Saturday, June 12, 2010

Eating for Age

Recently we looked at metabolism, which can slow down as we age. Doing some regular strength training will help minimize this decline (and improve bone density). Similarly, as we age we find that some of our dietary needs shift over time regarding calorie requirements and certain nutrients.

Young adults: Being obese in our 20s can reduce lifespan by up to 22%, says the American Medical Association. Women in this age group need about 2200 calories and 25 g. of fiber per day while men need on average about 2800 calories and 38 g. of fiber. Many people over-consume their calories, but fall short on fiber. Another concern is cholesterol, a measure often overlooked by this age group. Plaque buildup begins in the late teens, so burgers and French fries are not a good regular choice even at this age. Bone-building ends by age 30, so adequate calcium consumption, 1200 mg./day, is important for both young men and women. Finally, young women need more iron than older women (18 mg. vs. 8 mg. per day), due to menstrual cycles.

Middle age adults: Emphasizing a healthy diet can pay off for this age group by avoiding weight gain and minimizing the need for prescription drugs. Middle age women need some 200 calories a day less than younger women (about 2000 calories) and men 400 fewer calories (2,400) than their younger counterparts, while fiber needs remain the same for both genders up to age 50. The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet not only lowers blood pressure in many adults, but also can eliminate the need for blood pressure lowering medication. In addition, cholesterol levels and the need for medication are often reduced by the classic heart healthy diet which focuses on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, legumes, and low or fat free dairy products. Finally, people in this age group need somewhat less calcium a day, 1000 mg., equivalent to about two servings of milk products.

Older adults: As calorie needs and appetite decline, choosing nutrition-packed foods becomes even more important. While women in their 70s need only about 1800 calories a day and men 2200 calories, their daily calcium needs are again at 1200 mg. as bone density declines with age. At this point, the need for fiber declines some, with women at about 21 g. of fiber and men 30 g. Seniors usually need to supplement calcium and vitamins B12 and D, along with staying hydrated.*

* Source: onHealth August 2007

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