Eating well beyond your 60s

Most people, including many health professionals, are unaware that following health and nutrition advice appropriate for someone of 30 or 40 can be harmful to those aged 65 and over.
Health and independence to the very end of our days is certainly achievable. But that takes an understanding of how unique our nutrition needs are in our later years.
The distinction lies largely with body muscle.
You see, muscles do much more than move you around – they also form an essential protein reserve: vital to an effective immune system that combats illness from a sniffle to a life threateing post surgical infection; that keeps every body organ functioning; that supports the healing of wounds from cuts and scratches to the trauma of a major accident; that helps keep diabetes under control and provides critical backup brain fuel supplies.
Your body’s ability to keep all those systems going so you get to keep doing the things you want to do, depends on how well you maintain your muscle reserve.
Muscle needs three main things to keep your body and brain going and to help you fight off illness and infection:
  • You must keep using them so they keep being reminded they’re needed,
  • you must eat protein and
  • you must not lose weight by dieting.
The first is pretty obvious – use it or lose it. You know that one!
Eat protein – it has to be at every meal.
I suggest putting a protein food at the centre of your meals and surrounding that with as many different food colours as you can.
Protein to supports muscles, colours to supply protective antioxidants.
And what about the ‘don’t lose weight’ bit?
That’s because weight loss by dieting, or any loss that doesn’t also involve very good resistance exercise, will cause loss of body muscle.
It’s not a problem for someone of 30 or 40, but it is at 70.
Because that might just mean you don’t have the resources to fight off next season’s flu or recover from an accident and that can trigger ongoing health decline that you absolutely want to avoid.
- Ngaire Hobbins, APD
Ngaire is a dietitian and author of three books on nutrition, ageing and brain health.  
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