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Do Dietary Needs Change with Age?

Posted by Jane Reese-Wilkins, May 6, 2021

Throughout our lifetimes, we become familiar with the idea of eating according to Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) of certain nutrients. While these guidelines were originally set, back in 1941, with the intention of preventing nutrient-deficiency diseases such as rickets and scurvy, we now view them in a broader sense. We think about RDAs in terms of weight loss, weight maintenance, keeping our immune systems healthy, and much more.

With regard to preventing long-term illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, research is still ongoing. But one thing we’ve learned is that RDAs are not static over time. As you get older, certain nutrients might become more or less important.

Limiting carbohydrates. Over time, a diet heavy in carbohydrates (especially simple carbs like sugar) can lead to insulin resistance. While this problem might not affect children very often, it becomes increasingly common as we age. One in ten American adults now has diabetes.

So, while you might not pay much attention to carbohydrates when you’re younger, those over 50 or so should consider counting those grams. In particular, stay away from too many simple carbs like sugar and white flour. Aim for more complex carbs, like whole grains, instead.

Fiber is important, too. Women over age 50 should eat 21 grams of fiber per day, whereas men over 50 should aim for 30 grams daily.

Protein intake. Muscle loss is another common problem as we get older, and this can affect everything from our risk of injury to our metabolisms. Having adequate muscle tissue can simply allow you to enjoy your daily activities more, whether that means golfing or gardening or just going for a walk. Older adults must be particularly careful about consuming 25 or more grams of protein per meal and performing muscle-toning exercises along with their regular exercise routine.

Calcium and vitamin D. Osteoporosis, a condition which causes weak bones and increased risk of injury, becomes more common with age. Women should consume 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day, whereas men should strive for 1,000 milligrams. For vitamin D, make sure to get outside in the sunlight regularly, and consume foods like eggs, milk, and fatty fish.

As a bonus, vitamin D also promotes a healthy immune system. So, watch your diet, and supplement if necessary, because a healthy immune system can help you avoid serious complications from communicable diseases.

And finally, make sure to consume plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. The antioxidants contained in these foods can help you to avoid many chronic diseases, boost your immune system, and even slow the signs of aging.

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