In Part 1 of this series, we discussed how making healthy diet and lifestyle choices can affect how we age – specifically, how eating a balanced nutritious diet and drinking plenty of water can help lay a foundation for feeling better now and thriving during your later years. But even if you eat like a nutritionist’s dream patient and drink those eight glasses of water every day like we know you are, there are still some things to be aware of to help you maintain a healthy diet and weight as you get older.
One perk of getting older is not worrying so much anymore about what people think about how you dress or act, but you should pay attention to what you weigh. Keep it steady, or, if you are overweight, try to lose weight.
- Adults ages 65 years and older who are overweight are encouraged to not gain additional weight.
- Among older adults who are obese, particularly those with cardiovascular disease risk factors, intentional weight loss can be beneficial and result in improved quality of life and reduced risk of chronic diseases and associated disabilities.
- Reading food labels is an important part of a healthy eating plan, so you know how many calories and nutrients you are actually getting.
What about Micronutrients?
Micronutrients are important, especially as you age. Foods fortified with the crystalline form of vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals, or vitamin B12 supplements, are encouraged for individuals older than age 50. A substantial proportion of these individuals may have reduced ability to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12, but their ability to absorb the crystalline form is not affected.
As people age, the digestion system changes somewhat. The stomach and intestinal tract may hold on to foods for a longer period of time, and the liver and kidneys may not readily rid our bodies of toxins. After the age of 75, many adults often have a weakened immune system and are at an increased risk for contracting a food-borne illness. So paying extra attention to food safety is an important part of healthy eating for healthy aging.
- Date your food! And because you are eating less, you may have more leftovers from restaurants or home cooked meals. Store food properly and write the date on it with a permanent marker.
- Buy only pasteurized milk, soft cheeses made with pasteurized milk and pasteurized juices that have been treated to control harmful bacteria.
- Avoid raw or undercooked seafood.
- Separate raw meats and do not cross-contaminate!
- Cook foods to the proper temperature.
- Always refrigerate perishable foods within two hours of cooking or purchasing.
- Refrigerate food within one hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F.
Roper St. Francis through its Advantage program offers a number of ways to learn more about healthy aging. If you have other questions about proper diet as you age, talk with your doctor.
By Sarah Coulter, MS, RD, LD, regional clinical nutritional manager for Roper St. Francis