Poor food choices can drain energy and damage bones and joints. But fortifying your body with the right foods can help you feel better. Nutrient-rich foods are smart choices at any age, but even more important as we get older.
“Unfortunately, as we age, our appetites and protein intakes often drop, and we tend to lose bone and muscle,” explains registered dietitian Dana Hunnes, RD, PhD, UCLA Medical Center. “Making sure we get adequate nutrients is critical, and breakfast is a great place to add calcium, vitamin D and protein (plant-based or animal) into our diets.”
Calcium and Vitamin D for Strong Bones
When we don’t get enough of needed calcium, the body will pull the calcium from bones and teeth. Osteoporosis, and its precursor osteopenia, affect both women and men. Though these diseases afflict women more often, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about one in four men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Calcium helps keep bones healthy, but vitamin D is needed to help absorb the vital mineral.
It’s easy to include these nutrients in your breakfast meals by using simple, fresh ingredients. Whip up an omelet with cheese, spinach and mushrooms, or have a bagel and lox smeared with cream cheese. As for beverages, many are fortified with vitamin D and calcium, such as orange juice, almond and rice milks. What about regular milk?
“The jury is still out on whether or not cow’s milk is actually beneficial to bone health,” says Hunnes, “Some literature indicates that high milk intake neither prevents nor reduces risk of fractures in seniors.”
Simple and Nutritious
It is always better to get nutrients from foods versus supplements, according to registered dietitian Dana Hunnes. Here are three of her top breakfast tips for strong bones.
➊Try scrambled tofu: It’s very high in protein and calcium and is a healthy no-cholesterol plant-based source of protein.
➋For lactose intolerant and/or plant-based preferences: Enjoy soy milk and almond milk. Both are high in calcium and vitamin D.
➌Say yes to vegetables: Get more calcium into your breakfast through leafy greens in your scrambled eggs or tofu, or in a homemade green smoothie.
Pack in the Protein
Protein synthesis is the process by which the body builds muscle from protein. According to recent studies, aging reduces the body’s ability to synthesize protein. That, along with hormone changes and less exercise for some older adults, can lead to age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia. Food choices can make a difference.
A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism found that those who ate double the recommended daily amount of protein (1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight) improved their muscle protein synthesis. The current RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. There are many good breakfast choices that are high in protein, including eggs, cheese, meats and yogurt. Scramble two eggs with some shredded white chicken and cheese, or fortify a smoothie with protein (i.e., chia seeds, or pea or soy powders) for a quick breakfast on the go.
Avoid Pro-inflammatory Foods
Inflammation is an enemy of joints, bringing on swelling and pain. What you choose to eat and not eat can make a difference. Limit, or better yet, eliminate foods that cause inflammation, such as refined carbohydrates (white bread and pastries), fried foods, processed meats (hot dogs, sausage) and margarine. Replace them with fresh fruits, fatty fish, leafy greens and tomatoes. Fresh vegetable juices are inexpensive to make at home. You don’t even need a juicer; you can simply use a blender. For example, whip up a refreshing super green breakfast drink with two cups of water, two cups of baby spinach, a peeled cucumber, and a half a cup of tomato juice. Enjoy that with a couple of hard-boiled eggs, or smoked salmon and toast. That’s a refreshing breakfast filled with energizing nutrients to fortify your whole body.
Fill Your Kitchen With Nutrition
Sometimes the most challenging aspect of eating well is having all the right ingredients at hand, and knowing how to put them together quickly. Look for recipes that require just a few ingredients. Stock your kitchen with your favorite nutritious foods, and you’ll find it much easier to eat well every day. Also, have some items at-the-ready (e.g., pre-chopped veggies, hardboiled eggs, shredded chicken).This makes preparing any meal faster and easier.
For more on grocery shopping tips, go the National Institute on Aging website (www.nia.gov) and type “shopping for food that’s good for you” in the search box located at the upper right side of the screen.
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