Thinking about nutrition as we get older

Key points

  • Balanced, varied diet: Ensure a diet rich in quality, variety, and color, including protein, calcium, and fiber, to maintain overall health and prevent age-related diseases.
  • Regular exercise: Engage in both cardio and resistance-based exercises to maintain muscle mass, mental wellbeing, and overall health.
  • Protein sources: Incorporate a range of protein-rich foods, such as meat, legumes, and dairy, to support muscle maintenance.
  • Calcium and vitamin D: Obtain adequate calcium from dairy or fortified alternatives and ensure sufficient vitamin D intake, particularly for those over 70, to maintain bone health.
  • Meal timing: Eat regular meals throughout the day, starting with a nutrient-dense breakfast, to support digestion and overall health.
  • Consider supplements: Some individuals may benefit from supplements such as omega-3 or additional vitamin D, depending on their personal circumstances and dietary intake.


In this conversation, the importance of a balanced and varied diet is discussed in relation to maintaining health, particularly for older adults. Sharon Madigan, Ph.D., head of performance nutrition for Sports Ireland Institute, highlights how diet plays a significant role in preventing diseases that become more common as people age. She emphasizes the importance of quality, variety, and color in one's diet to ensure the necessary vitamins and minerals are obtained.

Protein is essential for maintaining muscle mass, especially as muscle begins to decrease starting from the age of 30. Resistance exercise can be helpful in maintaining muscle, as can the regular inclusion of protein-rich foods in one's diet. Sources of protein include meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, and plant-based options such as pulses, lentils, beans, and peas. Obtaining calcium and iron through a varied diet is also crucial for maintaining healthy bones and blood, especially for women after menopause and men as they age.

Exercise plays a vital role in maintaining overall health and muscle mass. Even simple activities such as chair-based exercises or using resistance bands can be beneficial for maintaining function and strength. Exercise is also important for mental health and managing stress, which can affect gut health and digestion in older adults.

With the increasing popularity of veganism and vegetarianism, it's essential to be conscious of obtaining enough protein and other nutrients from a variety of sources. Dairy alternatives like soy can be good sources of calcium and protein, as well as green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It's important to remember that some dairy alternatives, like almond or rice milk, may not provide the same nutrients as dairy and should be fortified with additional calcium when necessary.

As people age, it's crucial to maintain a balanced diet with regular meals throughout the day. Breakfast is particularly important for setting the tone for the rest of the day and ensuring the body is fueled with the essential nutrients it needs. Variety and color in fruits and vegetables is key, as is including protein, calcium, and fiber-rich foods in the diet. In some cases, supplements, like vitamin D or omega-3, may be necessary to maintain overall health.

In summary, maintaining a balanced diet that includes a variety of protein sources, dairy or dairy alternatives, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is essential for overall health and preventing age-related diseases. Regular exercise, both cardio and resistance-based, is vital for maintaining muscle mass and mental wellbeing. Supplements may be necessary for some individuals, particularly vitamin D for those over the age of 70, or for individuals who do not get sufficient sunlight. By adopting these healthy habits, older adults can work to ensure their well-being for years to come.

Article created on:

June 1, 2023

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