Tips on Eating Right
The familiar phrase, “you are what you eat,” holds for people of all ages, especially adults over 50. Why is this so? Because studies have shown that your metabolism, which helps the body convert food into energy, slows down as you age. This means the body burns fewer calories, and it’s easier to become overweight. And excess weight gain places you at risk for serious diseases and can potentially make existing health conditions worse.
But, all is not lost for people over 50. Nutritional experts say older adults can speed up their metabolism by eating foods that support healthy aging. For example, foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties may reduce cognitive decline and the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
A study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences reported numerous health benefits of consuming a diet with necessary macronutrients (such as carbohydrates, fat, and protein) and micronutrients (such as vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc). The study recommended eating a diet with various foods that include:
- Legumes (lentils and beans)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Whole grains, such as oats, wheat, and brown rice
In addition, the study recommended avoiding a diet that contains excess fats, sugar, salt, and processed goods.
One diet that has gained popularity worldwide and that medical and nutritional experts support is the Mediterranean diet, which was ranked in January by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 1 Best Diet Overall for the fifth straight year.
The Mediterranean diet was inspired by the traditional way of eating in Greece, Italy, Spain, and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. The renowned diet includes heart-healthy and protein-rich foods, such as eggs, lean poultry, fish, seafood, and dairy.
The results of a 2015 systematic review of studies published in the journal, Advances in Nutrition found people who adhered to the Mediterranean diet had a reduced risk of cognitive decline, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease than people who did not adhere to the Mediterranean diet.
Protein Helps to Burn More Calories
Protein is a healthy nutrient for older adults because it helps boost your metabolism, preserves lean body mass as you lose weight, and makes you feel full.
“Protein helps you get full faster and stay full longer because, in comparison to carbohydrates and fat, it takes the longest to break down,” Amy Goodson, a registered dietician and author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook, said in an interview with Eat This, Not That!
Goodson, a member of the Eat This, Not That! Expert Medical Board recommends getting a jump on your day by eating breakfast proteins like Greek yogurt, cheese, lean beef sausage, or protein powder in a smoothie, and aiming for 25 to 30 grams of protein.
One of the most versatile foods around and among the best protein sources are eggs, which Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian nutritionist, describes as “the quintessential breakfast food.”
“And not only are they packed with protein, but they contain key nutrients that support our metabolism too,” said Manaker, author of The First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook, said in an interview with Eat This, Not That!
In addition, adding hot peppers to your eggs, toast, or any other dish and drinking a cup of green tea can help support a healthy metabolism. Hot peppers have capsaicin, which can help the body burn more energy. Green tea contains a compound called EGCG, which is linked to an enhanced metabolism, Manaker said.
Eating Right Promotes Gut Health
When you’re eating right, your gut will reward you for keeping it healthy. Studies have found that your digestive system can influence your well-being by regulating your metabolism, immune system, and mental health.
So, when it comes to snacking between your nutritious meals, gastroenterologists recommend snacking on carrot sticks, and other vegetables with a side of hummus for dipping to keep your gut healthy. The medical experts chose hummus and vegetables because this snack does the following:
1. It Provides Healthy Fats
Hummus is made with olive oil, which contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which nutrition experts consider healthy. Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, found in plant-based foods and oils, such as walnuts and sunflower oil, can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood, which can lower the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. These healthy fats usually contain vitamin E.
2. It’s A Good Fiber Source
Hummus’ ingredients include chickpeas and tahini, both of which are rich in fiber. Dietary fiber, a nutrient found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, is good for gut health because it helps in improving digestion. Fiber also helps in maintaining a healthy weight and lowering the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.
3. It Offers Antioxidants
Olive oil has polyphenols which are plant compounds that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants fight off free radicals that can damage cells. Besides olive oil, other foods with polyphenols include berries, nuts, vegetables, and flaxseeds. Polyphenols also promote gut health because they feed the good bacteria in the gut.
4. It’s Anti-Inflammatory
Olive Oil has certain nutrients that can fight inflammation, which can cause a number of chronic condition’s such as heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. According to Dr. Aniruddh Setya, a board-certified gastroenterologist, eating too many processed foods can cause inflammation and what’s called a “leaky gut,” which is the result of a damaged digestive tract. A damaged gut allows pathogens to enter the bloodstream.
While hummus and vegetables are good for snacks during the day, nutritionists recommend jumpstarting your day by actually eating a healthy breakfast in the morning instead of only drinking a cup of coffee to get you going.
“Think of a fire,” Goodson said. “For it to start burning, you have to light it. Then you add small amounts of wood every couple of hours to keep it blazing. The same is true with your metabolism! You want to jump-start it in the morning with a high-fiber carbohydrate and protein, then add small amounts of food (think small meals and snacks throughout the day) to keep it burning throughout the day.”