What we eat plays a big role in our well being throughout our entire lives, and also impacts how we age. New medical studies show evidence of the benefits of consuming foods that are high in protein. This newest research indicates that protein may help offset the loss of muscle mass, strength and bone density that is a byproduct of the aging process. Here’s a closer look at why protein is particularly important for seniors.
Maintain Muscle Mass
It’s common to lose some muscle mass with age, but too much of a loss can result in issues with balance and coordination and may lead to more frequent injuries. Research has shown that an increased consumption of protein coupled with physical activity can help older adults maintain and even regain important muscle mass.
Heal More Quickly
Protein aids the body in the repair of damaged tissues, and consuming more protein can speed the repair from injuries like muscle strains or tears. Protein also helps carry oxygen throughout the body and is instrumental in building hormones, chemicals and enzymes. In this way, protein can actually provide the immune system with a boost and help the body fight illnesses.
Maintain Strong Bones
Conditions like osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and broken bones often result from the loss of bone cells or the loss of bone tissues such as cartilage. Several studies have pointed to the positive effect of increased protein consumption on bone mineral density or content.
Reduce High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a condition that affects millions of people around the world, and it can be especially prominent in older adults. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and even stroke or heart attack. In addition to prescribing exercise and other lifestyle changes such as reducing sodium intake, many doctors recommend an increase in protein. Recent studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of increased protein intake on lowering systolic blood pressure.
New studies show that an increased intake of protein can help battle the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes. Eating more protein can help those with diabetes feel fuller, and as a result they may be less tempted to consume off-limits high-carbohydrate foods. Protein also takes the body longer to process, so diabetics can avoid the blood sugar swings that come with consuming high-sugar foods.
Find Good Protein Sources
The most recent evidence suggests that the older USDA guidelines for protein consumption are not adequate for optimal health as they do not take into account changing needs based on age, gender, activity level or illness. New recommendations for older adults call for 0.54-0.68 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So, for a 150-pound person, this would translate to 82-102 grams of protein per day.
Protein can come from a surprising variety of sources. Here are some delicious options for lean proteins that are lower in fat:
- Chicken and turkey
- Beans and legumes
- Low-fat dairy
- Lean beef
- Nuts such as peanuts and almonds
- Cottage Cheese
At Lighthouse Senior Living, we know that a healthy and balanced diet directly contributes to the quality of life and overall well-being. Our professional chefs coordinate closely with our residents to meet their unique dietary needs and prepare delicious meals. Schedule a tour today to learn more.