Dietary rules for people over 60 according to Spanish experts

Although awareness about healthy eating is increasing, there is still a lack of information about how we should eat in old age, which is exactly when it can play a more relevant role in our bodies. “Aging begins long before the age of 60 and continues until the end of our lives. In this process we must take into account specific nutritional criteria,” explains Glòria Arbonés, pharmacist and member of the nutrition department of the Official College of Pharmacists of Barcelona, ​​​​and the Catalan Association of Food Sciences.

The specialist, in the context of the FiraGran show, together with Assumpció Roset – Doctor of Pharmacy and former member of the Food and Nutrition Department of the Official College of Pharmacists of Barcelona – presented the Guide to Nutritional Advice for the Elderly . Both professionals emphasize that each person has individual needs and characteristics, and that nutritional approaches should be personalized. “People over 60 represent a wide range of the population, there have been significant demographic changes, and where in the past old age started at age 70, we are now reaching more than 100 years. This accentuates the heterogeneity between individuals,” Arbonés emphasizes. From this essential premise, they also offer some guidelines on nutrition for successful aging.

Fewer calories? Yes, but with attention

“During the aging process, there is a progressive slowdown in metabolism, no body growth and a decrease in cell repair. Muscle tissue is also lost and physical activity decreases. All this results in a decrease in energy requirements,” say the specialists in the guide. In this regard, it is crucial that healthcare is individualized. As Arbonés notes: “Reducing calorie intake at this stage generally involves consuming fewer carbohydrates, with simple sugars found in pastries and sweets being the first to cut back. The carbohydrates we associate with pasta are complex and therefore should not be the primary target for reduction.”

As we get older, the desire to eat sweet foods often increases. This can be attributed to a physiological factor: “changes in taste sensitivity, salty taste is lost more quickly, which is why many elderly people crave more salt. One of the flavors that is better preserved and enjoyed is sweetness. Hence the preference of some older people to increase their sweets consumption, something we should keep an eye on,” said Arbonés.

Roset points out that although energy needs decrease as we age, this does not mean we don’t need calories at all. “I like to recommend adding nuts to dishes, for example, to increase the density of the meals.”

It changes the taste sensitivity and one of the flavors that is best preserved and enjoyed is the sweet

Gloria ArbonesPharmacist and member of the Food and Nutrition chair group

Different types of sugar

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Protein: which one and how much?

To compensate for the loss of muscle mass, it is essential not to overlook the correct intake of high-quality proteins. According to the recommendations of the specialists, the intake of proteins with a high biological value should account for 50% of the total protein.

What is this high-quality protein, or high biological value? Preferably those made from milk and dairy products, chicken, fish, legumes and eggs. “They are animal proteins, but you have to be careful because many of them – such as red meat – are often associated with fats and are not recommended,” says Arbonés, who emphasizes that consuming white meat and oily fish is suitable (associated with healthy fats and omega-3), and legumes at least three times a week, as they are a source of high-quality protein that is also linked to fiber and iron.

Egg white has a high content of an amino acid that promotes muscle protein synthesis

Gloria ArbonesPharmacist and member of the Food and Nutrition chair group

Regarding eggs, one of the foods that have caused controversy for years, Arbonés emphasizes that “their proteins are very healthy and are contained in the egg white, while the cholesterol associated with eggs is concentrated in the yolk.” In addition, according to the pharmaceutical specialist in the field of nutrition, the protein has a high content of an amino acid that promotes muscle protein synthesis. “I recommend limiting the consumption of egg yolks to three per week, but not limiting egg whites, which can be found on the market in freeze-dried form and can be easily incorporated into purees and soups.”

Calcium, essential for bones

As we age, we need more calcium to prevent bone demineralization and reduce the risk of fractures, the guide explains. Milk and dairy products are therefore healthy foods in the diet from the age of 60. Lean? We often wonder if we want to avoid fats. “If you skim the dairy, the problem is that you remove the vitamin D,” says Arbonés, who adds that “in our country we have an essential source of vitamin D that we don’t know how to benefit from in old age to fetch. that is the sun.”

While it is true that high-quality sunscreen restricts the passage of vitamin D, just like window glass – because it blocks the passage of ultraviolet rays – we should take advantage of short moments in our daily routine, such as when we go outside on the balcony. to hang out the laundry, or go out to do some shopping or activities… Let’s make sure, through daily habits, that we spend about 10 minutes in the sun every day.

Iron, more than meat

In the advanced stages of aging, vulnerability increases, sometimes associated with a decrease in iron in the body. “It is believed that iron intake comes from meat-containing foods, and that is true, but there are also other foods such as legumes or shellfish that contain it. Although plant iron by itself is not absorbed as efficiently as animal iron, it can be absorbed as effectively as the latter if taken together in the same meal with foods rich in vitamin C,” advises Arbonés. Some examples include eating legumes and a tomato salad at the same meal, or a plate of spinach followed by an orange for dessert.

The water, source of a long life

A recent study published in The Lancet showed in mice that lifelong water restriction shortens lifespan and promotes degenerative changes. The hypothesis being investigated is that optimal hydration can slow down the aging process in humans.

“If there is a lack of hydration, there is a greater risk of shortening lifespan,” Arbonés explains. “I firmly believe in water, fruit and vegetables. Hydration helps better with aging, the entire body functions better. Older adults should drink very often,” says Roset. There must be a balance between the water we drink and the water we expel (through urine, sweat, breath…). In old age there is a tendency to dehydration, a situation that is completely unfavorable for the body. The recommendation is the same as for the adult population, to consume between one and a half and two liters of water per day, including the water content in foods such as soups, drinks…”

Hydration helps you age better

Assumpcio RosetPhD in Pharmacy and former member of the Food and Nutrition Committee of the Official College of Pharmacists of Barcelona

From the age of 60 it is important to take into account that the feeling of thirst decreases, but that you still need to drink water. Some people may drink less because of the discomfort of urgency and urinary incontinence. “This can be remedied by certain physical exercises and the habit of going to the toilet as a rule every two or three hours.”

How often to eat

In their guide, Arbonés and Roset recommend eating between four and five meals a day. “It is advisable to avoid long periods without eating, as hypoglycemia, weakness and disorientation may occur,” they say in their publication. According to Roset, “Having five meals a day helps distribute nutrients and aid digestion. Just fruit for dinner? No, in the evening you should eat food similar to that at lunch, because protein is needed. Older people are often at risk of malnutrition,” he says.

According to the latest research recommending time-restricted eating periods of eight to sixteen hours to promote proper cellular autophagy, Roset believes these are specific studies on aging, but not applicable to older individuals.

Ayuno intermittent.

According to Arbonés and Roset, we should eat four to five times a day as we get older

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In addition to what to eat and at what time, the two healthcare professionals also emphasize the importance of eating together. “Meals are an opportunity for conviviality and communication, and we should try to promote this at all ages, especially among the elderly, taking into account their capabilities,” they say. That is why they advocate round tables in residential centers and group meals where guests can communicate better with each other, avoiding the isolation of rectangular tables. “Round tables are for conviviality; Just as eating alone reduces appetite, it bores people and affects their mood,” Roset explains.

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