Growing older can come with numerous challenges that we did not have to think about as young people. Joints ache, muscles seize up at inopportune times, our minds seem less able to hold on to pertinent information. Added to this some of the systems in our bodies can become sluggish and have trouble accomplishing things that once came easily, such as nutrient absorption. This is prevalent in all aging individuals, but especially those who follow a plant-based diet or those over 70. Generally speaking, appetite grows less as we age, so it can become a recipe for disaster if we’re not careful.
Protein is used by our bodies in a number of ways. It helps us to build and maintain muscle mass. Structurally, it is important in muscles, bones & tendons. It helps with the collagen in your skin. It helps different enzymes be able to react chemically in our bodies to perform specific tasks that are important. It helps to regulate the clotting of the blood & the amount of water that is retained in the body’s arteries and veins. It can help to regulate your blood sugars so that you don’t have intense drops that make you shaky or mentally foggy. It helps in so many ways, really, that it would take months to write about it all. As we age, however, our body’s ability to pull the protein out of food becomes a bit more difficult, so it’s important to have protein at each meal. You do not need loads in order to reap the benefits, just go with the recommended amounts. It’s also extremely important to be sure you have proper gut health before you begin. If you lack proper microbial gut health from good bacteria, you could end up not benefitting at all from the adequate amounts of protein.
Some of the best sources of protein for aging adults are found in lean animal meats. Things like: poultry (chicken, turkey, grouse, pheasant), fish, lean beef cuts, and others are easy to source and delicious. Milk, eggs and other dairy products are another source of quick and easy protein. There are also several proteins that can be derived from plants if you’re averse to eating animal products. Legumes such as peas & beans are great sources of protein, but you may need to do research to see if you need to add something else to your diet in order to make it a “complete” protein. It is usually recommended that if you eat a plant-based diet, you should have beans and corn together to make it complete. Nuts and seeds can also be excellent sources of protein. Check online to find their protein percentages and work out a schedule based on those percentages to see how often, and at what times of day you’d like to incorporate each type of protein into your diet.
Often it is not a lack of willingness on our part, but rather a lack of understanding how to start. Begin by researching recommended protein amounts for your body weight. Next, take into consideration the times that you eat and what your standard routine is around meal times. You will, for instance, not want to have heavier proteins later at night or you may not be able to sleep with all of the digesting that is taking place! Make a menu plan or a rotational schedule that you can easily follow to be sure you know which things to buy. Finally, eat them even if you do not have a strong appetite! If your appetite is iffy, perhaps try an excellent probiotic for the first few months. You’ll probably notice a dramatic increase in appetite if your gut bacteria is adequate. After you’ve started your new diet, keep records. Record what you’ve eaten and your energy levels, feelings of anxiety and also muscle strength and mental clarity. Many people report all of these things improving dramatically after increasing their protein by even slight amounts. Be sure to take some time today to evaluate whether increased protein could help you!