Eating a low sodium, lower fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber can actually reduce risks of chronic diseases. Most importantly, variety in your diet is important in meeting nutrient needs. In addition to eating plenty of fruits and vegetables follow these tips for healthy aging.
Drinking Water is Essential to Healthy Aging
The first tip for healthy aging may seem obvious, but one in every three older adults may not get enough fluids to stay healthy. Water is used in every cell of our body, making it essential to keep hydrated in order for everything to keep functioning correctly. Water also helps:
- To maintain a normal body temperature
- To cushions joints
- To protect sensitive tissues such as your spinal chord
- Digestion through urination, sweating, and bowel movements
Make a conscious effort to drink 6 – 8 cups of fluid a day. It’s best to drink water even when you’re not thirsty, especially when you are engaged in a physical activity. Always drink water over sugary beverages. If you can’t go without carbonation, try some of the new sugar-free sparking waters.
Choose Complex Carbohydrates
Choose more complex higher fiber carbohydrates such as:
- Whole wheat breads, cereals, crackers, oatmeal and pasta
- Brown rice
- Nuts and seeds
- Most fruit
Here’s a healthy aging tip: Anyone over the age of 50 should be getting 22-28 grams of fiber per day. Whole grain products typically retain a good amount of fiber, which is why it is always better to choose whole grains over refined or enriched flour.
Avoid Simple Carbohydrates
Simple carbohydrates such as sucrose, often found in sweets and desserts, should be eliminated from your diet or avoided altogether. While these are a quick source of energy, they are also quickly digested, often leaving you fatigued. Simple carbohydrates can also contribute to unhealthy weight gain and diabetes.
Eat Quality Proteins
Choose more low-fat, quality protein sources such as:
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and peas
- Lean meat, poultry, and fish
- Dairy products
Proteins supply much of your daily vitamin needs, including B vitamins, iron, and magnesium. These vitamins and nutrients help build stronger bones, carry oxygen in the blood, help the nervous system function, and much more.
Some of these sources, such as nuts, may reduce the risk of heart disease. However, many of these protein sources are high in calories and therefore should be eaten in small amounts.
Eat Heart-Healthy Fats to Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
While eating trans fats can raise your cholesterol, eating monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can reduce the risk of heart disease. Look for these ingredients when choosing heart-healthy fats:
- Olive, canola, sunflower, peanut, or sesame oil (monounsaturated)
- Soybean, corn, or safflower oil (polysaturated)
- Peanut butter
- Sunflower, sesame, or pumpkin seeds
- Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout, or sardines
While limiting your fat intake usually helps your health, it is perfectly healthy to consume 20-35% of your calories from fats. Don’t make desserts, pizza, sausages and hot dogs every day foods.
Monitor Your Sodium Intake
Most Americans are getting too much sodium from the foods they eat. Many Americans get 77% of their sodium from processed foods, so an easy way to decrease your consumption of sodium is to eat fresh foods. In particular, stay away from the American Heart Association’s Salty Six:
- Bread and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
Often, when food manufacturers start processing and breading the chicken and other foods, the sodium adds up quickly. Therefore, cooking at home can help monitor the amount of salt you eat.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
As we age, our calorie needs decrease and we lose muscle mass and weight. To help with this, eat enough protein, eat less fat, and increase physical activity.
Be Physically Active in Your Own Way
Many people forget this last tip for healthy aging. While many of us were raised on the idea that nutrition is only what you put into your body, research shows that an important part of nutrition is what you do with that energy.
Every bit of physical activity adds up and health benefits increase as you spend more time being active. Pick activities that you like and start by doing what you can.