As we age, physical changes to our bodies occur which can affect the way we think and feel about food. These changes can prevent us from having access to a healthy diet and can also make us believe we are less hungry, resulting in us eating less and stop us from ageing well as we get older.
Dispelling top 10 myths about ageing and eating a healthy diet
- Your stomach reduces as you get older
A common misconception about ageing is that your stomach gets smaller, and as a result, you need to eat less. Although appetite and capacity to eat may change, stomach size does not shrink.
- You need to eat less when you get older
People often wrongly believe that as energy requirements reduce, we need to reduce our food intake. This isn’t the case. Our metabolism may slow down when we age but eating good food is what protects and fuels our bodies, and is key to ageing well.
- Weight loss is healthy
Throughout life we might believe that losing weight is healthy but this is not the case when we get older. Instead, dieting and unintentional weight loss should be avoided in later years unless advised by a GP or dietician.
- You should only eat when you feel like it
The ageing process can affect the usual triggers that tell us if we are hungry or full. A loss of appetite is not normal and could be a symptom of an underlying health problem.
- You need a low-fat diet
Contrary to popular opinion, a low-fat diet is not always the best approach, especially for older people. Some fats are important as a source of calories and some older people may need to eat more to maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat more vegetables
Nutrient-rich vegetables are essential in any diet, but should be eaten as part of a balanced diet including protein, carbohydrates and fluids. Protein is more important as we age as it protects our muscles, immune system, body organs and brain.
- You only need to drink water when you’re thirsty
If you feel thirsty, chances are it is your body telling you that you are low on hydration. Dehydration can cause confusion and hampers normal kidney function.
- Meal supplements are sufficient
Our bodies cannot live off meal supplements and vitamins alone. Some supplements can interact with medication and some just don’t work the way they claim to. Meal supplements also cut out the opportunity to enjoy food with other people, family and friends.
- You must always eat 3 square meals a day
Making sure you eat regularly is essential to remaining healthy and well but eating three satisfying meals a day can be a struggle if your appetite is affected. If three good sized meals are too much of a challenge, by eating five of six smaller meals or well-proportioned snacks.
- Malnutrition is a symptom of getting older
Malnutrition can affect anyone at any age and is not a normal aspect of the ageing process. Malnutrition can occur in bodies of any size, large or small, but older people are particularly at risk. Don’t dismiss the warning signs of malnutrition as being par for the course.