What is the best line of defense for older men to stay healthy? Eating a well-balanced diet filled with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean animal and plant-based proteins, low-fat dairy products and heart-healthy fats.
The Difference Diet Can Make
Healthy eating can keep your body and mind sharp and extend quality of life. Older men need:
- Calcium and Vitamin D
Older adults need more vitamin D and calcium to help maintain strong and healthy bones. Calcium-rich foods include low-fat and fat-free dairy like milk and yogurt, fortified cereals and fruit juices, dark green leafy vegetables and canned fish with soft bones. Older adults need three servings of calcium and vitamin D every day. If you take a calcium supplement or multivitamin, be sure to choose one that contains vitamin D.
Fiber helps keep bowel functions normal and is good for your heart. If you need to lose weight, fiber keeps you full longer so you do not feel hungry as often. Men older than 50 need 30 grams of fiber a day; good sources are whole grains, fruits and vegetables. For products with a label, choose those with at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving.
Increasing potassium intake along with decreasing sodium (salt) may lower your risk of high blood pressure. Good sources of potassium include fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt. Choose low-sodium foods and replace salt with other herbs and spices to reduce your sodium intake.
- Healthy Fats
For weight control and overall health, limit fat calories to 20 percent to 35 percent of your diet. Most of the fats you consume should come from heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Try extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil, walnuts, almonds and avocadoes. Healthy older men without heart disease should limit your saturated fat, which comes from meat, full-fat dairy and fried foods, to 10 percent of your total fat calories. Men with high cholesterol need to cut more saturated fat from your diet; limit it to 7 percent of total fat calories.
Make Calories Count
Older men cannot eat the way you did in your 20s and keep weight off. As men age, you are typically less active and lose muscle and gain fat; these things combined cause metabolism to slow down. More work is needed to keep metabolism up.
How many calories you need each day depends on age, gender and activity level. For men over the age of 50, your daily calorie needs are:
- Not active: 2,000
- Moderately active: 2,200 to 2,400
- Active: 2,400 to 2,800.
Balance your calorie intake by getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Exercise helps older men rev up metabolism, build and strengthen muscles and increase energy levels. Exercise also helps to lift your spirits.
Visit a registered dietitian or ChooseMyPlate.gov to develop an eating plan that is right for you.
Reviewed December 2012