What is a Healthy Diet for Weight Loss & Anti Aging?
Learn how your diet at 40 & diet at 50 can lead to a healthy & longer life
As the gang at Healthy Midlife entered the over 40 years we noticed that our tried and true diet plans weren't working as well. Shifting gears to the latest diet fads (high protein and less carbs, Grapefruit Diet, Cabbage Soup Diet, etc.) helped us lose weight quickly. But it would find us again no matter where we tried to hide.
Being desperate to lose weight and avoid the seemingly unfair aging effects on our midlife bodies can make all of us susceptible to the latest highly marketed diet plan. What we generally get is short-term fast weight loss benefits but no long term healthy solutions. We know this first hand, unfortunately.
Overtime, we've learned the right solution is a healthy eating program that's focused on improving health as we age and the quality of foods we eat. In such a program, weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight becomes a natural outcome of an overall middle age nutritional lifestyle. Additionally, we're finding that a diet rich in "anti-aging" foods may be the ticket to help reduce the risks of debilitating diseases.
Before we get to healthy diet foods, let's find out what our middle age bodies are up to these days.
So, Why Do Clothes Get Snugger as We Age?
It's all about metabolism and how it slows down as we get older. A decrease in our metabolism can result from a decrease in our muscle mass. And we can place some of the blame on cavemen and cavewomen. Basically, our spreading waistlines, hips and other body areas are a result of nature's effort to protect older folks in the wild.
During our ancestral hunter gathering days, nature thought it would be a good idea to help the older folks survive on less food. After all, getting up early in the morning to slay beasts was pretty hard when accompanied by age old aches and pains. A slower metabolism allows the body to be more efficient at storing fat. Great for hunter gatherers spending days foraging for hard to find food. Not so great when a 1,500 calorie meal is easily available at the neighborhood Chili's.
After we hit our 30s, our metabolism slows down about 5% each decade. At age 35, we're burning around 100 calories less than at age 25. At 45, we're now down 200 calories from the age of 35. When we don't change our diet after 40 and after 50 to account for metabolism slow down, we can easily start gaining 10 to 12 pounds a year.
And our clothes will continue to get tighter each year without a balanced and healthy diet solution program.
Is it Diet or Aging that Causes "Age-Related" Illness?
Studies continue to show that we can live a longer and healthier life if we focus on nutrition. Just because we find ourselves in that midlife zone doesn't mean a stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes or osteoporosis is inevitable. A diet rich in "fit" anti-aging foods may be just the ticket to help us reduce our risk for these debilitating diseases.
Being overweight puts additional stress on our heart, joints and even your blood vessels. Stress can speed up the aging process. By just eating the right foods and cutting a few hundred calories a day from our diet, we can increase our chance to live a longer and more enjoyable life.
Our diet needs to improve as we age and since our metabolism gradually starts to slow down, calorie intake needs to decrease as well.
So, what foods are "fit" anti-aging and weight loss foods?
Well, Bradley Willcox, MD, MPH, co-author of The Okinawa Diet Plan says they are "foods naturally lower in calories and packed with nutrients." Experts believe that foods rich in antioxidant properties like vegetables, legumes and whole grains can slow the aging process.
Start focusing on the following "fit" foods:
Nuts are a cholesterol-free protein source and high in vitamin E. As we age, we lose lean muscle and need to increase our protein intake. Nuts are a great way to get the extra protein safely into your diet.
Recommended Nuts: almonds, walnuts and pecans
Produce is chock full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Studies show that people who take in 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day have higher levels of antioxidants in their bloodstream, which most likely translates to better aging.
Recommended fruits: all berries, apples and cherries.
Recommended vegetables: spinach, broccoli, artichokes, avocado, sweet potato, onions, and all types of greens (dark green and colorful is key).
Legumes are full of fiber and are complex carbohydrate. They help stabilize blood glucose and insulin levels, and they are a great source of cholesterol-free protein. Legumes are also full of antioxidants.
Recommended Legumes: black beans, soy beans, edamame, tofu, chick peas
Whole grains remain in a more natural state and are full of fiber, vitamins B and E and are again packed full of antioxidants.
Recommended Whole Grains: wild rice, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, whole grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, Quinoa, whole grain cereals
Dairy foods supply protein and calcium that strengthen bones and muscle. Dairy also helps to boost the immune system.
Recommended Low-Fat Dairy: Fat free milk fortified with vitamin D, low fat Greek yogurt, low fat cheese
The American Heart Association states that fish supply the body with much needed omega-3 fats which help to reduce the plaque build-up in your arteries, help lower blood pressure and decrease triglyceride levels. Fish is high in protein and low in saturated fats.
Recommended Fish: Salmon, canned tuna packed in water, sardines
Olive oil is the best oil to use in cooking. While it's considered high in fat, it's the healthy dietary fat according to Mayo Clinic. Extra virgin olive oil also has good levels of oleocanthal, a compound that works like an anti-inflammatory. All oils should be used in moderation.
Recommended Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil
How Many Calories Do We Need When We're Over 40 and Over 50?
If we eat the right foods, like those listed above and consume the proper amount of calories in our diet, we can increase our chance to live a longer and more enjoyable life. Below are estimated amounts of calories for middle age people as recommended by the USDA:
Calories for Women over 40 (between 31 and 50)
- Sedentary activity level: 1,800 calories per day
- Moderately activity level: 2,000 calories per day
- Physically Active: 2,200 calories per day
Calories for Women over 50
- Sedentary activity level: 1,600 calories per day
- Moderately activity level: 1,800 calories per day
- Physically Active: 2,000 - 2,200 calories per day
Calories for Men over 40 (between 31 and 50)
- Sedentary activity level: 2,200 calories per day
- Moderately activity level: 2,400 - 2,600 calories per day
- Physically Active: 2,800 - 3,000 calories per day
Calories for Men over 50
- Sedentary activity level: 2,000 calories per day
- Moderately activity level: 2,200 - 2,400 calories per day
- Physically Active: 2,400 - 2,800 calories per day
Eating Right Shouldn't Be a Struggle at Midlife
With some self discipline, we can shift into eating a healthy and balanced diet. The benefits are immeasurable. Reducing our weight to a healthy level will reduce many of the health concerns we could experience in our middle age. Eating the right balance of healthy foods help us minimize the health concerns of aging.
Sometimes, self discipline is not enough. Especially if we're trying to overcome a lifetime of bad dietary habits. In those cases, it's prudent to seek help to guide our nutrition choices and give ourselves a fresh start to a healthy midlife.