Just like our bodies, our diets change as we age. But what does this mean for your health? Keep reading to learn how diet can affect your aging process, from slowing down the way your metabolism works to helping boost bone health and possibly even ward off disease.
Your metabolism slows as you age, but the rate at which that happens varies by person
The good news is, your metabolism slows as you age, but the rate at which that happens varies by person.
For example, some people have a naturally high resting metabolic rate (RMR), meaning their bodies burn calories more quickly than others’. Others have a low RMR and burn fewer calories daily. You can also influence how quickly your metabolism ages by making lifestyle choices that help keep it in tip-top shape.
In general, your metabolism slows down as you age. But it doesn’t happen at the same rate for everyone. Some people have a naturally high resting metabolic rate (RMR), meaning their bodies burn calories more quickly than others’. Others have a low RMR and burn fewer calories daily.
Eating slow-digesting carbs may help you maintain a healthy weight in your later years
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose to provide energy. Slow-digesting carbs, like whole grains, take longer to digest and therefore release glucose at a slower rate into the bloodstream. Fast-digesting carbs—like white bread or sugar—release their sugars quickly and can lead to spikes in blood sugar levels, which can cause inflammation and chronic disease.
Slow-digesting carbohydrates also help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping your insulin levels balanced. Eating too much protein can cause insulin resistance (which may lead to diabetes), but eating too little might make it harder for you to build muscle mass and strength as you age (a concern if you’re trying to stay active).
Slowly digested foods include:
Protein is important for older adults because it helps sustain muscle mass and muscle strength, which can decrease with age.
Protein is important for older adults because it helps maintain muscle mass and muscle strength, which can decrease with age. Protein contains essential amino acids that make up protein in our bodies. These essential amino acids are not produced by the body on its own, so they must be consumed through food or supplements.
Protein helps maintain muscle mass by supporting the creation of new proteins inside cells. As we age, our cells become less efficient at making new proteins and repairing old ones (1). This leads to a gradual loss of muscle mass over time (2). This can cause a decline in physical function such as walking speed and balance (3). Muscle weakness also makes it more difficult to perform everyday tasks like getting out of bed or bathing yourself (4), which can lead to falls and fractures in older adults (5).
The recommended daily intake for protein varies depending on your age based on recommendations from the American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics: 0-6 months – minimum 0 g/day 7-12 months – minimum 12 g/day 1-3 years – minimum 19 g/day 4-8 years – minimum 34 g/day 9+ years – minimum 46 g/day
The skin contains primarily water and fat-soluble vitamins, so it’s crucial to consume plenty of both
To maintain healthy skin, the body requires a few key nutrients. Water is the most important. It keeps our skin hydrated and plump. Fat-soluble vitamins A, D and E are also essential for skin health; they promote collagen production, improve elasticity and help fight free radicals that can damage cells. Vitamin C is needed to protect against wrinkles by slowing down the breakdown of collagen (the protein that gives structure to your skin).
There’s also some research linking diet to acne breakouts: One study published in Nutrients found that there was a link between eating high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids (found in sunflower oil) and acne development among young adults who consumed fast food frequently—though this result could be due at least partially to other factors like stress levels or genetics as well as diet alone.
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential to good health
Omega-3 fatty acids are considered essential to good health, because your body can’t produce them on its own. They’re found in fish, nuts and other foods and they’re important for brain health.
But they do more than just make you smarter: Omega-3s are also thought to help prevent cardiovascular disease, depression and certain cancers.
The benefits of vitamin D on aging are widely accepted
Vitamin D is widely known as an important nutrient for maintaining healthy bones. It’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory, which can help to prevent or reduce the risk of several types of cancer, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
However, vitamin D only becomes active after being metabolized by the liver—a process that requires bile salts derived from cholesterol. As we age our bodies produce less of these bile salts, meaning we’re less able to convert vitamin D into its active form.
The result? You could be getting plenty of vitamin D in your diet and still not reap any benefits because your body isn’t able to use it properly!
If you don’t get enough vitamin B6 from food, it can make anemia more likely during your senior years.
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an essential role in the metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fats. In addition, it’s involved in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. As you age, your need for vitamin B6 increases because your body does not store it well.
Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to anemia (a blood disorder), depression, mood swings, brain fog and poor memory. While a deficiency is uncommon among healthy adults over 50 years old, if you don’t get enough vitamin B6 from food alone—which is especially true if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet—your risk of developing anemia goes up significantly during your senior years.
Taking a daily calcium supplement might make sense for some people who don’t eat enough calcium-rich foods to meet the recommendation of 1,200 milligrams per day, but vitamin D is required for calcium absorption throughout life.
You might be wondering whether it would be a good idea to take a daily calcium supplement if you don’t eat enough foods that are rich in the mineral, or if you live in a region where sunlight exposure is limited and vitamin D levels are low. The answer is yes—but only if you have been tested and found to have low blood levels of vitamin D.
Taking vitamin D supplements can also help prevent bone loss during aging, because they support calcium absorption by the body (and thus strengthen bones). But both nutrients work together: vitamin D is required for calcium absorption throughout life, not just in old age.
In addition to these benefits, research has shown that adequate amounts of vitamin D may help protect against some types of cancer including colon cancer and breast cancer as well as depression, diabetes and other chronic diseases associated with aging—though more studies need to be done before we know exactly how effective this nutrient combo is at preventing disease and promoting health through all stages of life
Toxins in the environment
Toxins in the environment and other aspects of our lifestyle can harm our telomeres, but good diet choices can help keep our telomeres long as we age.
Telomeres are the protective caps at the ends of our chromosomes. They shorten with age (and poor diet choices), but good nutrition can help keep them healthy.
Keep a close watch on diabetes and blood pressure as you age because they increase your risk of cognitive decline.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are two of the leading risk factors for cognitive decline. Both conditions can cause damage to the brain, which increases your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. In addition to increasing your risk of developing memory loss, diabetes and high blood pressure can also lead to mental health issues such as depression.
Diet matters in how we age
We’ve all heard the old saying “you are what you eat,” but just how true is it? Your diet can have a significant impact on your health and longevity—and not just as you age, but even in your younger years. Diet can help prevent or delay diseases like heart disease and diabetes, which can lead to an early death. In addition to affecting physical health, diet also affects mental health (e.g., depression). A healthy diet helps keep our brains sharp and maintain a positive mood throughout the day!
Our diets play a huge role in how we age, but the good news is that you can make small changes to improve them. You don’t have to overhaul your entire diet at once—start slowly by making one change every few weeks. And don’t worry about feeling deprived; there are plenty of delicious foods out there that will help keep you healthy and happy as you get older!
Tiesha loves to share her passion for everything that’s beautiful in this world. Apart from writing on her beauty blog and running her own beauty channel on Youtube, she also enjoys traveling and photography. Tiesha covers various stories on the website.