Many of my friends who are going through menopause describe this time as a chance to rethink their lives. Some are rethinking their professional lives. Others are thinking about what they want to do in retirement. However, there’s another area that we all should take stock of at this time – our lifestyle. Take, for instance, our diet. A new study out of Australia suggests that the quality of what we eat can make a big difference in how we function as we age.
This study involved 1,305 participants who were over the age of 55 and who were participants in a large study. They complete a 26-item survey that looked at lifestyle and well-being periodically from 1992 to 1994. The researchers then scored each participant’s diet using the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Higher scores on this guide indicated a healthier diet. The top quartile of participants had scores that were higher than 11.1 while the lowest quartile of participants scored at 8.1 and below.
The researchers also looked at the participants’ physical health, mental health, functioning and vitality at both the five-year and 10-year mark after the study started. The functional status included the basic activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, grooming one’s self and walking, as well as instrumental activities of daily living, such as shopping, handling money, using a telephone, travelling beyond walking distance and housework.
Their analysis found that participants who had the highest scores for diet also had a better quality of life. The healthiest eaters scored approximately six points higher in physical functioning, five points higher in vitality and four points higher in general health. Interestingly, a healthy diet was not found to be linked to higher scores on mental health or social functioning.
The researchers also found that participants who had the healthiest diets were 50 percent less likely to be impaired in instrumental activities. However, there was no association between a healthy diet and performing basic activities of daily living.
While this research doesn’t prove that a healthy diet alone will help you live a functional life for a longer period of time, it does suggest that diet is an important part of a lifestyle that can help you do so. That’s why it’s important to really assess your diet as you move through the menopausal transition in order to make sure you’re getting the best nutritional value for your buck.
So what does a healthy diet look like for us? The National Institute on Aging recommends making sure that your choices are low in fat, high in fiber and include lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. You also need to make sure you get all of the vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D and calcium.
Want more specific recommendations? Here goes:
- Base how much you eat on your activity level. For instance, a woman over the age of 50 who is not physically active should eat about 1,600 calories daily. In comparison, a moderately active woman needs about 1,800 calories daily while a woman who leads an active lifestyle should eat between 2,000-2,200 calories each day.
- Eat a variety of colors and types of vegetables and fruits. The amount of fruit should be between 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 cups daily. Vegetables should be between 2 and 3-1/2 cups daily.
- Make sure that at least 50 percent of the grains you eat are whole grains. The amount of grains you should eat is between 5-10 ounces.
- Eat between 5-7 ounces of protein.
- Consume dairy foods, such as fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt or cheese.
- Consume 5-8 teaspoons of oils, such as olive oil, oils made from nuts and avocado.
- Limit the saturated fat (found mostly in foods from animals), trans fats (found in margarine and store-bought baked goods) and sugars.
- Eat seafood twice a week.
- Avoid foods that are considered “empty calories”. These foods, which aren’t nutritious but are calorie laden, include chips, cookies, soda and alcohol.
- Choose the most nutritious food you can eat. “Think about this: a medium banana, 1 cup of flaked cereal, 1-1/2 cups of cooked spinach, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or 1 cup of 1-percent milk all have roughly the same number of calories,” the NIA website states. “But, the foods are different in many ways. Some have more of the nutrients you might need than others do.”
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
Gopinath, B. (2013). Adherence to dietary guidelines positive affects quality of life and functional status of older adults. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Jegtvig, S. (2013). Better diet tied to higher quality of life in old age. MedlinePlus.
National Institute on Aging. (2013). Healthy eating after 50.
Published On: November 22, 2013