When you hear the word “diet,” restriction and deprivation may immediately come to mind. Your body may tense up just thinking about having to cut out your favorite foods and follow a strict meal plan. But if you stop and put away all pre-conceived notions, then you’ll see that the true definition of diet is simply “food and drink regularly provided and consumed.” Over the past several decades, a diet has received a bad reputation as something that can do you harm. But what really does a person harm are fad diets. It’s important to understand diets and how you can enjoy overall nutrition without feeling deprived.
Diets come in many shapes and forms. There are so many diets out there, that it can be hard to figure out which are reliable and which are not. However, there are some red flags to look out for to help you identify fad diets, or diets that are trendy, but not necessarily healthy.
If the diet says to cut out all carbs or all whole grains, then run quickly in the other direction. This is because your body needs some of each of the major macronutrients, carbohydrates, fat and protein to function properly. For example, carbohydrate-containing foods provide fiber to your diet to support gut health. Not to mention that sugar and starch-containing foods provide the brain, central nervous system and red blood cells with their main energy source.
If a diet tells you that you will lose 20 pounds in 30 days, no questions asked, then it’s a sign of a fad diet. This is because everyone’s body works differently as far as metabolism of nutrients and just because a certain calorie deficit is created with the regimen, it doesn’t mean that people with certain hormone imbalances will lose any weight at all on this regimen. Therefore, ignore any diets with such specific claims.
A big red flag that you’re looking at a fad diet is if the website for the diet sells specific products like supplements or food products that you must purchase to follow the diet properly. If you read between the lines of such diets, they are basically telling you that the diet itself is not helping you lose weight, but that the calorie-restricted meals and/or appetite-suppressing supplements are making you eat less, which is in turn helping you lose weight.
The thing to remember with such programs is that the weight loss is temporary unless you continue to deprive yourself of essential nutrients that such programs don’t typically provide. And once you stop such programs, and start to eat “normally” again, then you will likely gain the weight back.
If a diet program tells you that fruits and/or vegetables are “bad,” then you’re most definitely dealing with a fad diet. Fresh produce is vital to a healthy diet and overall optimal health. Research shows that fruits and vegetables contain a ton of nutrients including fiber, potassium, magnesium and vitamins A and C, for example. Vitamins A and C are examples of antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables that help reduce inflammation in the body and in turn help lower your risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The eating routine that will help you be your healthiest is the one that considers your current health status and health needs as well as your lifestyle and preferences. For example, someone with diabetes will have slightly different nutrient needs than someone with digestive health issues.
Also, it’s important to realize that older adults have different nutrient needs than other adults. Nutrition experts report that older adults should consume enough of the following nutrients in their diet for optimal health:
Older adults are at higher risk than others for bone weakening, also known as osteoporosis, since adults reach their peak bone mass at age 30. After this, at around the age of 40, a person starts losing bone mass. You can preserve bone mass by regular exercise, especially with resistance and strength training at least twice a week, as well as with proper diet. Make sure to consume at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily through either supplements or calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, leafy green vegetables like spinach or broccoli, as well as fortified cereals, fruit juices or plant-based milks.
You also need to consume enough vitamin D each day to help the body best absorb calcium. You can obtain vitamin D through a daily supplement, eating eggs or fatty fish like salmon or trout several times a week, or by going outside regularly to soak up vitamin D from the sun. Have your doctor check your vitamin D levels at your annual doctor’s visit since this is not typically a part of the standard annual lab check.
Research shows that vitamin B12 deficiency in older adults can make them more prone to brain health issues such as cognitive function and memory issues. Therefore, be sure to have your vitamin B12 levels checked each year and eat plenty of vitamin B12-rich foods each week such as fortified cereals as well as lean animal proteins from beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish, eggs, and seafood.
Along with limiting sodium in the diet from processed foods like salty snacks, canned soups and deli meats, older adults should consume enough potassium to support heart health. Potassium-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, beans and dairy products.
As mentioned before, eating enough fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats, for example, help bulk the stool and support overall gut health. Without fiber, older adults are more prone to constipation, which can in turn can lead to conditions like stress urinary incontinence, hemorrhoids or diverticulitis, over time. Not to mention that constipation can cause abdominal pain and bloating that can make a person not feel like eating, which over time could lead to malnutrition.
Planning your daily meals and snacks can be overwhelming and you may be stuck in a routine based on your financial situation, an inability to cook, etc. However, nutrition is crucial for overall health and to improve your quality of life well into your golden years.
If you’re not sure how to plan your diet to meet your specific needs, then it can help to call your insurance company and see if you’re covered to meet with a dietitian who can help you start planning your most beneficial eating plan. Your insurance company can also tell you about nutrition and wellness resources you may be eligible for that can help you eat better every day.
Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.