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Eating for Your Age: Sustaining Your Seventies

Changing your diet based on your age is important. Here are some guidelines to follow to eat a healthy diet when you're over 70 years old.

By now, everyone is familiar with the Food Guide Pyramid. It was designed in Sweden in 1974 and was implemented in the United States by the USDA in 1992. But what you may not know, is that in 1999, a modified version of the food pyramid was introduced, specifically for people over seventy years of age. 

As you can see, this food pyramid has been adapted to place more emphasis on intake of fluids, exercise, nutritional supplements, and eating canned and frozen fruits and veggies along with fresh ones. The modified pyramid places preference on food from natural dietary sources. However, the flag perched at the top shows that in some cases supplements or fortified foods can be beneficial for seniors, particularly for the following nutrients:

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Vitamin D

The base of the modified pyramid is also different. It depicts icons that represent physical activities that are suitable for more mature people. For example, swimming, tennis, walking, and gardening. Above that is a row of water glasses. This indicates that seniors should try to drink around eight glasses of water each day.

Eating During Your Seventies 

Subsequent rows on the modified pyramid indicate different food groups and healthy options within each one. Emphasis is placed on the following:

  • Whole grains: brown rice, barley, buckwheat, oatmeal, wholewheat bread and pasta, millet, and bulgur.

  • Nutrient-rich fruit and vegetables: berries, oranges, grapefruits, avocado, bananas, dragon fruit, bell peppers, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, asparagus, and turnip.

  • Low-fat and nonfat dairy items: soy, almond or reduced lactose milk, Greek yogurt, and low-fat cheese and cream cheese.

  • Healthy oils: extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, vegetable oil, walnut oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil.

  • Healthy meat and fish choices: turkey, lean beef, pork tenderloin, cod, halibut, mackerel, and salmon.

  • Fiber-rich foods: whole grains, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, avocados, apples, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and almonds.

Keeping an Eye on How You Eat 

Here are some tips on how to adjust your diet for maximum health benefits as you move into your seventies.

Pack in the Protein

When you reach seventy, you need to make sure you have enough protein in your diet. Even if you’re healthy, you will need more protein than you needed when you were younger. Protein helps you to preserve muscle mass, it’s also good for your bones, lowers your blood pressure, and helps you to maintain a healthy weight. 

If you are over 70 years, you should get at least 1gram of protein per gram of your body weight per day. To keep your fat and cholesterol intake to a healthy level, choose protein sources such as vegetables, seafood, and poultry. Other good sources include nuts, legumes, and soy.  

Fill up on Fiber 

Although your body is unable to digest fiber, you need it to keep your digestive system healthy. There are two types of fiber:

  • Soluble: dissolves in water and helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. Sources include fruits, especially bananas and apples, legumes, vegetables like Brussel sprouts and carrots, as well as seeds, and oatmeal.
  • Insoluble: does not dissolve in water and helps bulk up the stool for easier transit. Sources include bran, wholewheat flour, vegetables like potatoes and cauliflower as well as beans, and nuts. 

As you grow older, fiber is essential not only for regulating your digestive system, but can also help your body maintain healthy glucose levels. Fiber also reduces your risk of major diseases such as heart diabetes, disease, colon cancer, and diverticulitis. Women in their seventies need 21 grams of fiber each day. Men the same age, need 30 grams.

Grab Some Grains

You can reap many health benefits from whole grains. They are packed with nutrients including:

  • B vitamins
  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Iron 
  • Zinc 
  • Copper
  • Antioxidants

Adding plenty of whole grains to your daily diet reduces your risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It can also improve your digestive health and ensure you have regular bowel movements.

If you’re a woman in your seventies, you need at least 3 servings of grains per day. If you’re a man of the same age, you will need at least 4 servings. You should try to keep most of your servings from whole grain sources. 

Figure Out Your Fats  

Fat is an important source of energy, it also protects your vital organs and aids in vitamin absorption. According to the American Heart Association, you should be getting between 20–35% of your daily calories from total fat. Most of this should come from:

  • Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA): healthy fat molecules such as those found in plant oils that are liquid at room temperature. Sources include seeds, olives, nuts, olive oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil.   
  • Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA): healthy lipid molecules such as those found in oils that are liquid at room temperature. They contain omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Sources include flaxseeds, walnuts, poppy seeds, and sunflower seeds.

Supplementing Your Seventies

Nutritional supplements should not be used as a replacement for dietary nutrients. However, there are times when supplementation can be advantageous, such as during or after an illness or surgery, or if your appetite is lower than normal. In these cases, the following supplements may be beneficial:

  • Vitamin B12: essential for optimal brain function. A deficiency can put an older person at risk of dementia. The recommended daily dose is 2.4 micrograms.
  • Vitamin D: vital for protection against infection and illness. Your ability to synthesize this vitamin from sunlight decreases as you age. The recommended daily dose is 800 international units. Choose vitamin D3 supplement as it is the form that is already stored in your body.
  • Omega-3s: helps to fight inflammation, lower cholesterol, and optimizes cell function. It can also reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke and maintain brain health as you age. The recommended daily dose for omega-3s is 1.6 grams for a man and 1.1 grams for a woman. 
  • Coenzyme Q10: Coq10 is an antioxidant that is produced by the liver. It helps to convert carbohydrates into energy, protects cells, and boosts the immune system. As you age, your liver produces less Coq10, so supplementation is beneficial. The recommended daily intake of Coq10 is 100-200 milligrams.

Sustaining Your Seventies

When you reach your seventies, you may find that your appetite is not as vigorous as it used to be. However, you can still enjoy healthy meals by using the modified food pyramid as a guide. If you feel that you are not getting the nutrients that you need from your diet, talk to your doctor about supplementation.

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