Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Why is Eating a Well-Balanced Diet Important as You Age?
To maintain a healthy weight, boost energy levels, and get essential nutrients to the body, it is important to eat healthy. As you age, eating healthy becomes increasingly important because you are more at risk to develop chronic health conditions such as, heart disease, cancer, stroke, or diabetes. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. Eating nutrient-dense foods such as, fruits and vegetables can help you, live longer by boosting your immune system, and build your strength to be able to live independently.
What Can You Change in Your Diet to Live a Healthier Lifestyle?
Eat More or Less Calories:
It is important to maintain a healthy weight as you age. Your metabolism slows down as you become older due to muscle loss, a decrease in physical activity, and the natural slowing down of metabolism. If you are eating more calories than you are burning, you should decrease the amount of food you eat in a day to prevent weight gain.
Appetite loss may also occur among the elderly. If you find you are eating less due to a loss of appetite you may need to increase the number of calories you eat in a day. It is important you are eating enough calories to prevent malnutrition. Malnutrition can occur if you stop eating foods with essential nutrients to the body.
What Can You Eat to Help Prevent Chronic Health Conditions?
According to Mayo Clinic, it is important to follow these 8 steps to have a healthy-heart diet.
Control your portion size: Overeating can cause high blood pressure, increasing your risk for heart disease. An important rule to help you with portion control is, eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods.
Eat more vegetables and fruits: Fruits and vegetables are heart healthy foods with important vitamins and minerals to help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Select whole grains: Whole grain foods can help lower your blood pressure. Avoid grain foods such as, cakes and pies and replace them with grain foods such as, brown rice, oatmeal, and whole grain pasta.
Limit unhealthy fats: High levels of cholesterol increase your risk of heart disease. To lower your cholesterol, eat foods with low saturated and trans fats. Find foods with healthy fat such as, avocados and nuts.
Choose low-fat protein sources: For a good source of protein eat fish, eggs, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Protein foods such as, full-fat milk and read meats can have more saturated and trans fats, which raise cholesterol.
Reduce the sodium in your food: Foods high in sodium can increase your blood pressure putting you at greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
Plan ahead: Create daily menus ahead of time to help you plan heart healthy meals for the day. Pick foods that are nutrient dense, low in sodium, and low in trans and saturated fats.
Allow yourself an occasional treat: Don’t be to hard on yourself. It is okay to indulge yourself in a yummy chocolate bar once in a while. It is important to have balance to live a healthy lifestyle.
The most common type of diabetes among elderly is type 2 diabetes. Consider these 5 steps by the Mayo Clinic to prevent diabetes through changes in your eating habits and lifestyle.
Get more physical: Regular exercising has been proven to enhance insulin sensitivity. Low insulin sensitivity can cause blood sugar levels to become to high, leading to type 2 diabetes. If you are looking to become more active, try adding aerobic exercise into your daily routine. Aerobic exercise has been especially proven to be effective in boosting your sensitivity to insulin.
Get plenty of fiber: Fiber is great in reducing your blood sugar levels. Having a diet high in fiber can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The best high fiber foods to add to your diet are, whole grain foods, root vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts.
Go for whole grains: Whole grain foods are an important high fiber food to eat because they help stabilize blood sugar levels. Look for foods with whole grains, but make sure there are not any hidden refined sugars by reading the label.
Lose extra weight: Losing weight can help your body respond normally to insulin, decreasing your body’s resistance to insulin. This can improve your blood sugar levels helping you reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
Skip fad diets and just make healthier choices: There are many popular diets for losing weight, but they are not always healthy or sustainable. Diets such as, the low carb diet or the vegan diet may be advertised as a fast sure way to lose weight and become healthy however, they often exclude foods that include essential nutrients to keep your body in good health. Rather than dieting, implement steps in your daily routine to live an overall healthier lifestyle.
When Should You Talk to Your Doctor?
Healthy eating is important as you become older. If you experience a loss of appetite or notice you have lost weight unintentionally, talk to your doctor to ensure it is not because of an underlying health condition. Additionally, if you notice you have gained weight, talk to your doctor about implementing the steps above to live a healthier lifestyle to prevent any chronic health conditions from occurring.