How to Prepare for Graceful Aging Through Nutrition
Everyone hopes to age gracefully as they get older. One of the best ways to do that is to develop healthy lifestyle habits early on — including regular physical activity and proper nutrition.
You undoubtedly already know the importance of taking care of your mind and body through exercise, food, and sleep. However, nutrition can play a bigger role in graceful aging than you might realize. Not only can it help prevent certain illnesses and ailments, but it provides the fuel you need to stay active mentally and physically.
It’s never too early to start thinking about your health as you get older. Even if your “golden years” are far away, now is the time to make healthy choices that will help you age gracefully later in life. Let’s look at some actionable nutrition choices you can make now that could have a big impact on how you feel in the future.
Facing Diseases With Age
While you can’t completely prevent certain ailments, diseases, and other aspects of aging through your diet, what you eat can reduce your risk of these problems significantly. Some of the most common illnesses people face with age include:
- Hearing loss;
- Heart disease;
If you have a family history of any of these problems or you just want to reduce your risk of developing them later in life, it’s important to watch what you eat now and maintain a diet that fights back against many of them. For example, things like non-starchy vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help to prevent diabetes. Oily fish that helps to reduce inflammation can ward off osteoarthritis. Foods that boost your mood, including dark chocolate, bananas, and coffee can help to keep your mental health strong and stable.
Many people worry about how they’ll look as they age, too. Things like varicose veins and wrinkles can become problematic and feel like much more than cosmetic issues. Thankfully, when you take a “you are what you eat” approach, you can look at these outward conditions and fight back against them with a diet rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Set Realistic Goals
By focusing on aging gracefully now, it’ll be easier to set both short-and-long-term goals. When you think about the future, it’s easier to see areas of concern that might need special attention. For example, if you’re worried about the causes of cataracts, you might start eating more foods that are rich in antioxidants to help prevent them.
If your specific goals are to remain mobile and have energy, make sure your diet reflects that. When you set realistic goals, they’re easier to maintain, and you’ll find that you develop healthy habits faster. One of the best ways to be realistic about your goals is to determine your “why” for everything. Start by asking yourself:
- Why do you want to cut out sugar?
- Why do you want to eat for muscle and bone health?
- Do you have a family history of certain ailments?
When you know your “why,” you’re more likely to be motivated to stick with your goals and make them work for you. You might find that by setting nutritional goals, you’ll also be more inclined to make healthier choices elsewhere, including in your exercise habits and how much you prioritize your mental health.
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Know What To Avoid
Don’t assume that eating healthily means you need to completely cut out some of your favorite foods. Doing so can leave you feeling deprived, and might impact your mental well-being.
There are things you should plan to include with just about every meal, like lean protein and whole grains. However, there are also things you might want to cut back on as you get older. For example, sugar has been known to “advance” the aging process. It can cause your energy levels to dip and increase your risk of certain illnesses. In fact, sugar can make you look older. It often contributes to issues like:
- Sagging skin;
- Development of dark spots;
- Slower healing.
While you don’t need to cut out all of your favorite sweet treats, being aware of how certain foods affect your body, especially as you age, can make a big difference in your diet. Things like saturated fats, processed foods, and excess sugar can also do more harm than good.
Make Nutrition Fun
Nutrition doesn’t have to be a chore, either. It’s supposed to be a fun activity! Unfortunately, older adults may lose this enjoyment as the years go by since we lose our sense of taste as we get older. As such, it’s important to find ways to make your nutrition and mealtimes more fun. Here are a couple of ways you can do that:
- Prepare, cook, and eat with the company of others — Your social and mental well-being should be a priority as well, and there’s no better way to hit two birds with one stone than to make your meal times a social experience. Shopping with others while you prepare your meal times can help a pesky chore more enjoyable and may even give you some ideas for meal planning. Cooking and eating with others can also make your mealtimes more socially active and prevent some of the risks associated with the isolation that older adults experience.
- Be adventurous in your tastes — Just because you may lose your sense of taste as you get older, that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Nutrition experts recommend that you can discover which tastes you still enjoy by trying out new foods and adding more variety to your diet. You can also test out different herbs and spices that you didn’t enjoy previously — who knows what you’ll like in this new age?
- Prioritize safety — Losing your sense of taste can put a lot at risk when you’re older. For one, you may not realize when food has gone bad or isn’t cooked well enough, which could expose you to food-borne illnesses. For another, you may oversalt your food to compensate for your loss of taste, which could increase your chances of developing high cholesterol or blood pressure. Lastly, you may even lose the desire to eat altogether and develop an eating disorder, which is all too common among older adults. All of these safety concerns come with mortality risks so it’s important to prioritize your safety by making sure your food is well-cooked and you’re eating nutritious foods regularly.
Use the goals we touched on to create a plan that’s realistic for your lifestyle. When you’re young, it’s easy to eat just about anything and not have to worry about how it might affect you. But, now is the time to start looking forward. Aging gracefully is about more than just looking your best. You want to feel good as you get older, too. While nutrition is just one component of that, it’s a big one, and it’s an essential puzzle piece when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle at any age.
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Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.
NOTE: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Nannocare. Nannocare is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with the author of this article, or any of its subsidiaries or its affiliates.