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Change your diet as you age to stay fitter and happier

The ‘how’ we live is just as important as the ‘how long’. It’s about being preventive rather than reactionary

There is a spike in nutrient deficiencies as you age, which may result from medication or eating fewer fruits and vegetables due to decreased hunger
There is a spike in nutrient deficiencies as you age, which may result from medication or eating fewer fruits and vegetables due to decreased hunger (iStock)

We live in a remarkable time in human history, when our population is getting older and living longer thanks to modern medicine. But, because we have excellent diagnostic medical equipment, knowledge, and interventions that can help identify and treat age-related illnesses, we tend to be reactionary rather than preventive. Yet, when it comes to ageing, the “how” we live is just as important as the “how long.”

We often see ageing as something that happens to us rather than something we can participate in. We can address our diets, fitness, and hydration to ensure we are working with our aging process rather than against it. If you’re reading this and are below 50, every habit you put in place now is a vote in favour of feeling your best for the rest of your life. If you’re over 50, these simple changes to your diet and lifestyle will help you make the best decisions to improve your vitality today.

Also read: We need to talk about the mental health of seniors

Nutrition and deficiencies

As we age, our appetite and food consumption will naturally decline. However, simply because your energy needs decrease doesn’t mean your nutrition needs do—quite the opposite happens. There is a remarkable spike in nutrient deficiencies as you age, and these nutritional deficiencies can impact your health. These deficiencies may result from medication use or eating less variety of fruits and vegetables due to decreased hunger.

One way to cover looming nutritional deficiencies is to minimize reliance on convenient foods and opt for having more fresh fruit and vegetable in your diet. Focussing on your diet may seem difficult because making new choices can become a chore as we get older. You can make this a fun challenge by trying each day to eat the colours of the rainbow—veggies and fruits of different colours contain a different micronutrient mix. If you find this a struggle, consult your doctor about including a multivitamin in your diet.


As we age, our thirst detection decreases. Dehydration is no laughing matter; the National Council on Ageing says to watch out for signs that you may be dehydrated: urinating less frequently and the urine being a darker colour, feeling tired or weak, irritability, dizzy, headache, muscle cramps, dry mouth, or confusion.

Consuming adequate fluids will help lubricate your aching joints, regulate your body temperature, and keep blood moving around your body. The recommendation is approximately 2-3L of water per day; however, if that feels like challenging, you can choose foods rich in water, such as watermelon, cucumber, or soups.

Gut Health

As we age, our gut microbes change with age. Interestingly, although no two people share the same gut microbe makeup, they tend to follow a predictable ageing pattern where the ratios of certain gut bacteria diminish while others flourish. One of the predominant changes is that anti-inflammatory microbes tend to decrease. Researchers have found that older adults with a more diverse selection of microbes tended to be more fit and healthy (and live longer) than their peers. Conversely, studies indicate that a less diverse microbiota has been linked to Chron’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and colorectal cancer. You can quickly improve your gut microbes diversity by eating food that makes your gut bacteria thrive, such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, yogurt/curd, and other fermented food products like kimchi and sauerkraut.


Chronic inflammation is a significant hallmark of aging and can harm our tissues. Some examples include rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, which have inflammation at the core. High levels of inflammation are also associated with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease—all good reasons to get your inflammation under control.

Chronic inflammation has two sides—the side you can’t control is the natural ageing process and the down-regulation of your sex hormones. The side you can control: having an unbalanced diet that heavily focuses on processed and junk foods (which are high in Omega 6, a pro-inflammatory fatty acid), smoking, and having a great deal of visceral fat tissue.

Minimize lifestyle habits that increase inflammation, such as smoking, poor sleep, and being sedentary. Reduce the intake omega-6 and rebalance it by eating more foods containing Omega 3 fatty acids, such as nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, fish, and fish oil supplements.


No one wants to think about being older and frail. Luckily, there are two things we can do to reduce the risk of frailty as we age. The first is strength training. As we age, we lose muscle mass, and that muscle helps keeps our musculoskeletal system strong and functioning. The more we train, the more it strengthens ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue and encourages the remodeling of our bones to make them stronger.

The second thing we can do is support our muscle growth by consuming enough protein. According to Protein Intake and Muscle Health in Old Age: From Biological Plausibility to Clinical Evidence,” 1.0-1.2g/kg/day of protein intake is recommended for those who are aging, and for those with chronic diseases – that increases to 1.2-1.5g/kg/day. In practical terms, I coach my clients to eat a portion of protein (non-vegetarian, dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes, etc.) at every meal.

Jen Thomas is a certified Women’s Master Health Coach

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