Nutrition is foundational for health and wholeness from conception to death. While most people will agree that nutrition is especially critical for a pregnant woman so that the developing baby gets all the nutrients needed for proper development, we tend to think the importance of nutrition decreases after that.
Nutrition actually becomes especially important as we age for several reasons. Our bodies are always adapting and changing, and aging is linked to various changes, including nutrient deficiencies, muscle loss, and less stomach acid, which affects the absorption of critical nutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Therefore eating nutrient-rich foods (1) and supplementing appropriately can help prevent deficiencies and other age-related changes.
A Balancing Act
We tend to require fewer calories as we get older since typically, most people move and exercise less and have less muscle. However, even though we may need to reduce caloric intake in order to maintain a healthy weight, we must still be sure we are getting all the nutrients we need.
Our daily calorie needs depend on our height, weight, muscle mass, age, and activity level. How often and when we eat are also factors to consider. We may not need to continue to eat the same number of calories as when we were younger, as this could lead to weight gain. This is particularly true for postmenopausal women, since declining estrogen levels may promote belly fat storage.
Fortunately, there are several strategies we can implement, including eating a variety of whole, unprocessed, one-ingredient foods, supplementing appropriately, including digestive enzymes, making exercise, activity, and movement a daily priority, and implementing intermittent fasting.
Specific Strategies to Implement
First of all, create your meals from properly grown and raised, one-ingredient, whole foods. By that, we mean organic, grass-fed, and finished, pasture-raised, wild-caught. One-ingredient foods are those that are ingredients, not those that have ingredients such as chicken, eggs, beef, butter, salmon, lettuce, cucumbers, apples, pecans, olive oil, chickpeas, green beans – you get the idea. High quality, real food.
Be sure you focus on clean protein at every meal, as maintaining muscle mass is critical as we age in order to avoid sarcopenia. Protein will also keep you feeling satiated longer, so you are not as prone to mindless snacking. Once you choose your clean protein, fill the rest of your plate with a rainbow of organic vegetables and fruits.
If you find your appetite waning or are just pressed for time, consider a protein shake made with whey, collagen, or plant-based protein powder and a variety of greens and berries.
[Also Read: Nutrients for Healthy Immune System]
A high-quality multivitamin-mineral supplement is basic nutritional insurance. It covers your nutritional bases since no matter how well you eat, no one does it perfectly, and even the highest quality foods are not as nutritious as they were a century ago due to mineral-depleted soils.
Certain other supplements may be worth considering and discussing with your healthcare providers like vitamin D3, magnesium, vitamin C and B-complex.
Taking digestive enzymes with your meals can be very helpful as digestion tends to decline as we age. There are many different high-quality digestive enzymes on the market that can improve your ability to digest and absorb the nutrients you take in. All the nutritious food in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t digest and absorb it.
[Also Read: 5 Best Nutrients for Immunity]
Use Ir or Lose It
While you do not have to spend hours in the gym every day, staying active becomes even more important the older we get. Walking is something almost everyone can do, and if you are able to get outside and walk in nature, you get a double benefit. Exercise and activity increase circulation, help you burn calories and build muscle, strengthen bones, and keep joints fluid and pliable.
Timing is Everything
Finally, we would strongly recommend considering intermittent fasting. This is just restricting your meals to a specific eating window during the day and fasting the rest of the time. We have become a nation of continual grazers, constantly snacking throughout the day. This is not conducive to maintaining a healthy weight, and there are so many benefits to fasting regularly that this is a simple way to include that practice.
You can begin with a 12-12 intermittent fasting window. That means you can eat during your 12-hour eating window and fast during the other 12 hours. For example, you would have your first meal at 7 am and dinner at 7 pm using this model. This is very easy to do since you will be sleeping for most of that 12 hour fasting time. Once you feel comfortable with this, you can increase the fasting window gradually. I typically fast 16 hours and eat during an 8-hour window. You can try 14 hours of fasting and a 10-hour eating window.
During the fasting hours, your body is involved in autophagy. This is when your body can eliminate cellular waste products as well as pathogens. This occurs when the body is under nutritional stress, such as fasting. It helps to promote longevity and inhibit age-related damage to cells. By removing old cells with oxidative damage, inflammation in the body is also reduced. And inflammation is the underlying cause of chronic diseases of aging.
These are a few key strategies that can help women age well and stay healthy as long as possible.
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