoga or bike riding. A very active person does vigorous exercise like jogging most days of the week.
Men tend to have more muscle mass even as they age, so their calorie needs are higher:
• 2,000 calories a day if not physically active
• Between 2,200 to 2,400 calories a day if moderately active
• Between 2,400 to 2,800 calories a day if very active
At this level, you will help sustain your current weight. To lose weight, you would need to eat less and exercise more.
Focus on Nutrient-Rich Foods
Food consumption needs to change, too. The meal choices you got away with when you were young — think greasy, fried foods — will likely cause enough discomfort that you'll learn to avoid them.
The key to a healthy and interesting diet at any age is diversity. Focus on colourful fruits and vegetables plus whole grains and lean meats. Switch to low-fat dairy products and healthy oils like olive or sunflower oil. After age 50, you should eat the following:
• Up to 590 mL of fruit
• Up to 828 mL of vegetables
• Up to 28 g of whole grains
• Up to 198 g of protein such as lean meats, seafood, nuts, beans or tofu
Constipation and heartburn may increase with age. You can counteract that by adding additional fibre to your diet. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains, will improve your digestion without giving you gas.
An older body loses some of its ability to absorb vitamin B-12, so you need to eat more foods such as smoked salmon and certain kinds of cheese, which are rich in this essential nutrient. Ageing skin also absorbs less vitamin D from the sun, so look for dairy products that are fortified with it.
Water Consumption and Ageing
As you get older, you lose some of your sense of thirst, so dehydration is a common problem. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink something. Instead, try to drink fluids throughout the day. This can include soups, juice, milk or water. Avoid carbonated and caffeinated drinks that may upset your stomach, though.
It is critical that you follow the recommendations of your doctor, too. If you have a medical problem like high blood pressure or diabetes, you will need to manage your diet differently.
Most people benefit from a low-fat, low-sodium diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meat, but for older individuals it is essential. Controlling what you eat after age 50 is the best way to stay healthy and age gracefully.
BBC News, Health Britain’s Ageing Population, July 1999
National Institute on Aging, AgePage: Healthy Eating After 50, March 2012
WebMD, How Nutritional Needs Change as You Age, Christina Boufis
Author Bio: Darla Ferrara is a full-time freelance writer, artist and award-winning author. With an academic and vocational background in healthcare, Darla creates informative and engaging content for readers about current health trends.
- Darla Ferrara