As you get older, eating well can help improve mental acuteness, boost your energy levels, and increase your resistance to illness. These nutrition and diet tips can help you feel great at any age.
Feeding your body and mind
Healthy eating is important at any age, but becomes even more so as we reach midlife and beyond. Eating well can also be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced. But healthy eating does not mean dieting and sacrifice. Rather, it should be about enjoying fresh, delicious food made with wholesome ingredients, and eating in the company of 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 with the following:
Live longer and stronger. Good nutrition can boost immunity, fight illness-causing toxins, keep weight in check, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, bone loss, and cancer. Along with physical activity, a balanced diet can also contribute to enhanced independence as you age.
Sharpen your mind. People who eat fruit, leafy veggies, and fish and nuts packed with omega-3 fatty acids may be able to improve focus and enhance overall brain health. Antioxidant-rich green tea may also enhance memory and mental alertness.
Feel better. Wholesome meals can give you more energy and help you feel your best, 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.
How to create a healthy diet. The key to healthy eating is to focus on the whole, minimally processed food that your body needs—food that is as close to its natural form as possible. Our bodies respond differently to different foods, depending on genetics and other health factors, so finding the healthy diet that works best for you may take some experimentation. These tips are a good place to start:
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Break the apple and banana rut and go for color-rich options like berries or melons. Aim for 2-3 servings a day. When it comes to veggies, choose antioxidant-rich dark, leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli as well as colorful vegetables such as carrots and squash. Make veggies more appetizing by drizzling them with olive oil, sprinkling with goat cheese, or frying with garlic or chili flakes. Try for 2-3 cups every day.
Choose calcium for bone health. Maintaining bone health as you age depends on adequate calcium intake to prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures. Good sources include milk, yogurt, cheese or non-dairy sources such as tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale.
Go “good fat” not “no fat”. Rather than trying to cut out fat from your diet, focus on enjoying healthy fats—such as omega-3s—that can protect your body against disease and support your mood and brain function.
Vary your sources of protein. As you age, eating enough high-quality protein can improve your mood, boost your resistance to stress, anxiety, and depression, and even help you think more clearly. However, eating too much protein from processed meat products such as hot dogs, bacon, and salami may increase your risk of heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. Vary your sources of protein instead of relying on just red meat by including more fish, beans, peas, eggs, nuts, and seeds in your diet.
Be smart about carbs. Choose whole grains over processed white flour for more nutrients and fiber and cut down on sugar and refined carbs. While our senses of taste and smell diminish with age, we retain the ability to distinguish sweet tastes the longest, leading many older people to consume more sugar and refined carbs than is healthy. Unlike complex carbs that are rich in fiber, refined or simple carbs (such as white rice, white flour, refined sugar) can lead to a dramatic spike in blood sugar, followed by a rapid crash which leaves you feeling hungry and prone to overeating.