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Eating Well as You Age

Toni-Ann DiSantis

Eating Well as You Age (via HelpGuide.org)

As we age, eating well can improve mental acuteness, energy levels, and resistance to illness. A healthy diet can also be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced. But healthy eating doesn’t have to be about dieting and sacrifice. Whatever your age, eating well should be all about fresh, tasty food, wholesome ingredients, and eating with friends and family.

No matter your age or your previous eating habits, it’s never too late to change your diet and improve the way you think and feel. Improving your diet now can help you:

Live longer and stronger – Good nutrition boosts immunity, fights illness-causing toxins, keeps weight in check, and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, bone loss, and cancer.
Sharpen your mind –People who eat fruit, leafy veggies, and fish and nuts packed with omega-3 fatty acids can improve focus and decrease their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidant-rich green tea may also enhance memory and mental alertness as you age.
Feel better – Wholesome meals give you more energy and help you look better, resulting in a boost to your mood and self-esteem. It’s all connected—when your body feels good you feel happier inside and out.

Every season of life brings changes and adjustments to your body. Understanding what is happening will help you take control of your nutrition requirements.

Physical changes that affect your diet

Metabolism. Every year over the age of forty, our metabolism slows, and often we become less physically active. This makes it even more important to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits to avoid weight gain.
Weakened senses. Older adults tend to lose sensitivity to salty and bitter tastes first, so you may be inclined to salt your food more heavily than before—even though older adults need less salt than younger people. Use herbs, spices, and healthy oils—like olive oil—to season food instead of salt.
Medications and illness. Some health problems or medications can negatively influence appetite or affect taste, again leading older adults to consume too much sugar or salt. Talk to your doctor.
Digestion. Due to a slowing digestive system, you generate less saliva and stomach acid as you get older, making it more difficult for your body to process certain vitamins and minerals, such as B12, B6 and folic acid, which are necessary to maintain mental alertness and good circulation. Up your fiber intake and talk to your doctor about possible supplements.

Lifestyle changes that affect your diet

Loneliness and depression. For some, feeling down leads to not eating and in others it may trigger overeating. Sharing meals with others can also be an effective antidote to loneliness. Reach out to friends or neighbors—everyone loves a home-cooked meal and most people who live alone are in the same boat as you. Cooking with others can be a fun way to try out new recipes and deepen relationships.
Death or divorce. If you’re newly single, you may not be used to cooking or have little enthusiasm for preparing meals for just yourself. However, cooking your own meals can help you take charge of your health. The key to cooking for one is to master a few basic skills and get creative in making meals that work specifically for you.

Living on a limited budget. With the right tips and a little planning, it is possible to enjoy healthy food on the cheap. Often, by simply cutting out junk and processed foods, you can free up enough in your budget to enjoy healthier, better quality food.