We all know that our bodies change as we age, but did you know that you could help protect yourself from the effects of aging by changing your diet?
As we age, our nutritional needs change, and we need to consume more nutrients. If we don’t get the proper nutrition, our health can suffer. However, if we focus on our nutritional needs as we age, we could be stronger for much longer, and our gut, muscles, bones and brain could benefit.
If you’re eating the right stuff, why aren’t you feeling the benefits?
Chronic gastritis is a common problem among the aging population, and is caused by chronic inflammation that damages the cells that produce stomach acid. This means that you don’t have enough stomach acid to properly break down the nutrients you consume, so you aren’t able to use them. (1)
To combat this, it’s important to make sure you are providing your gut with what it needs to be structurally sound. Not only can conditions like these wreak havoc on your nutrition, but daily stress, oxidative damage and poor western diets can also wear down our gut wall, creating small openings that allow food to leak through, causing the body to produce an inflammatory response.
Not only does this create inflammation, but it means the nutrients that leak through are not being absorbed. This is called leaky gut syndrome, and it can contribute to many age-related nutrient deficiencies, specifically of B12, which is vital to brain function. Therefore, you need to take care of your gut health as you age in order to maintain your ability to absorb B12 from the foods you eat. (1)
Lactoferrin is a key player in maintaining the structure of the gut wall — unfortunately, it is not very prevalent in our modern diets. When we are young, we get lactoferrin from breast milk, but as we age our sources become limited. One way to increase our lactoferrin intake is to add an undenatured whey protein supplement to our diet, which is high in lactoferrin compared to other sources.
Calcium and Vitamin D — keeping old bones kicking
Calcium helps the body build and maintain healthy bones, while vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. However, studies have shown that we absorb less vitamin D as we age, so consequently we are not able to absorb as much calcium. Because we're not absorbing enough calcium, our risk of fractures and bone loss increases. (2)
To combat these changes, you should consume a variety of foods the are high in calcium:
- Dairy (cheese, yogurt)
- Dark leafy greens
And vitamin D:
- Cod liver oil
- Canned tuna
Adding these foods to your diet also provides other necessary nutrients, as the aging population also tends to lack potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium and iron, which these foods are also rich in.
Protein — it’s still super important!
The average adult loses 3-8% of their muscle mass each decade after 30, which is a major cause of weakness, bone fractures and poor health among the elderly. This is called sarcopenia. However research has shown that adding more protein to your diet can help you maintain muscle and fight the effects of aging and sarcopenia. (3) (4) (5)
In fact, a 2008 study of men and women aged 70-79 found that those that ate more protein over the course of three years lost 40% less muscle mass than those who ate the least amount of protein. (6)
If you’re wondering how many more chicken breasts you need to eat, rest assured that there’s a simpler answer.
One method of making sure you’re getting enough protein as you age is to add a protein supplement. An undenatured whey protein supplement can provide benefits not only for your muscle and bone health, but also for your gut, brain, immune system, hair nails and skin. (7)
Undenatured whey is a complete protein, and an effective source of lactoferrin, selenium, vitamin E and calcium. It also provides the precursor amino acids, for the antioxidant glutathione: cystine, glutamate and glycine. Your body can naturally manufacture its own glutathione within your cells if you provide it with the correct building blocks.
Glutathione plays a key role in several cell processes, including:
- Energy production
- Fighting oxidative stress, neutralising harmful free radicals
- Antioxidation and immune support
Unfortunately, our levels of cellular glutathione are depleted as we age, meaning it becomes even more important to provide our bodies with the precursor amino acids. (8) (9)
What’s the takeaway?
As you age, your body develops greater requirements for certain nutrients. Often, this is because another part of your body is inhibiting you from absorbing enough of that nutrient from your food.
Here are a few steps you can take that can help this:
- Approach nutrient deficiencies from a “gut perspective”: are you simply not eating enough of that nutrient, or is there something happening in your gut causing you to not absorb it? Making sure you’re getting enough lactoferrin and other gut-supporting foods can make a significant change in your gut environment, especially in how effectively your body can utilise nutrients. Try adding a probiotic to support your natural gut bacteria.
- Eat a varied diet of whole, colourful foods: most of the nutrients you need as you age should come from a diet packed with whole, nutritious foods, including a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish.
- Add an undenatured whey supplement: whey protein is fantastic source of many of the nutrients you begin to lack as you age, including protein and calcium, as well as the nutrients we struggle to get from food, like lactoferrin and glutathione. It can help maintain gut, muscle, bone and brain health in a simple daily supplement.