When we are younger, we tend to move around a lot more and have a faster metabolism. But as we grow older, we tend to slow down, which includes our metabolism. Before, most of us were using more energy, but as you get older your caloric intake seems to be more than the energy used. Your diet and nutrition are important in all phases of life, but we tend to struggle with it when we pass a certain age. You may feel the same as you did when you were younger, but your body does change as you get older, making it more difficult to keep the weight off.
When you measure the amount of energy in food it is called a calorie. So, the more food you eat, the more calories you consume. Everybody needs this energy to survive and the amount depends on a number of things, such as your age, size as well as if you are active or not.
Sometimes other factors can also influence the number of calories you burn:
- Certain medication
- Hormones, a good example would be the thyroid hormones.
- Whether you have an illness
When you read the labels on products, you will notice that calories are measured as Kcal or kilocalories (1Kcal=1000 calories). Another measure of calories is kilojoules, one kcal unit is equivalent to 4.2kj. In order for you to maintain a balance, you have to assess the amount of food and drink you consume with all the physical activity you do every day. If you want to lose weight, ideally you should be using more energy than what you are taking in.
Therefore, in order to be healthy, you need to have a balance, this includes taking into consideration what you eat and physical activities or exercises you do. Concerning diet and nutrition, eating a variety of foods that come from all the main food groups is a good way to start. We all know the food pyramid, at some point in our school lives, we were taught these guidelines. You have the grains and cereals at the bottom, moving up to fruits and veggies, then to meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Finally, at the top of the pyramid and things you should eat the least include sweets, fats and salts.
Healthy eating for your 40’s and 50’s
There seems to be a lot of advice available on healthy diets and eating correctly, especially since the internet became widely available. Today you have various diets, superfoods, and trends galore, it can get a bit overwhelming. Not to mention the costs involved when it comes to eating healthy. Does it have to be so difficult?
Here are some easy healthy eating tips you can use:
- Moderate your sodium intake. Stay away from foods with too much salt, things like soy sauce, which has a very high sodium level.
- Limit the amount of refined sugar and carbohydrates.
- Make whole food choices, foods that haven’t been processed or refined.
- When possible buy GMO-free foods
- Eat slowly and mindfully, this is also where portion control comes into play. If you guzzle your food down, you will more than likely overeat. The brain takes about 20 minutes until it recognizes that the stomach is full.
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat at regular intervals. We all know how it feels if we skip a meal and become ravenous, again it is very easy to overeat and eat the wrong things.
- Make sure to keep healthy snacks around instead of things like chips or sweets. If it’s in the cupboard and you have the nibbles…
- Treat yourself occasionally
- Try to avoid foods that have too many flavours and colourants.
- Sit down at a table, eat slowly and properly, not in front of the television.
- Be mindful if you tend to eat out a lot, there are always healthier choices you can make. That’s not to say you can’t have that mushroom cheeseburger on occasion. Everything in moderation.
- If you can cook your own meals at home where you have control over what goes into the dish.
- Eat more leafy dark green veggies (spinach or broccoli), and your orange veggies (carrots)
- Go for brown or wholegrain rice, flour or pasta.
- Don’t forget to include exercise
Even if you make the choice of fresh fruits and vegetables, you still have the decision of buying organic. Foods grown organically means that during the growing period, the farmers did not use any chemical pesticides, artificial fertilizers, growth hormones etc. Because of this, organic foods tend to have more nutritional value. The pesticides themselves can cause physical harm to those consuming them but are said to be within safety levels. What about the antibiotics used on farm animals, one has to wonder what is safe over a long period of time? Growing organic crops also produces less pollution and has been proven to use less energy. Organic foods may also taste better, but the biggest problem with buying organic in the shops is the high price. Rather try buying organic at your local farmer’s market, you will likely find the prices a lot more reasonable there.
Eating throughout the day
What you eat is important, but when you eat may also have certain health benefits for those who are 30 years and older. Some say three meals per day, while others say several smaller meals will do the trick. It is also what you eat that is more important than how many times in a day.
Then there is the when, only eat between 8 am and 8 pm… This is where intermittent fasting can also come into the picture. So, when and what we eat are both factors to take into consideration.
Let’s begin with breakfast, ‘the most important meal of the day’. Here are some tips to try out:
- Breakfast, if possible, can be family time together, especially if the evenings are full of other activities and homework.
- If you don’t have time in the morning prepare something beforehand. Try a variety of overnight oatmeal recipes and smoothies. When you have spare time, bake muffins or prepare other recipes where you can freeze the food item. These can easily and quickly be defrosted.
- Many eat their breakfast at work, just make sure to choose your meal wisely.
Lunch and dinner:
When it comes to lunch try and choose food choices that are nutrient rich. Choose something with veggies, and whole grains instead of foods high in sugar and refined carbs. You can also add some lean protein choices to the meals. When preparing chicken pieces, try to remove the skin and remove the fat from other meat sources. Try to include more white meats and fish, keep the red meat in moderation. Many have also incorporated a meat-free meal into the week.
When it comes to the preparation of meals, how you cook your meal can also be important. Instead of frying your food, try to steam it instead. Also, whenever possible, try to eat your veggies as raw as possible to get the most nutrients out. One more thing to remember is, whenever somebody else is eating something if you’re not hungry, it doesn’t mean you have to eat as well.
Here are a few ideas for when you get the munchies.
- Eat foods that are crunchy, and which takes you a time to chew. Things like nuts, apples and celery.
- Make healthy choices, instead of chips, try popcorn instead. And this means no added salt or butter.
- Do you have a sweet tooth, try eating a bit of dark chocolate or some dried fruit.
- Mixed Berries with some Bulgarian Yoghurt
- Red or yellow peppers with some guacamole
- Apples or celery go nicely with peanut butter
- Cottage cheese with some sweet potato or beetroot chips
- Hummus with celery, peppers or cucumber
- Olives and sun-dried tomatoes
Energy bars, are they good for you? I suppose it would depend on which energy bar you’re wanting to eat. Bars are easy, fast and you can take them with you to eat anywhere. Many contain fibre and protein, but some have added sugar as well as saturated fat. We will be coming to reading labels below, but we can start here. By reading the ingredients on your energy bar, you can make the best choice. The fewer the ingredients the better, and you should be able to recognize everything written on the label. If it mentions a list of things including palm oils, flavours etc. it’s most probably not the healthiest choice out there. Choose something that contains only fruits, nuts and chocolate without the added ingredients.
Reading the labels at the store
Reading labels on products are important, this is because many brands entice you with words that make you think you’re making a healthy choice. For example, on the front of a label could be the words ‘now with added vitamin B’. But if you read carefully on the back of the label, you will find out, yes there is added vitamin B, but the product contains 50% sugar and all kinds of Flavourants and colourants etc. Also, just because it says ‘organic’ doesn’t mean it contains less sugar or fat.
You are also bombarded with a variety of choices and brands, each having different percentages of fats, sugars and sodium. Reading the label is the only way to find out which one is the best or healthiest. I have also noticed things like diabetic chocolates, they offer products which have a sugar substitute, but the fat content is way more than your average chocolate.
Then you have the hidden sugars in products. Sugar is included in most cereals, sweetened yoghurts, sauces and other dressings or marinades. You can also find sugar in bread and certain coffee and tea products. Your normal peanut butter has added sugar as well as your bottled teas, dried fruits and breakfast bars.
You may find it easy to spot the sugar names on the label, such as fructose, glucose and sucrose. But sometimes companies try other names that you might miss. These include names like Ethyl maltol, dextrose, maltose along with a number of other sugars. In order to avoid these sugars, try to make your own herbal teas, smoothies and sauces.
Those of us who are getting older can only benefit from limiting our sugar intake, as it does contribute to those wrinkles and sagging skin. So, when looking at your product label make sure the sugars are as low as possible as well as saturated fats. The amount of sodium should also be low. Proteins and fibre can be of a higher value.
Diet and Supplements for your 40’s and 50’s
When it comes to supplements, you have a huge variety of different types and brands. You should be getting most of your dietary requirements from the food you eat. Supplements are there to help you maintain and improve your health, but does everybody have to take them? Sometimes, your body does need an extra boost, especially in cases of illness or in cases where pregnant women need extra folic acid. Vegans may want to consider supplements with Vitamin B12, as you can only get this from things like fish, meat as well as dairy foods.
More research has to go into studying the effects of supplements, some may even have side-effects. Just because you think it is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it is completely safe to take. Certain herbs can also interfere with drugs, rendering them less effective. So, remember to always let your health practitioner know what supplements you are taking. You can also overdose on vitamins and minerals if you are not careful.
Those who are struggling to eat properly and therefore don’t get in the daily required vitamins and minerals are those who need to think about taking supplements. The sick and elderly should consider a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, including fish oil capsules with omega oils. Otherwise, taking a general supplement three times during a week should be sufficient.
Probiotics on the other hand can be a benefit to everyone and they are easily purchased over the counter at health food stores and pharmacies. An unhealthy gut can cause many health problems, which can be improved by taking probiotics. One of the main reasons for taking probiotics is during a time when you need to be on antibiotics for whatever reason. As you can guess, the antibiotics kill all the bad bacteria in your system including the good bacteria.
Some of the reasons to take probiotics include:
- Probiotics help in cases of diarrhea, either preventing it or reducing its effects.
- Boosts the immune system
- It has been linked to helping improve mood
- Can aid in treating certain digestive disorders
- Helps in the absorption of nutrients.
- Some strains may even aid in weight loss
- May aid in reducing fatigue
- Benefits the skin
Instead of popping a pill, there are a number of food items to choose from that can give you your daily dose of probiotics. Many of these food products can be bought, but most of them you can actually make yourself.
Here are a few examples:
- Kefir: a probiotic milk drink made from kefir grains
- Sauerkraut: fermented cabbage
- Kombucha” fermented tea drink
- Tempeh: fermented soybean
- Gherkins or pickles
Drinking enough water
We have been told from a young age to drink plenty of water, eight glasses every day. For some this is easy, but for most of us, it is a struggle to even get up to three glasses. Whatever age you are, it is a good idea to start drinking water.
Today, with so many soft drinks and other unhealthy beverages available, it is even more important to try to drink water instead. I think most of us take it for granted that we have access to clean water every day. When in other parts of the world, clean water is a dwindling resource.
Considering the human body is made up of a large percentage of water, it is understandable why we need to drink enough water. Let’s look at a few reasons why water is so important.
- On top of the list is helping you to lose weight. Yes, water helps to remove the by-product of fat and if you drink a cup before a meal, it may help you to eat less. Since water has zero calories, it is a great substitute for those overloaded sugar drinks.
- Aids in flushing toxins from the system
- Water helps to keep the skin healthy and your complexion smooth
- Improves digestion
- Since many headaches are caused by dehydration, drink your water!
- Lubricates joints and muscles, thereby preventing or lessening joint pain.
When you don’t drink enough water, your body starts to show various signs of distress. The most common signs are feeling tired and maybe developing a headache. It is important to note, that by the time you feel thirsty, your body is already experiencing dehydration.
How do you know what is enough water? Well, there is a rough official guide, but each person is different. The needs of each individual are affected by things like illness, diet, climate and body composition. Women should drink roughly about 2.7 litres, while men should drink about 3.7 litres a day.
You can also monitor your own body and state of hydration. Be aware of your body and try to prevent becoming thirsty, make a conscious effort to drink water every day. Another way is to check on your urine, it is a very simple method. You are fine if your urine is clear or pale to light yellow without any odour. Once you move into a darker colour that smells, you need to up your water intake.
There are some ways that can help you to drink water every day, simple methods that include:
- Instead of plain water, why not try herbal teas. That is without milk and sugar.
- A popular method is to keep a bottle close to you at all times. Take a sip every so often and fill up when the bottle is empty.
- You can even choose some fruits and veggies that contain a high amount of water. These include apples, watermelon, strawberries, peaches as well as tomatoes.
- Get into the habit of drinking a glass of water before meals and before breakfast in the morning on an empty stomach. Make sure it is tepid or slightly warm water, not cold.
- Spice up the water, add lemon slices or other fruit. Nowadays, there are even special water diffuser bottles that help with this.
Fibre is also an essential element for a healthy diet, especially when you hit your 30’s and older. When you eat fibre, it helps your body to regulate its sugar levels and also aids the metabolism. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables should provide enough fibre in the diet.
Some more benefits of fibre in the diet:
- We all know fibre helps us to regulate our bowel movements and will also help to keep the bowel healthy.
- Can aid in lowering cholesterol levels
- When choosing high fibre foods, they tend to fill you up more, so helping you to eat less. This is great for those seeking to lose weight.
- There has been research that indicates diets high in fibre may aid in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
When starting to introduce fibre into your diet, try to do it slowly as you may experience bloating and cramps if you overdo it. Also, remember to always drink plenty of water.
Dieting is it good for you
Wherever you look you will find somebody trying to sell their dieting methods. From the Atkins diet, weight watchers, the Mediterranean diet to raw food and vegan diet. Do these dieting methods actually work?
To narrow down a specific diet that works for everyone, I think there is no such thing. There is no one diet that is the best for everyone. Each person is different and has varying needs, so what might work for one, might not work for another. One of the main things to think about when dieting is whether it is sustainable. If you cannot maintain the diet plan for the long term, then you are just going to land up where you started out, or worse.
If you are really looking to lose or gain weight because of health issues, then the best course of action would be to seek out a nutritionist or dietitian who can then guide you in the right direction. This individual approach would be a more successful attempt than trying out this and that diet you see online.
Some of the dieting products sound good and they make claims, but I wonder if, in the long run, it can be maintained. Also, just because many of these products claim to be natural, they might contain certain herbs or ingredients that could cause harm or even interact with other medications you might be on. Not to mention the cost of dieting products, these are not only once off, but you will also have to pay out on a monthly basis in order to keep up. But in the end, it’s your body and you will have to make the decision for yourself.
The safest route to take if you really want to try something is to ask your doctor first before you move forward, especially if you are on any medications. Ultimately, an all-around balanced lifestyle is the best way to go. There is no quick fix if you want results that last, you will need to put in some effort. Eat healthily, drink water, exercise and take time to relax. Nothing beats the good old-fashioned way of staying healthy.
Good and Bad Fats to eat at Midlife
When reaching a certain age, it becomes even more important to understand what you eat will affect you in some way. Maybe not immediately, but the effects will begin to show if you do not maintain a healthy lifestyle.
This is especially true about fats in your diet. When somebody mentions fats, you automatically think bad. This shouldn’t be, as you will find both good and bad fats in the food you eat, you just have to make the right choices.
Some fats are necessary for good health, while other bad fats can contribute to things like obesity and cardiovascular disease. Fats provide energy to your body and are needed for certain body functions.
Let’s begin by looking at bad fats. These are namely the saturated fats and trans-fats, which can be harmful to your health. You will find that at room temperature these fats become more solid. Examples of these fats include:
- Margarine and butter
- Animal Fats
The saturated fats can be eaten but should only be eaten in small amounts. A lot of people love their beef, pork and lamb, but eat in moderation and remove as much of the exposed fat as possible. This includes chicken and its skin. I know oven roasted chicken with its skin on can be tempting for many, but the best option would be to remove the skin before cooking.
Dairy products like cheese, full cream milk, butter and ice-cream should also be consumed in moderation. Recently coconut oil has come into the limelight as a healthy oil to consume and cook with. Studies show that coconut oil does have a high concentration of saturated fats and should, therefore, be used sparingly. Olive oil might be a better alternative and is low in saturated fats.
These types of fats should be avoided altogether, as it raises the LDL cholesterol in the body, which is bad. The trans-fats can also hinder levels of HDL cholesterol, which is the ‘good’ cholesterol. Some of the foods that contain trans fats include:
- All fried foods
- Processed foods like chips
- Baked goods like doughnuts, cakes and biscuits
- Frozen pizzas
This is where reading the label comes in handy, and not just the front but the ingredient label. If you find words like partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, this means there are trans-fats present in the product.
Polyunsaturated and Monounsaturated Fats
These are seen as healthy fats and at room temperature tend to be liquid. The Polyunsaturated oil, also referred to as ‘Essential Fats’ as you need to get these fats from your environment, your body does not produce them.
A popular example of this type of fat is ‘Omega-3 Fatty Acids’, which can be found in foods like salmon, trout, anchovies, oysters and sardines. Mackerel being the highest at4,107 mg for each serving. It can also be found in things like flaxseeds and walnuts. Omega-3 and 6 Fatty acids can be found in:
- Seeds: sunflower and pumpkin seeds, chia seeds
- Vegetable oils: sunflower, sesame, safflower
- Cod liver oil
Since all fats are high in calories, it is recommended to eat in moderation. Including foods high in ‘good fats’ can only help to improve your health, especially that of your heart.
Carbohydrates in your 40’s and 50’s
Most of us have heard about a low-carb diet or somebody you know trying to reduce their carb intake. Regulating this type of thing as you get older is important in maintaining a healthy body as you age. Carbohydrates can be divided into two main categories, those of starches and then sugars.
At school, we all learned that carbohydrates are macro-nutrients, which just means it is one of the main sources where we obtain our energy and must be obtained from our environment. The others being protein and fats. Some of the reasons you need carbohydrates include:
- Provide fuel and energy
- Helps prevent the body from using protein as a source of energy
- Aids in fat metabolism
The reason many people have become wary of carbohydrates is that in recent years there has been an increase in refined carbs. If we choose good carbohydrates that are high in fibre, there are many health benefits. Some high carb whole-foods that are good for you include:
- Bananas, apples and blueberries
- Sweet Potatoes
- Chickpeas and kidney beans
The problem comes with the refined and process foods like white bread, rice as well as things like the sugary cereals. Beer and juices should also be enjoyed in moderation, as they contain high amounts of carbs.
Again, in the end, it comes down to making the right choices and being aware of what is available to you. Educate yourself and come to understand what foods can help and what can harm. Now, I’m not saying you should avoid that piece of chocolate cake or Kentucky fried burger. Just be aware of what you’re putting in your mouth and if you do spoil yourself, make sure it’s only on occasion and not a regular habit.
Can Food Choices Help Prevent Cancer?
In today’s fast-paced world where you have access to fast foods, it is easy to make the mistake of eating these foods on a regular basis. Eating unhealthy foods can lead to a compromised immune system and inflammation in the body. Could this be one of the reasons for the increased risk of obesity, cancer and other health issues, especially in those of middle age and older?
It’s time to turn back to proper eating habits and getting the nutrition you need. What you eat and the lifestyle you lead is directly linked to your health, your immune system and disease. Eating healthy can help prevent you from developing certain diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. Being overweight and eating an unhealthy diet does put you at more of a risk for health problems including cancer.
So, yes eating healthy foods can lower your risk of developing certain cancers. Add a variety of fruits and vegetables that are high in anti-oxidants and fibre. Choose foods that have ‘good fats’ and reduce your intake of sugars and refined or processed foods. Keep your red meat consumption to a minimum and drink plenty of water.
What cravings are trying to tell you
Everybody has had a food craving at some point in their lives but can be worse for those who are going through hormonal changes. You may feel and think a lot about enjoying something sweet, salty, sour, fried or even some more unusual craving such as dirt. In these cases, your body is trying to tell you that you need something.
Some of the more common cravings are:
- Of course, chocolate, who hasn’t had this! The darker the chocolate, the healthier, which contains magnesium, B-Vitamins amongst other things.
- Carbs: including foods like pasta, pizza, bread, might indicate you need more fibre
- Sugar: cakes and other sweet things, which may be pointing to a sugar imbalance or mineral deficiency. Instead of going for the candy, first, try eating foods like fruits. It might also be an indication that you are dehydrated, so add in a glass of water with that.
- Many people often crave salt, which may be due to stress or an electrolyte imbalance. Try some yoghurt, bananas or coconut water for a boost. Include some nuts and seeds for foods high in vitamin-B.
- Fried foods: try including healthier foods containing essential fatty acids like nuts, avocado, fish, flaxseed oil etc.
Eating a healthy balanced diet should help prevent any cravings, but if you do find yourself in this position anyway, try to make healthier choices than giving in to eating something unhealthy. The sweets or pizza won’t provide your body with what you need, so you will keep on craving these things. Rather choose food that provides the vitamins and minerals you need, and keep the pizza to an occasional evening instead of every week.
Meal Kits, could this be for you
When you have work, kids and a million other things to do in a day, where is the time to cook healthy meals? Even if you are single, it can be a chore to cook for one all the time and you can’t afford to eat out each night.
Ready-made meals or meal kits seem to be on the rise, but is this a healthy and affordable choice? The meal kits provide all you would need to whip up a delicious dinner, instead of buying all the ingredients separately yourself. The other option is having a ready home-made meal delivered to your door.
Both these options provide a variety of dishes and could save you a lot of time. If you can afford this on a regular basis then I would say go for it. The meals are a bit pricey and maybe doing it once in a while for something new and easy would be a great idea.
More foods to be careful of if you’re 30 and older
One of the worst possible food items out there is soft drinks, coca cola, sprite etc. You are basically drinking sugar, flavourings and colourants. Not only is the amount of sugar bad for you, but the artificial colours and flavours are even worse and maybe potentially cancer-causing.
We’ve mentioned how high in carbohydrates beer is, but besides this, all alcoholic drinks can be a problem if consumed in access. As you age the way your body handles alcohol changes. Drinking too much can also have negative effects over the long term, such as damaging the liver. Another effect of alcohol is it removes moisture from the skin and may eventually lead to wrinkles.
Caffeine, consuming too much of this can interfere with your sleep, cause restlessness and you may even develop headaches. Now, one or two cups a day shouldn’t be a major problem but going for your fourth or even fifth cup may be problematic. So as with most things, moderation is again key. Some even claim coffee can have certain positive health benefits.
Coffee creamers may make your coffee taste delicious and creamy, but it contains a lot of trans-fats. Trans-Fats have been found to negatively affect memory in those who are 45 years old and under. Remember that the next time you pour yourself a cup of frothing cappuccino.
The above information is for educational purposes only. Any medical advice, diagnoses, and/or treatment, please consult a medical professional.