By MORGAN MANNS
At the age of 40, an individual’s need to intake calories begins to decrease, decreasing by five percent every decade, according to ProMedica Fostoria Community Hospital dietitian Carolyn Tienarend.
“As we age, our calorie requirements decrease,” she said. “We move less, we have less muscle mass, so naturally we just need fewer calories than we used to.”
Tienarend said it is recommended that individuals of all ages eat five or six “mini meals” per day.
“Calories are better used if they’re given throughout the day,” she said, adding that if they’re eaten in abundance at one time, the extra calories are stored as fat. “Smaller amounts (of food) more often are more efficiently used.”
She added that even though the need is not as great, people continue to eat the same way and that’s why they tend to gain weight as they age.
Although caloric intake decreases, an individual’s need for different vitamins and minerals increases because the body is unable to absorb them like it did at a younger age. Tienarend said it is recommended that they eat fresh, brightly colored fruits and vegetables, choose whole grains and intake more calcium and Vitamin D so that the body is getting the necessary healthy nutrients it needs.
Staying away from certain foods or ways of cooking will also help an individual maintain a healthy weight, thus helping them stay healthy as they age.
Fat that is solid at room temperature is considered a saturated fat, Tienarend said, and is primarily found in animal products such as dairy, meat and poultry. She suggested replacing butter or lard for cooking oils and eating fish at least twice a week, or substitute it for one gram of fish oil a day.
“Choosing lean and fresh meats will make a big difference,” she said. “Don’t add fat when cooking, don’t broil or fry, and stay away from processed meats, such as brats, hot dogs and lunch meat.”
Also among the heart-healthy foods are soy milk, tofu and flax seed.
In addition to eating healthy, Tienarend said drinking substantial amounts of water is very important at an older age.
“As we age, we’re less able to realize the signs of thirst so we don’t drink enough,” she said. “Being dehydrated can lead to other serious medical problems.”
Increases in thirst, appetite or bathroom visits are all signs of diabetes, according to Tienarend, while shortness of breath and high blood pressure are symptoms of heart disease. Both are medical conditions relating to age and correlating to one’s diet.
Fatigue in general is a sign of various medical issues and could alert someone to unhealthy eating habits.
Tienarend said getting a yearly physical and maintaining a healthy weight are the best ways to prevent all medical conditions.
“To prevent aging issues, people should eat healthy and be active at a younger age,” she said. “Better eating habits early on can help someone age more gracefully.”
An individual’s height and gender play a big role in healthy dieting.
Body mass index charts can be found online to determine what direction a diet may need to take. Tienarend said a body mass index between 20 and 25 is considered healthy; however, the chart doesn’t take into consideration of how active an individual may be or how much of that body mass is muscle.
Tienarend added that every body is different in how it absorbs food but that regular activity to keep some form of muscle mass within the body will help maintain a stable metabolism and healthy eating habits will boost health benefits.
“The best thing to do is to optimize health and make sure they’re getting all the nutrients needed to help protect their bones and muscles and so on,” she said. “It won’t stop you from aging. We all age; we can’t get away from that. But it can improve raw health.
“Diet is related to every chronic illness there is. You don’t want to look back and wonder how your diet could have helped or hindered your health.”