Many of us are undoubtedly concerned about the way we’ll age on the outside, fearing wrinkles, lines and gray hairs. But what’s really important is how well we’re aging on the inside.
1. Make protein a part of every meal.
Hobbins says protein is an essential part of maintaining your muscles as you get older. We lose muscle mass naturally as we get older, due to lower testosterone levels and also from not being as active. Muscle is important in keeping your body strong, helping you keep your balance and also for keeping you mobile as you age. You can get protein from meats, dairy, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes, so it’s easy to make it part of each meal. Salge Blake, who is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says it’s important to spread out your protein intake throughout the day, and not just pile it on at one meal.
2. Eat an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich diet.
The food on your plate shouldn’t be all one color. Load it up with different fruits and veggies, dietitians say, to get your antioxidants. “Antioxidants protect your cells from oxidation,” Hobbins says. Oxidation is a natural process that occurs in cells, creating free radicals, which can damage the body.
Antioxidants help protect you from that damage. “The great thing is, there are hundreds of antioxidants. Science shows us you need as many different ones as you get get, to get the best benefit,” Hobbins said.
Along with getting antioxidants, from sources like berries, peppers and tomatoes, it’s important to protect your body from inflammation.
Inflammation occurs in the body from a number of conditions, Salge Blake says. Diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and being overweight can all contribute.
To fight inflammation, it’s important to have a diet rich in omega-3s, like those found in fatty fish, as well as in the rainbow diet. Extra virgin oil and oils derived from seeds and nuts are the best way to go, Hobbins says. Oh — and exercise helps immensely with inflammation, too.
3. Don’t lose a lot of weight, rapidly.
This means both accidental weight loss — caused by illness or medications — or weight loss through restrictive dieting. It’s important to maintain your muscle tone, Hobbins stresses.
Having a little bit of extra fat on the body can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, Salge Blake says, but of course, you don’t want to have the extra weight if it’s contributing to chronic diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes.
If you do have a few extra pounds you need to lose, the best way to do it is through exercise combined with a healthy, nutritious diet — not just extreme calorie-slashing.
4. Support gut health.
“Emerging research says a healthy gut can have a whole slew of wonderful effects on the body,” Salge Blake says. “Just having a healthy gut with a diet that is rich in probiotics, high fiber, yogurt with active cultures would help with a healthy body overall.” Salge Blake says.
Fermented foods, like kimchi and sauerkraut, are also good for your gut, along with fibrous vegetables and legumes. Hobbins says it’s best to eat these foods as close to their natural form as possible, with little processing, to receive the maximum benefits.
5. Watch your vitamins.
Some research has shown that vitamin E works well with vitamin C, so it doesn’t hurt to add vitamin C-rich foods, like citrus fruits, to your diet.