Quality ageing means having the vitality, energy and mobility to do all of the fabulous activities you have been planning for and now finally have the time to do. Time and time over we have heard that our approach to food and physical activity throughout life has a direct and profound effect on how well we age, but what about now? What should we be focussing on as we skip past our fifties?
We are all aware that eating a balanced diet is vital for health, but how does this message relate to our quality of life and healthy ageing? What do we need to consider when making sure our current diet is still serving our ever-changing health goals?
Every stage of life sees the body focussing on different processes and goals. The nutritional focus for a newborn needs to support rapid growth, adolescence sees the focus shift towards brain development. Growth and brain development have very different, specific, energy and nutrient requirements. As we mature past adolescence, through adulthood and then into our middle and senior years, our energy and nutritional needs continue to shift and adjust.
Over the age of 50 years, our body needs fewer calories. The amount of energy we burn at resting (our basal metabolic rate) decreases, which can then lead to reduced appetite, or unexpected weight gain. Maintaining a healthy weight range can be a simple as changing a couple of recipe ingredients or reducing portion size.
Another consideration to discuss is the change in what the body is focussing on as we mature. After 50 years of age, we begin to move away from regenerative processes and toward a state of maintenance.
Does this mean we are no longer capable of regeneration? No, certainly not, but it does mean this area of our physiology has slowed, so it becomes increasingly important to support this new phase of maintenance.
On a population level this includes;
- Protecting bone and maintaining muscle mass, via regular exercise and specific nutrients including calcium, vitamin D and magnesium.
- Ensuring adequate fibre (whole grains, brown rice and vegetables) to maintain a strong digestive system and adequate nutrient absorption.
- B vitamins, in particular, B6 and B12 to support heart health (Dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, meat, egg, and various seeds).
Individually your nutrition choices can start to look a little different. Our unique health status is affected over time by genetics and lifestyle. This individuality can then indicate an increased need for various nutrients, as particular areas of the body need more attention than others. Often these problem areas have been clear to you for many years, but they can also be driven by newly diagnosed disease and illness.
Common areas requiring support in the mature body are the cardiovascular system, blood sugar control, immune resilience, joint mobility, digestive strength, and cognition. All of these different areas of health require their own set of nutrients to maintain and bolster vitality.
Whilst it is true that most people can obtain everything they need from a healthy wholefood diet, rich in vegetables, considerations such as digestive function, reduced appetite and individual states of wellbeing certainly need to be considered. Understanding your individual needs and combining this knowledge with population-level recommendations will provide you with the nutritional building blocks required to enjoy the kind of retirement you have planned.