By Carleton Rivers, RD, LD
Healthy aging is centered on eating right and staying physically active. Since nutrient requirements change as you age, it is important to know what your body needs during every stage of life. This article will guide you on making better decisions that can improve your health later in life.
Low Calorie, Nutrient-Dense Foods
As we age, our metabolism begins to slow, which means our body needs less calories than before to function. This can lead to a steady weight gain in later adulthood if changes to the diet are not made. For women who have entered menopause, factors such as decreased hormone levels (specifically estrogen), stress and inadequate sleep make weight gain an even bigger problem. Be sure to stay physically active on a daily basis to fight a slowing metabolism as well as loss of muscle mass. Strength training has been shown to be an effective way for aging adults to replace muscle mass and help slow down mineral loss in bones, which can lead to osteoporosis.
Depending on your age, gender, and activity level, find your estimated calories needed per day:
|Activity Level||Women Aged 51+||Men Aged 51+|
|Sedentary (not active)||1,600 calories||2,000 calories|
|Moderately active||1,800 calories||2,200 to 2,400 calories|
|Active||2,000 to 2,200 calories||2,400 to 2,800 calories|
From the Academy of Nutrition and Dietics
Although your body requires fewer calories as you age, the need for nutrients continues to increase. It is important that you make the most out of every calorie you consume by choosing foods that are packed full of nutrients. Specific nutrients that are of most concern include:
- Calcium: Great sources include fortified cereals and fruit juice, dark green leafy vegetables and low-fat dairy products
- Vitamin D: Great sources include low-fat or fat free milk and yogurt fortified with vitamin D
- Vitamin B12: Great sources include fortified cereals, lean meat, fish (salmon, rainbow trout) and seafood (clams)
- Fiber: Great sources include whole grain products (breads, cereals, pastas, rice), beans, peas, fruits and vegetables
- Potassium: Great sources include fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt
- Protein: Great sources include lean meats, fish, beans and fat-free or low-fat milk
*To determine how much of each food group you will need every day, find the Daily Food Plan that corresponds to your age and estimated caloric needs at MyPlate.gov.