Aging is the process through which we journey to supposedly reach the “golden years.” But joining the ranks of the elderly can be anything but golden if we don’t pay strict attention to our diets and make sure our nutritional needs are properly met.
For older men, specifically 65 and over, those nutritional needs have changed significantly from when they were in their 20s and 30s. It starts with eating less in most cases, but at the same time doing more with less in terms of eating the foods that best enhance your health.
As men get older, they face an increased risk of developing chronic diseases. Knowing about and faithfully following healthy diets that include more protein and fiber and less sodium and sugary foods goes a long way toward making those golden years brighter and healthier. And more Americans are aging: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, as referenced by the National Institutes of Health, the number of U.S. citizens over 65 is expected to double from 34.6 million in 2000 to more than 69 million in 2020.
“Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods can help men promote their overall health and reduce their risk of chronic diseases,” said Ximena Jiminez, MS, RDN, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, quoted at todaysdietitian.com. Older men must be cognizant of the importance of being proactive in taking control of their health through lifestyle choices (consistent exercise—or at least a departure from sedentary habits, if possible) and paying close attention to what they eat, and how much.
Caloric Intake Is Key
When it comes to heart health and the role of nutrition, for example, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men focus on controlling their weight by watching their intake of calories. That, the AHA says, includes rounding out a diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish and nuts, At the same time, lay off red meat, sugary foods and beverages, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and low-nutrient foods high in calories. Per eatright.org, men over 50, who aren’t active, should consume no more than 2,000 calories a day; moderately active from 2,200 to 2,400; and active men in that age group from 2,400 to 2,800.
For men 65 and over, here are some nutrition-related keywords to keep in mind going forward, with the hope they will live long and prosper:
- Fiber. A diet with sufficient fiber will keep your bowels “moving” and benefit your heart, to boot. Fiber helps with weight loss – it helps keep you feeling full longer so you will be less tempted to eat because you won’t feel as hungry. Men over 50 should shoot for 30 grams a day; read those product labels.
- Protein.Eat plenty of it. Look for chicken, fish, beans and dairy products. Eggs are a gerat source, too. Per shieldhealthcare.com healthy men over 70 should aim for 56 grams of protein a day.
- Calcium. Products rich in calcium, which helps maintain healthy bones, include low-fat and fat-free dairy, fortified cereals, canned fish (tuna anyone?) and dark green, leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin D. Another booster for strong bones. Getting outdoors in the sun (but not for too long) helps with Vitamin D acquisition, as do dietary supplements and many multivitamins.
- Fat. Really, you want to limit fat calories, but it’s OK to consume some fat in the form of heart-healthy unsaturated fats found in foods such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocadoes, almonds and walnuts.
- Vitamin C Vitamin C's not just for staving off colds and other viruses – vitamin C also helps the body form collagen, which is involved in the healing of wounds and repairing bones and teeth, per nutritionist-resource.org.uk.
- Snacks. If three meals a day doesn’t work for you, try smaller meals and more frequent snacks. But just say no to cookies, cake and biscuits, and say yes to easy, nutritious snacks such as apples (preferably sliced), carrots, celery and even porridge or sardines (or both – why not?).
- Potassium. Ramping up the potassium intake opposite a sodium reduction could work wonders for lowering that high blood pressure. Good sources include vegetables and fruits, such as bananas. If you get to missing salt too much, use herbs and spices to jazz up your lunch and dinner plates. Mushrooms, per everydayhealth.com, also are a good source of potassium.