Protein is considered a “macronutrient,” meaning that we need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. Children need more protein than usual during growth spurts and women need more during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Protein is a nutrient the body needs to grow and repair cells and so we need more protein after an illness.
Proteins are often called “the building blocks of life.” In fact, proteins are the main component of cells and are essential to life. After water, our body is mostly composed of proteins. As one matures, an aging body processes protein less efficiently and needs more of it to maintain muscle mass and strength, bone health and other essential physiological functions. Even healthy seniors need more protein than when they were younger.
Protein can become an energy source, especially if you are not eating enough carbohydrates. Vegans should be mindful to get enough of the right type of protein. The best way to get the right type and amount of protein is to eat a wide variety of protein rich foods as part of a balanced diet.
Some good sources of protein are:
• Cottage Cheese
• Lean Meat
• Split Peas
• Wild Salmon
• Greek Yogurt
Protein helps to keep our muscles strong, which is extremely important for maintaining balance and mobility. For aging adults, living independently can depend on this. It is well known that normal aging is associated with a loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) and with that, the loss of muscle function and increased risk of falls, decreased ability to perform daily tasks and ultimately a reduced quality of life. Therefore, a balanced and optimal diet with sufficient protein is seen as a major dietary-related determinant of healthy aging. Unfortunately, a recent study found almost half of older adults are not getting enough protein, thus negatively impacting their health.
Protein sources along with fruits, veggies, and good hydration provides the body with the nutrition to maintain and repair cells efficiently. To maintain good balance, mobility and coordination with age, be sure to get enough protein in your diet!