If we’re lucky enough, we will experience the aging process –it’s a fact of life. And if we’re proactive enough, we can age in the best ways possible. By adopting a healthy diet and a routine of being physically active, you can improve both how you feel now and lay the foundation for thriving during your later years. Healthy diet choices now can decrease chronic disease risk and increase your energy levels. Here’s how.
Eating for Increased Energy
Food is fuel, plain and simple. Your body isn’t much different from a car in that regard – you get better mileage and better performance when you put the appropriate gas in the tank. What you eat has a direct effect on your energy levels, so follow these tips to keep that engine humming:
- Don’t fall for trends, especially those that call for eliminating a food group. Our body’s nutrient needs cannot be met with one food or food group, therefore a healthy diet needs to include a wide range of foods.
- Focus on balance: All foods (even cheesecake!) can be a part of a healthy diet as long as less nutritious foods are outnumbered by nutrient dense choices.
- Carbohydrates are key – they provide glucose, the body’s primary fuel source.
- “Eat three”, as in three meals every day. Skipping meals can make you sluggish.
- More years means fewer calories. Sorry – this is the bad news on aging, but as we get older our basal metabolic rate decreases 2% every decade, so cut back on portions as calorie needs generally decrease as adults age.
- Despite the body’s reduced caloric demand, the need for other nutrients increases as we age, so dose up on low calorie nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables.
Unlike our caloric needs, our hydration requirements don’t go down as we age. In fact, they might actually increase – at least in the sense of needing to be more intentional about drinking enough water. Why? Our sense of thirst declines with age, so as we get older we must make a more conscious effort to stay hydrated. Here’s why:
- If food is the body’s fuel, water is the “all systems go” ignition. Water is crucial for the proper functioning of all body systems. Plus, it helps aging skin stay a bit more supple.
- Even mild dehydration can result in fatigue, headaches, loss of appetite and dry mouth.
- Your hydration status can be affected by other things, such as laxatives, diuretics (including natural diuretics like caffeine) and the environment (think hot and humid Holy City).
- A tip for knowing if you’re well hydrated? Check your urine color. If it is bright yellow or orangey-yellow, that’s a good indication you are dehydrated. You want light yellow or almost clear urine.
By Sarah Coulter, MS, RD, LD, regional clinical nutritional manager for Roper St. Francis