Though we can’t stop our aging clock, we can certainly make an effort to stay healthy and active and lead simply healthier, happier lives. It starts by making simple food choices, staying active and understanding the unique nutritional needs as we get older.
In honor of National Senior Health and Fitness Day celebrated this week, vow to keep your body strong and get the most out of your “over 50” years. Follow these four simple steps to get you on track and moving in the right direction.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Did you know that as we get older we are more prone to dehydration? Yes, it’s true. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids, even when you aren’t craving a drink or feeling thirsty. Water keeps your mind sharp and energy levels up. Your brain alone uses 2 cups of water daily. Your skin and hair need it, too. So drink up!
Fiber is your friend
As we get older, our digestive system may work more slowly; so it’s more important than ever to eat a diet high in fiber. Try loading up on high-fiber fruits and veggies, wholegrains, and beans. Not only will they help keep your digestive tract healthy, they will give you more energy throughout the day. I recommend making at least half of your grains whole- grains and for women – working towards consuming 21 grams a day and for men 28 grams daily. How to do this? Two large fruit a day provide 8 grams of fiber; ½ cup beans provide 8 grams; 2 whole-wheat bread slices provide 4 grams, a salad provides 2 grams of fiber, a cup of cooked vegetables another 4 grams.
If you are increasing your fiber intake, be sure to do it at a gradual pace over the course of a few weeks and add more fluid to your diet as you add in extra fiber. Fiber also acts as a pre-biotic, feeding the good bacteria in the gut, which keeps the immune system strong and may even help lower cholesterol levels, based on recent studies.
Revamp taste buds
Your sense of taste and appetite may diminish some, as your number of taste buds decrease with age, but your body still needs its nutrients. Add natural herbs and spices to make meals more tasty, instead of adding salt, fat or sugar. Step it up a notch in the kitchen and put a little more effort into planning and preparing your meals. Find ways to makeover simple recipes, spicing up the flavor, adding healthy veggies and trying new ways to present food attractively.
Falls are more common as we get older, and can lead to serious injury, blood clots, or even disability. Incorporating physical activity into your day will not only give you more energy but will also make bones and muscles stronger. Strengthening muscles will mean you are less likely to fall and bones less likely to break. Balance and stability exercises, stretching, and core (trunk) exercises add stability and reduce falls also. Walking is an easy activity to add to your daily routine. Though I recommend at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, it doesn’t have to be done at once. Try walking for 15 minutes at a time twice a day or even 10 minutes three times a day. Add weight training 2-3 times weekly, for 20 minutes each time.
Enjoy the difference in energy and strength, and enthusiasm from these simple steps.
For more ideas on healthy eating, calcium and fiber sources, and anti-osteoporosis exercises, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.
This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.
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