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Nutrition in the elderly: 7 things to know

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In a world in which healthy aging (or to put it in the Anglo-Saxon language healthy aging) is the new must for the over 65s, nutrition plays a role of fundamental importance.

A bit like the elixir of life, diet, evidently combined with a correct lifestyle, is at the center of a heated scientific debate. It is certainly not the search for immortality, but rather the desire to live an increasingly longer phase of life as best as possible that animates international scientific literature.

The numerous studies conducted on the longest-lived populations demonstrate, in fact, how certain dietary habits significantly affect the duration but above all the quality of life of the most distant decades.

And being able to count on a high-performance body, capable of resisting physical fatigue, still responsive to the numerous stresses that everyday life dictates, certainly acts as a solid support for mental and nervous balance.

For this reason we will propose 7 dietary cornerstones capable of supporting healthy aging.

Water

It goes without saying how fundamental water is for the health of the human organism, regardless of age.

As we age, the state of hydration physiologically tends to decrease, thus progressively reducing muscle tone, metabolic efficiency, cellular turgor and the thermogenic capabilities of the organism.

Preserving the adequate state of hydration is therefore the first anti-aging action that must be implemented.

The cardiovascular, nervous, skin and above all muscular systems will benefit.

Proteins

Sarcopenia is a key word in the great chapter of aging.

Sarcopenia describes the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength, generally age-dependent and unfortunately responsible for a rapid decline in quality of life.

The spotlight on this condition and the many studies that have taken place in recent years have demonstrated how an adequate intake of dietary proteins effectively counteracts the progressive aging of muscle tissue.

The minimum protein quotas currently recommended, evidently in the absence of pathologies such as renal ones, are 1.1 g per kg of body weight. A need that tends to grow proportionally to the level of physical activity present.

Experts agree in considering it useful to consume noble proteins, with high biological value, therefore capable of adequately nourishing the muscle, such as lean white meats, lean fish and egg whites.

Legumes have also proven valuable in supporting muscle function in aging.

Energy

In order for the organism, partially debilitated by aging, to respond well to the physical and mental stresses that everyday life imposes, it is of fundamental importance that it is energetically replenished.

In this sense, carbohydrates constitute the most precious fuel, which should remain the most represented nutrients in the diet of an elderly person.

Whole grains should represent the first choice, useful both for energetically supplying the system and for preserving adequate intestinal order.

Fruit, on the other hand, taken according to adequate criteria, would provide the quantity of sugars necessary above all for the nervous system to respond well to stressful events.

Fat? Yes but the “good” ones

Healthy aging cannot ignore the consumption of fats.

Fats are actively involved in hormonal synthesis, in the structuring and adequate functioning of the nervous system, and provide, in certain circumstances, particularly precious energy. The important thing is to choose the best fats.

Epidemiological studies demonstrate how a high consumption of animal fats can negatively influence the course of aging, compromising the health of the nervous system, as well as the cardiovascular system; on the contrary to what fats coming from extra virgin olive oil do, rather than from dried fruit or oilseeds. Indeed, the cocktail of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants makes these foods a real anti-aging drug.

Combined with the fatty acids of the omega 3 series present in oily fish, they would help defend the body from inflammatory events.

Fibers for intestinal health

Our intestine is inhabited by a myriad of microorganisms, bacteria, fungi and viruses, whose balance is able to direct the state of health.

Aging undermines this balance, allowing potentially pathogenic bacteria to take over those with protective functionality.

The fibers present in vegetables, whole grains and fruit, in addition to providing a nutritional substrate for protective microorganisms disseminated in the alimentary canal, could, in association with pigments with antioxidant activity, contribute to restoring an adequate intestinal structure, thus improving its barrier.

And a healthy intestine is generally the mirror of a healthy and active organism.

Vitamin D

It is a very important vitamin, with diversified roles, both in bone and extra-osseous metabolism.

The most recent scientific evidence sees it actively engaged in supporting the functionality of the immune system, especially in the most fragile subjects, such as those over 65, and in actively assisting the functionality and structure of muscle tissue.

Mainly produced by our body through a complex series of biochemical reactions, triggered by sunlight, Vitamin D is still present, albeit in small quantities, in various foods. To maintain a good balance, adequate exposure to sunlight for 20-40 minutes is therefore recommended.

Antioxidants

For many experts, the strong point of an anti-aging diet is precisely the content of antioxidants, yellow-orange, red-purple and green pigments present in fruit and vegetables.

Anthocyanins, catechins, flavonones, isoflavones but also the more well-known vitamins A, C and E are just some of the protagonists of the antioxidant action of the diet.

Capacity measurable through a parameter known as ORAC, capable of defining the protective strength of a diet against oxygen free radicals.

An adequately balanced diet in this sense would therefore be able to protect the nervous system, the cardiovascular system but also the musculoskeletal system from the harmful and aging action of free radicals.

Bibliography

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