The Foods You Should Really Be Eating as You Age
Believe it or not, your diet really should change as you age.
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It's no secret that your nutritional needs change as you age: What keeps a newborn healthy is not the same for a toddler or a teen—but it may come as a surprise that your diet should continue to change long after childhood. As a matter of fact, your dietary needs continue to shift well into adulthood. According to Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Nomadista Nutrition, there are many foods you should add to your diet as you age (and a few you should cut out, as well).
Your metabolism naturally begins to slow down as you age, which means that it will take your body longer to process certain foods. According to Davis, the increased time it takes to work off a donut is not the only thing that changes—your body also alters the way it uses the food you ingest. "We also have decreased absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, such as B-12, which is very important for good health," she says. B-12 is found in animal-based products like yogurt, eggs, chicken, and beef and is necessary for maintaining hemoglobin levels. When your body stops absorbing as much of it, you become more at risk for conditions like anemia.
To work with your body as it changes, Davis suggests adding foods that are rich in antioxidants, contain high quality sources of lean protein, and have plenty of fiber to your diet. Her top suggestions are coffee (for the antioxidants), brightly colored fruits and vegetables (dark leafy greens are especially high in folate, calcium, and vitamin C) and dark chocolate (although it can be high in sugar, it is an excellent source of antioxidants and phytonutrients).
As for those brightly colored fruits and vegetables, they pack more than a nutritional punch—they can also keep you hydrated (which is just as important, since your thirst mechanism begins to decrease as you age, she adds).
When to Make the Change
It's never too soon to start taking care of yourself, but Davis says you should start being mindful of what you eat in your 20s; at this point, make sure you are also eating lean, high-quality proteins. Additionally, she suggests making seafood an important part of your diet. "Think sustainable, fatty fish that is very low in mercury and environmental contaminants," she says. "You can look for the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) certifications when selecting seafood."
Minimize Your Risk of Diabetes
According to Davis, there are plenty of reasons to watch what you eat as you age—but minimizing your risk of diabetes is particularly important. Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietician and certified diabetic educator, says people are more at risk for diabetes as they get older because their cells become more insulin resistant. "As this occurs, cells become less receptive to allowing glucose (sugar) to enter the cell, driving up blood sugar levels," she says. "Increases in body fat, specifically visceral fat or belly fat, can expand the waistline, increase inflammation, and further increase insulin resistance—all of which increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes." Because of this, Palinski-Wade suggests eating only slow digesting carbohydrates (like whole vegetables and fruits, 100% whole grains, beans, and lentils) as you age.