The perfect prescription for aging adults
by Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski, Contributing Columnist
The tire in our midsection or our sudden joint pain are inevitable changes we experience as we age. Decreased muscle mass and a slower metabolism are often the culprits of your weight-loss woes. This makes it crucial for adults over 40 years of age to pay extra attention to their diet and ensure they are getting the necessary nutrients to maintain their health and well-being. One dietary component that becomes increasingly important in mitigating some of the negative effects of aging is protein. Here are five reasons why a high-protein diet is essential for adults over 40.
1. MUSCLE MASS PRESERVATION
One of the most significant changes that occurs with age is the loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia. This can lead to decreased strength, mobility, and an increased risk of falls and fractures. Consuming an adequate amount of protein can help preserve muscle mass and prevent or slow down the progression of sarcopenia. Protein provides the necessary building blocks for muscle repair and growth, making it crucial for maintaining strength and mobility.
2. ENHANCED BONE HEALTH
Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones, becomes more prevalent as we age. Protein plays a vital role in maintaining bone health by aiding in the absorption of calcium and other essential minerals. A high-protein diet can help reduce the risk of fractures and improve overall bone density, ensuring better skeletal health in older adults.
3. WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
As metabolism slows down with age, weight management becomes more challenging. Protein has been shown to increase satiety and reduce appetite, making it an excellent tool for weight management. By including protein-rich foods in their diet, adults over 40 can feel fuller for longer and reduce the likelihood of overeating or snacking on unhealthy foods. Additionally, protein requires more energy to digest, which can slightly boost metabolism and aid in weight loss or maintenance.
4. IMPROVED IMMUNE FUNCTION
A strong immune system is crucial for overall health, especially in older adults who may be more susceptible to infections and illnesses. Protein plays a vital role in the production of antibodies and immune cells, helping to strengthen the immune system. Consuming a high-protein diet supports immune function and reduces the risk of infections and diseases.
5. ENHANCED WOUND HEALING
As we age, the body’s ability to heal wounds and injuries slows down. Protein is essential for tissue repair and regeneration, making it crucial for wound healing. By ensuring an adequate protein intake, older adults can promote faster healing and reduce the risk of complications from wounds or surgeries.
Include more protein-rich foods with each meal, such as lean meats, fish, eggs and dairy products. Aim to eat a portion of protein every time you eat. Also important is understanding that while some foods are protein sources, they may not contain enough for a sufficient portion. Nuts, for instance, while containing a small amount of protein, are a predominantly fat-based food, which has a much higher caloric value at 9 calories per gram versus protein, which is 4 calories per gram.
However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to determine the appropriate protein intake based on individual needs and any existing health conditions.
Vanessa LaFaso Stolarski is a certified nutrition counselor, weightlifting coach, life coach and stress-management specialist.
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