When it comes to healthy aging, the nutritional value (or lack thereof) of your diet influences the development of many age-related diseases and interacts with the aging process itself. So if you want to slow things down or just ensure that you are doing everything you can to feel your best as you get older, pay attention to what you put on your plate. It can mean the difference between feeling young at heart or feeling much older!
Nutrition Mistake 1: Eating Too Much Sodium
A pinch of salt can make sour fruits more enjoyable or food like french fries even more pleasurable. And don't be fooled, the body needs salt to stay healthy and functional. But too much salt can be damaging as you age. As you get up in years, your body struggles more and more to regulate sodium levels and you can easily eat too much salt.
High sodium levels can inhibit telomere activity and put a strain on the heart and the nervous system. Ultimately these effects can be damaging by shaving some time off of your lifespan. Unfortunately, many adults over the age of 50 consume 3400 milligrams of salt per day - the daily recommended intake is only 2300 milligrams daily.
Luckily there are many tasty salt substitutes for cooking! You can replace salt with spices and herbs such as peppers, oregano, rosemary, sage, and much more for those flavors you desire. Best of all - they're healthier than salt.
Nutrition Mistake 2: Not Eating Enough Vegetables
Vegetables are nutritional powerhouses packed with minerals, nutrients, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and more. If you don't eat enough of them, you're more than likely to be deficient in these essential compounds. These compounds are more essential as you age because your body has more trouble processing them. A diet low in vegetables could therefore lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, increased cancer risk, bleeding disorders, vision loss, and digestive problems.
According to dietary guidelines for American adults, ages 51 and over should consume 2.5-3 cups of vegetables per day. If you're not a veggie person, don't fret. You can throw vegetables in smoothie and even certain cakes or pastries if you're crafty - the options are truly endless!
Nutrition Mistake 3: Eating Too Much Sugar
Nowadays, sugar is everywhere, and when eaten in excess, can be damaging. Sugar can damage elastin and collagen, wreaking havoc on your skin (ie. wrinkles). It also can damage the gut and throw off your microbiome, put stress on the liver, kidney, and brain, weaken your bones, and increase your risk for diabetes.
Did you know the average American consumes around 71 grams of sugar per day? That’s nearly triple the recommended intake of 25 grams! We're not vilifying sugar, of course. The key is to avoid overconsumption and to use healthy alternatives when possible. Cutting down on sugar is one of the best anti-aging “serums” you can rely on.
Nutrition Mistake 4: Drinking Soda Regularly
A can of coke here and there isn't going to cause much trouble, however, if you have a habit of regularly drinking sugary sodas, it may start to show eventually. The biggest problem with drinking soda frequently is the amount of sugar you will consume. For example, a can of coke contains 39 grams of sugar - that’s 14 grams more than the recommended daily intake of 25 grams in just one can.
The best remedy here is to cut down your intake of soda or eliminate it if you can. As an alternative, you can make homemade soda using natural fruit juices and home soda machines.
Nutrition Mistake 5: Not Eating Enough Protein
You might think that athletes and bodybuilders need to worry about protein intake the most. However, protein intake for older adults is important as well, perhaps more than they think. As you get older, your ability to digest and absorb protein typically weakens. Also, it's common for older adults to eat less and have less of an appetite and by extension, they may get less protein in their diet.
Protein deficiency leads to reduced muscle and bone mass, brittle nails and hair, and poor brain function. This ultimately accelerates the aging process. The guidelines for protein consumption have been controversial, but a safe recommendation would be to eat 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal.
Nutrition Mistake 6: Not Getting Enough Fiber
Fiber is your digestive system’s best friend, especially if you're an older adult. Unfortunately, most adults on average consume only 10 to 15 mg of fiber per day- older adult males should consume 38 grams of fiber per day, while females should consume 25 grams.
Fiber is essentially a digestive plunger keeping the bowels free and loose and keeping your gut bacteria diverse and healthy. A lack of fiber leads to constipation. It can also increase your risk of colorectal cancer, especially if you are an older adult. A lack of fiber can also drain you in terms of energy and it can also increase your cholesterol and risk for diabetes. If you're not already eating enough fiber, it could be beneficial to make an effort to do so. It'll go a long way in helping you feel and look younger!
Nutrition Mistake 7: Drinking a Lot of Alcohol
A cold beer on game day or a celebratory glass of wine may have some health benefits. However, when it comes to your health and aging, moderate alcohol use should be the name of the game.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is not only tough on the liver, but also on the skin. Alcohol depletes vitamin A, which is beneficial for youthful skin and is dehydrating. If you haven’t already, it can be beneficial to reduce your alcohol consumption if it's higher than it should be. Of course, some can tolerate more than others, but a general guideline is no more than 7 drinks per week for women and no more than 14 for men. For seniors (65+), it’s recommended to consume no more than 5 per week for women and no more than 7 for men.
You Age How You Live
Although there are tons of anti-aging serums and supplements out there, the reality is that none of them are magic bullets. You're more likely to reverse the clock by making long term lifestyle changes.
One of those changes is to avoid making nutrition mistakes like the ones we’ve listed above. By avoiding these nutrition mistakes, you're hopefully going to make healthier decisions, which will give you more energy to participate in other habits that stop or even reverse the clock. And you may even have a few surprises the next time you tell someone your age!