Age appropriate changes in diet are necessary to live a healthy, long and happy life.

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The food we eat plays a vital role in building our overall health, affecting how we look and feel. It is a myth that we can eat as we please if we can burn the same at the gym. Regular exercise is important but according to research, nutrition has the largest impact on our fitness. A popular health-improvement adage is “Eat your food like medicine unless you want to reach a stage where medicine is your food.

Work on a plan to make healthy food intake a primary fitness goal. Eating right can help us reduce body fat, lose a few pounds, feel more confident, and reduce our risk of illness. Slowly, the habit of eating right becomes second nature to you and firmly sets you on the path to fitness.

Avoid empty calories which just satiate your taste bud but do more harm to your internal fitness. Nutrient-dense foods, or “superfoods,” include lean proteins, healthy carbohydrates, and fats essential to our health. You need the rich flow of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants these superfoods pack in when compared to the number of calories that they contain.

AS we age, there is a lot of wear and tear of body components. As a repair and recovery mechanism, inflammation takes root in our body and if the injury is not immediately healed, it becomes a case for chronic inflammation to set in ‘allowing various illnesses to take root. You need antioxidants in your diet to reduce inflammation in the body to help you fight disease and illness – and to help protect from damage caused by free radicals.

Age-appropriate diet:

New research shows that if you adapt what you eat as you grow older, you can prevent weight gain, muscle loss, and a host of chronic diseases before they begin. Here’s a simple guide from Men’s Health to find out what you must eat, in what quantity, and when at your specific age:
  1. Your 20s: It’s time to build healthy habits. You have just stepped out of your childhood. You have cells and tissues that are in their prime, blood that flows freely through unclogged arteries. With your musculoskeletal machinery in mint condition, movement is not an issue at all. What you need to eat: First up, begin appreciating fiber-rich foods. Satiation after every meal is guaranteed, you will stay fuller longer. Food not moving in zip-zap-zoom speed across the tummy and guts will keep you safe from diabetes. No threat of constipation, your digestive tract will thank you. The other item that your body craves is vitamin D. Want strong bones and a strong heart? Eat at least three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit daily. Need vitamin D, add a lot of milk, fish, tuna, salmon, cereals, oatmeal, soy, and soak in a healthy amount of sunlight. No binge eating, no yo-yo or any fad diets, “No food is entirely off-limits,” Brian St Pierre, RD, CSCS, of Precision Nutrition tells Men’s Health. “Instead, categorise each within a spectrum of choice to eat more of, eat some of, and eat less of,” St Pierre says.
  2. Your 30s: At this age, your metabolism starts to slow and so increases your risk of weight gain and muscle loss. If you’re a parent already, you may find this comparison relatable. The energy with which you ran when in school or college, is not the same anymore when you run with your child. There is a certain deceleration that only you notice. You may pin it on busy career days and lack of gym time. Fact is, you have begun to scale down the peak energy era. A reminder that THIS is the time to start thinking about your risk of heart disease. Include Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet and if your doctor recommends, do take the supplements. Good food sources are salmon, mackerel, oysters, tuna, trout, and even some whitefish like pollock and perch —loaded with good fats that fortify your heart muscles. The Mediterranean diet contains at least two 4-ounce portions of fish weekly. make the simplest of dishes with lightly cooked fish laid over a bed of greens or a bowl of rice to make it a meal. The Men’s Health report warns against falling into the habit of binge-drinking, a problem lifestyle lapse at this moment in life. It cites a 2018 study published by BMJ that states that from 2009 to 2016, the average annual increase in deaths from cirrhosis was highest in people aged 25 to 34. Your liver is a sturdy yet delicate vital organ. It stays strong on good lifestyle practices but is vulnerable to alcohol abuse such as subjecting it to five drinks in two hours – how the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines a binge – making it susceptible to face severe irreversible damage.
  3. Your 40s: You are no more as agile, lithe, swift as you were in your teens and in your twenties. In India, processed, refined foods have still not swept the daily staple, and unlike the west, colorectal cancer is not the concern here, as yet. Yet no one can understate the importance of antioxidants in the diet to ward off the free radicals that cause damage. Stress on a high-fiber diet rich in antioxidants. Add fruits to your breakfast bowl along with cottage cheese, oatmeal, or yoghurt. Seasonal and locally available fruits esp from the farmer’s market should augur well. Fetch some guavas, mangoes, and dragon fruits, guaranteed to give you that great taste you crave with loads of healthy fiber. Cooked, grated (or diced) beetroots, chopped asparagus, quartered artichoke hearts, or Brussels sprouts / chopped cabbage can be added to the dough you knead for the morning paranthas (Indian flatbread roasted on a flat tawa atop a flame). If you add it to the salads, these very items can be slightly cooked for easy digestion and decontamination. Don’t give up carbohydrates altogether, but go low on them. Excess calories from too many empty carbs may lead to weight gain, which can contribute to diabetes. Eliminate the good carbs from the curfew though. Dalia, wholegrain bread, French beans, sem-wave green beans, legumes are healthy carbs and recommended in hefty doses if you wish to fight cancer.
  4. Your 50s: Women have their menopause to worry about, men have their midriff to focus on. The increasing girth makes most 50+ men uncomfortable. There is a paucity of everything – time, budget margins, energy. Yet this is the time to do the bloodwork diligently. Check for blood sugar levels, cholesterol in the blood, check blood pressure and ensure you are not a patient of hypertension. Possibly, your doctor has told you to cut back on sodium and has added statins to your regimen of pills which majorly had only vitamin supplements till now. Your risk of hypertension increases with every passing birthday. Fear not reassured Men’s Health. Research shows that you can still fight heart disease. Add potassium-rich foods to your diet for blunting the effects of sodium in your diet and, in turn, support healthy blood pressure, which is key for heart health. High on your green-grocery shopping list should be dark leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, beets, and lima beans. Shake off the addiction to processed food or meal orders. Toss away the salt shaker from the table and stop eating out of packaged snacks like chips, fries etc. Keep an eye open for obesity that can set in. And to eliminate work-related stress, adopt yoga, meditation, awe walks etc.
  5. Your 60s: This is the time to take a good look back and realize how far ahead you have come in life and vigorously plan for times ahead. You need a workout routine that will help maintain the muscle you have and fight the flab. Plan your meals in a manner that you get sustained supplies of nutrients and proteins. Check with your doctor to know if your protein intake through food is satisfactory. Ask if you may take a scoop of whey protein powder along with your morning oatmeal. If you like grilled chicken or salmon, they make a good addition to a salad. Diversify your protein intake and add various forms of cooked meat from what is available at your local stores.

The Bottom Line: According to BBC Good Food, as you age and inch towards your 70s or 80s, there are also other things that you may neglect and should consciously try not to let that be the case. Such as hydration. It can be easy to forget to drink enough water, but it’s important to aim for around 6-8 glasses or cups a day. The number of calories that your body requires may change as you grow older, and depends on a wide range of factors, including your activity levels and metabolism. BBC Good Food also recommends that you take up some physical activity every day (such as walking or vacuuming); strengthening and flexibility exercises on two days each week (such as carrying heavy shopping bags or yoga); 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking or riding a bike) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (such as jogging, running or playing tennis).

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before starting any fitness program or making any changes to your diet.

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