What changes within your body as you grow older? And what is the best type of diet to keep you healthy … slow down, stop or indeed, even reverse those changes, if possible? Let’s find out.
Sure, you are noticing your greying hair and wrinkles but, in fact, you are experiencing a lot more than those outward and not so important changes.
The changes that happen as become older include adverse changes in your:
|Bones, joints and muscles||Bladder|
… and many more.
Getting a little wrinkly and grey is nothing compared to what’s happening to your:
Cardiovascular system: … your arteries and other blood vessels start getting stiff as you enter your 60s. This causes your heart to work harder as it tries to pump blood through them. This increases your risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure) and related problems such as heart disease.
Brain: … undergoes changes as you age. These can affect your cognitive health, ie your ability to think and remember. You might, for instance, be prone to forgetting familiar names or words. You might also find it harder to do several things at the same time.
Sight: … as you age you are likely to become short-sighted and need reading glasses. You’ll find adapting quickly to changing levels of light difficult or become sensitive to glare while driving at night. Aging can also bring on eye diseases such as retinopathy and cataracts (clouded vision).
Ears: … it’s likely that your hearing will become less sensitive and you’ll find it hard to understand a conversation in a crowded place. The higher frequencies may be difficult to hear, especially when listening to music.
Teeth: … your gums may start to expose you teeth more, making them more vulnerable to infection and decay. You can develop dry mouth due to certain medications. This lack of saliva can make you prone to increased plaque, tooth decay, gum disease, and mouth sores, as well as thrush (a yeast infection).
Skin: … your skin gets thinner and the underlying fatty tissue decreases, becomes less elastic and more fragile, so you bruise more easily. Your skin will also become drier as the production of natural oils decreases. In addition, wrinkles, age spots and skin tags become more common.
Bones and joints: … as you age, your bones tend to shrink in size and become more dense. This weakens them and you become more prone to fractures. Because your joints don’t fit together as well as before, they can become painful when you are moving. You may notice your height is reducing.
Muscles: … you may notice that your muscles are not as strong as they used to be, and that they are less flexible and tire more quickly. As well as being an annoying reminder that you ain’t as fit as you used to be, muscular changes can affect your coordination, stability and balance.
Bladder: … you’ll be passing urine more often as your bladder becomes less elastic. You may develop urinary incontinence, ie start to pee uncontrollably without warning. This may be because your bladder muscles are getting weak, or it may be due to diabetic neuropathy, certain medicines, too much alcohol or coffee, being overweight, or if you are a man, an enlarged prostrate.
Weight: … can become a problem because your metabolism (how you burn energy) slows down as you get older. This means, if you don’t reduce the quantity of food you eat or get more exercise, you’ll put on weight.
Sex drive: … can reduce as you age. This can be due to certain illnesses or prescribed medicines. Age can cause men to become impotent, or take longer to get an erection or have an erection that is not as stiff as it used to be. Age can induce vaginal dryness in woman, making intercourse uncomfortable or painful.
Note: … these changes due to aging are normal and inevitable.
However you can slow them down, sometimes stop them and occasionally even reverse them by swopping the food you eat for a plant-focused diet
How your digestive system works
When you digest a bit of food it is broken down by your stomach acid into its main components … carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
These are then broken down further, into glucose etc. The glucose is then released into your blood-stream which delivers it around your body to your cells and other place where it’s needed.
Glucose, a simple sugar, is you main source of energy. Most of it comes from digesting the sugar and starch in the carbohydrates you get from food such as rice, pasta, grains, breads, potatoes, fruits and some vegetables.
The glucose produced by digestion is delivered to your body’s cells, it requires the presence of insulin in order to get in. This is produced in the pancreas and is released into your bloodstream as needed.
Caveat: this overview of your digestive system (aka your glucose-insulin system) is vastly over-simplified and the system is in fact much more complex that what I have written here.
Is a plant-focused diet the best type of diet for you?
A plant-focused diet is one in which the emphasis is on eating foods that are grown, such as vegetables, fruits, cereals and so on, rather than animal products, such as meat, fish and dairy products.
In other words, the focus of your plate or bowl should consist of foods that grow in or on the ground, while animal products should be the ‘accompanied by’ portions on your plate.
An effective plant-focused diet is one in which you eat food that is natural … low in sugar … low in fat … low in salt … high in fibre … and is … digested slowly. In addition you need to drink lots of water.
Let’s look at each item in turn.
Natural foods … are foods that have not had their nutritional content altered through preparation, canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.
Unnatural foods are foods in which the nutritional content of a particular food has been altered during processing by the addition of things such as sugar, fat and salt, in order to enhance flavour and improve shelf-live or, indeed, make them addictive.
Low in sugar … caloric sweeteners, such as table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup found in processed foods, are considered unhealthy if they take up too much of your diet. Many processed foods contain added sugar.
Added sugar to your food drains your energy and causes you to gain weight. It also increases your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It may increase your risks of cancer and depression, and can accelerate the aging of your cells and your skin.
Low in fat … fat provides you with energy and helps maintain your body temperature, repair your tissues, and protect your internal organs. Fatty acids are an important fuel for your heart and skeletal muscles.
Animal fats are complex mixtures of triglycerides and cholesterol (among other ingredients) and all animal fat contains cholesterol to varying extents. Plant fat, on the other hand, does not contain any cholesterol.
Having high levels of either cholesterol or triglycerides (a type of fat) or both can increase your risk of heart disease. Thus, avoiding animal fats as far as possible will minimise your intake of cholesterol and reduce the chances of plaques building up inside your arteries and eventually blocking them.
Low in salt … small quantities of salt are essential for life. However, too much salt is harmful as it can cause hypertension, a medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently too high.
Hypertension is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, peripheral arterial disease, vision loss, chronic kidney disease, and dementia.
Thus a low-salt diet is necessary for your health. Just don’t add salt to your diet. You’ll get enough from the salt that’s naturally present in most natural foods.
High in fibre … dietary fibre is the indigestible portion of plant foods. It is absolutely essential for a healthy diet. You should make sure you eat lots of it.
All plants contain some fibre to a greater or lesser degree, though the quantity varies from plant to plant. Fibre is highly beneficial:
- It makes you feel full quickly thus preventing you from over-eating.
- Its bulkiness means that you feel full for longer.
- It slows the rate at which your food is digested thus preventing spikes of glucose in your blood.
- It suppresses the synthesis of LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Increased fibre in your diet reduces blood pressure.
- It makes your stool easier to pass and so prevents constipation provided you drink plenty of water.
- It lowers your risk of developing haemorrhoids and diverticulitis (inflamed colon).
There are many other benefits of a high fibre diet.
To gain the full benefits of a high fibre diet you must drink plenty of water … at least two litres a day on top of all the coffee, tea, juices etc you drink.
Digested slowly … during digestion, some types of food release glucose into your bloodstream at faster rates than others. The slower the rate of release, the better the body is able to use the glucose released without damaging its systems.
The rate at which a particular food is digested is measured by the glycemic index, which runs from 0 to 100. Each food is ranked on the index by comparing how fast it is digested compared to the speed at which a reference food (a syrup containing 50 grams of glucose) is digested.
The reference food is digested very quickly and is ranked as 100. The higher a particular food is on the index, the quicker it is digested. You should aim to eat foods that rank below 50 or so.
Lots of water … we lose fluids continuously, though our breathing, urine and stool, even our skin by evaporation. If we don’t replenish these losses, we become dehydrated.
The benefits of drinking water and maintaining your hydration are many:
- Water keeps your bodily fluids in balance … the functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.
- Water can help you control your calorie intake … drinking water instead of high calorie sports drinks or sodas beverages can help you reduce the calories you ingest.
- Water helps energize your muscles … if cells don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes they shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue, ie they don’t work well and performance suffers.
- Water helps keep your skin looking good … your skin contains lots of water and functions as a barrier to prevent excessive fluid loss which keeps you looking good.
- Water helps your kidneys function … the main job of your kidneys is to cleanse your body of toxins, such as blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that passes through the kidneys and is excreted in your urine. But for this to happen, your intake of fluids must be adequate.
- Water helps maintain normal bowel function … you need plenty of water to keep things flowing along your digestive tract. If you don’t have enough, your colon will take water from your stool in order to maintain hydration and you’ll end up with a hard, dry stool, ie you’ll be constipated.
To ensure you drink enough water …:
- Have a drink every time you eat something.
- Choose drinks you enjoy … you’re more likely to drink more liquids when you like the taste.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from these foods.
- Keep a bottle of water at hand … in your car, on your desk, or in your briefcase or handbag.
- Choose drinks that meet your personal needs … eg, if you’re trying to lose weight, go for water or drinks that don’t contain calories.
Here is the best type of diet for you, one that actually works
Originally devised to control type 2 diabetes, the Beating Diabetes Diet is used by thousands to help get and stay healthy, and live a fun-filled, active life.
You’ll find a boat-load of helpful articles at http://beating-diabetes.com/
You’ll can find out more about how the digestive system works and how food affects you body at http://beating-diabetes.com/the-book/.
A must-read for diabetics and non-diabetics alike, this is probably the best type of diet for anyone over the age of 65 years.
Benefits of a plant-focused diets for retirees
You can boost your health, and enjoy a longer life and more vibrant lifestyle, by following a plant-focused diet.
A plant-based meal consists of avoiding animals and their by-products such as meat, eggs, or dairy, and swopping them out for fruit, vegetables, tubers or starchy foods, and whole grains. You must also avoid sugar and oil as far as possible.
The benefits of plant-focused diets have been validated by scientific research and are prescribed by many forward-looking doctors. Here are a few of those benefits.
Plant-focused diets help you to:
Slow down the aging process … plant-based diets increase telomerase, an enzyme that rebuilds telomeres. Telomeres are the caps at the end of a strand of DNA in human cells, a bit like the plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces. These caps shorten with age. Once they are gone, the cells collapse and we are gone.
A study by the US Department of Defence found that within three months of starting a plant-based diet, people can significantly increase the activity of their telomeres. This helps slow or reverse aging.
The study found that processed meat and unfried fish do the opposite, and “nip at our DNA”, even more than soda, coffee, and fried foods.
You look younger … plant-based foods moisturize your skin and heal skin tissue, so you look and feel younger. This is because the antioxidants found in plants remove the free radicals from your skin that cause premature aging, thus improving your complexion.
Boost your immunity to diseases … an animal-based diet is associated with higher levels of chronic disease and cholesterol, as well as an increased risk of cancer. A plant-focused diet will help you fight these diseases.
Ingesting protein from beans rather than meat helps to lower cholesterol. Protein from vegetables like broccoli and kale increases calcium.
Plant-based diets lower your risk for cancer and heart diseases, but can also help reverse their progression.
Increase your energy level … digestion is linked to energy and since it is easier to break down plant-based foods compared to meat and dairy, you will enjoy more energy throughout your day for exercises and other purposes.
Certain foods such as almonds, quinoa, and whole grains also have energizing qualities that increase your energy levels, helping you live a longer, happier life.
Get a brighter mind … vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and chickpeas deliver brain-boosters that help us think clearer.
Plant-based diets also help us to lower cortisol, which is associated with stress, and reduce the risk of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Lose Weight … when you switch to a plant-focused diet you’ll consume more fibre and vitamins and so lose weight.
Research indicates that, on average, heavy people lose two kilos or so (five lbs) within two weeks of starting a plant-based diet.
Sleep better … bananas, sweet potatoes, kale, and nuts contain vitamin B6, tryptophan (an essential amino acid), and magnesium which increase levels of melatonin and help you sleep.
Better sleep reduces the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart attacks in retirees.
How to get started on a plant-focused diet, the best type of diet for retirees
To help you discover the best type of diet for you, here are some simple tips on switching over to plant-focused food:
Don’t switchover suddenly to meals based on plants … change gradually by eliminating animal and dairy products gradually and substituting in plant alternatives. It takes time to get used to a plant-focused diet but, believe me, it’s worth it.
Build your dinner around your vegetable dishes … put the vegetables in the centre of the plate and the meats or other food on the side. Your vegetables should include beans and lentils which are high in protein and grains such as brown rice and quinoa. Leave out oil and dairy in your cooking.
Diversify your food … to prevent boredom with your diet, try fruits and vegetables you’ve never had before. Being adventurous will help you stick to your diet. The more you try new foods, the more you’ll figure out which are the most enjoyable and thus you’ll develop you motivation to eat them.
Think of a whole meal rather than one ingredient … find a conventional meal you enjoy and alter it by substituting plant-based foods. Thinking about the whole meal will motivate you to keep to the diet.
Post-script on finding the best type of diet for you
I hope you enjoyed this article.
If you want more articles on foods and diets for retirees, please let me know by email to firstname.lastname@example.org