Growing older comes with plenty of joys—watching children and grandchildren grow up, retirement from work, or perhaps traveling to see the places you’ve always dreamed of visiting. However, getting older isn’t easy. It can come with emotional losses as well as decline in physical and mental health.
Nutrition plays a big role in our health as we age. The way we eat may begin to affect us in more noticeable ways than when we were younger. A nutritious and well-balanced diet is important at any age, but especially important as we age, and here are 5 reasons why.
Aging causes loss of muscle mass
We begin losing a percentage of our muscle mass each decade after turning 30. So by our 60s and 70s and beyond, that adds up to a significant decline in muscle. Less muscle on your body is a problem: it increases your risk of overall weakness and could lead to more fractures and less physical activity, creating a dangerous cycle.
Fortunately, you can hold on to more of your muscle mass by eating a protein-rich diet. Choose foods that are low in fat but high in protein. Combining a high-protein diet with strength training or resistance training is especially effective in preventing muscle loss.
We can lose senses as we age
Hunger and thirst can become harder to discern as we get older. Our appetites can shrink with age, so it may be hard to consume enough food each day to meet our nutritional needs. If you don’t notice your thirst, you may not drink enough water and thus become dehydrated.
Some people may even lose their senses of smell and/or taste, which can make it extremely difficult to motivate yourself to eat at all, let alone eat healthily.
It’s important to be aware if your sense of hunger, thirst, smell, or taste has decreased or disappeared. Try to find ways to complete your diet, because your body and health depend on it.
Nutrient needs change as we age
As we grow older, our nutritional needs change. Most of us need fewer calories as we age, so we can gain weight if we keep eating the same quantities of food as we did decades earlier. Plus, it can be hard to get all the necessary nutrients within a lower calorie total, so it’s extra important to eat foods that provide maximum nutritional value and minimize empty calories like junk food.
It’s also common to become deficient in certain vitamins and nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, and others. Even if your levels remain steady, your need for certain vitamins can increase as you age. Your physician can recommend vitamin supplements to fill in any gaps in your diet.
Nutrition combats illness
A nutritious diet is essential to both prevention and fighting of illness. You can take supplements, of course, but in some ways there is no substitute for consuming the nutrients we need through food.
A diet rich in antioxidants, which are often found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, helps reduce the risk of disease as well as delay disease progression. Eating a healthy diet lowers your risk of developing many cancers, heart disease, stroke, and other causes of death.
A healthy diet improves energy
By maximizing the nutrients we get from food, we need to maximize the nutrients we get from our food. We all know the foods that sap our energy, make us depressed, or prevent us from getting a solid night’s sleep. Avoiding foods that are high in simple carbohydrates and fat can help increase your energy levels. Eating a well-balanced diet helps fuel you for a full and active lifestyle for many years, no matter your age.