The World Health Organization declared the decade from 2021 to 2030 as the “Decade of Healthy Aging” to encourage governments, international organizations, universities, professionals, the media, companies and society as a whole to collaborate to improve the quality of life of the elderly.
The worldwide interest in the elderly is not accidental, since currently more than one billion people are 60 years of age or older. Spain is also an aging country: 19.77% of its population is 65 years of age or older , according to the National Institute of Statistics. For that reason, putting active and healthy aging programs in place is more important than ever.
Active ageing, WHO definition
The WHO defines active aging as “ the process of promoting and maintaining functional capacity that facilitates well-being in old age . Functional capacity consists of having the attributes that allow all people to be and do what is important to them ”.
This definition of active aging no longer necessarily implies the total absence of disease, but rather focuses more on the preservation of functional capacities to lead an active, meaningful and independent lifestyle. Therefore, active aging becomes a process that extends throughout life, focused on maintaining and improving physical and mental health . One of its fundamental pillars is food.
How does diet influence active ageing?
The Spanish Society of Geriatrics recognizes that the act of eating is usually an important source of satisfaction and psycho-affective well-being in older adults , but it can also become an obstacle to active and healthy ageing. In fact, it warns that the current diet is rich in sugars with empty calories, saturated fats and animal proteins, with little fiber and too much salt, which increases the risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, as well as some types Of cancer.
On the other hand, a varied and balanced diet should provide the necessary energy so that older people can lead an active lifestyle that allows them to preserve their functions , while reducing the incidence of chronic diseases and guaranteeing them the adequate nutrients to take care of themselves. your health.
The diet in this population is closely linked to the gastronomic heritage, a very important factor when planning a healthy and balanced diet for them, because they are known preparations, whose flavors and aromas are recognized by them, a condition that facilitates their intake. and enjoy. In this sense, the Mediterranean diet and the consumption of extra virgin olive oil are two great dietary resources that contribute to providing flavor and health at this stage of life.
Food that promotes active and healthy aging
During aging, the body undergoes a series of more or less significant transformations in the digestion, absorption and metabolism of some nutrients . There are also changes in body composition and the cell repair process, which changes the nutritional needs of older people.
For this reason, older people should reduce empty calories in their diet and prioritize the consumption of proteins of high biological value that provide them with essential amino acids for the body. However, a protein intake of 1-1.25 g/kg is recommended. of weight and day, being preferable that 50% of them are of vegetable origin.
The diet aimed at promoting active aging should also include foods rich in calcium, iron and other essential minerals that contribute to the proper functioning of the body. In addition, it is important for older people to eat at least 20-35 grams of fiber per day to regulate blood glucose, control cholesterol and fats, and prevent constipation.
As a general rule, it is recommended to have at least four meals a day, consuming smaller amounts of food in each one , but always trying to make dinners less copious.
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