As we age, prioritizing a diet rich in essential nutrients becomes even more important for staying healthy, and maximizing quality of life. While supplements of all kinds exist, the best way to get the nutrition you need is with real food and whole meals, which contain a balance of nutrients that work together to positively affect your health.
Of all the vitamins, minerals and amino acids your body needs, few are as important as protein. Generally found in meat, fish, dairy and legumes like soybeans, protein acts as a foundational building block for our bodies, and is essential for maintaining muscle mass, and keeping our bodies moving.
As we age, it can be difficult to get enough which can contribute to muscle loss and decreased mobility, among other problems. That’s why finding solutions for getting the protein you need -- beyond nutritionally sparse shakes and supplements -- is very important.
Here’s what you need to know:
What Exactly Is Protein
Protein is an amino acid, and one of three “macronutrients” -- the other two being carbohydrates and fats. The “macro” in the description refers to their importance to human life, because they all provide life-giving calories. Whereas micronutrients like iron or vitamin C are important to our wellbeing and “feeling good”, without macronutrients, we simply couldn’t survive long.
What makes protein so special is that in addition to providing calories, it also significantly contributes to the production and maintenance of muscle mass. While for young people, getting lots of protein might be important for maintaining beach bodies, in older folks it means maintaining the muscles needed for a mobile and active life.
In addition to its muscle-building properties, protein also is an important part of regulating our hunger, and helping us feel full. For seniors looking to maintain a healthy weight, snacking on foods high in protein will help satiate your hunger better than a carb-loaded snack -- something of particular importance for diabetics who need to keep a close eye on their blood sugar.
The Importance of Protein for Seniors
As we age, our bodies become less efficient with using the protein we intake, meaning we need to be even more conscious about how much we’re consuming. This inefficiency becomes heightened in seniors who face a chronic or acute illness, especially ones resulting in hospitalization, which means it’s best to get in the habit of getting enough protein before you become sick.
But even healthy seniors need plenty of protein, which is why the fact that a recent study found up to one third of seniors weren’t getting enough is worrying. There were a number of reported reasons including dental discomfort, reduced appetites and impaired taste -- impacting the overall consumption of food, as opposed to protein specifically.
If you prioritize your quality of life, finding strategies to prioritize food high in protein is essential. Recent research focused on “functioning” in older adults (the ability to dress, bathe, walk up stairs, get out of bed, etc.) indicates that seniors who ate the most protein were able to maintain functioning longer than those who did not. In fact, the 2018 study which analyzed 2900 seniors over 23 years found that seniors who got the most protein were 30% more likely to maintain high degrees of function, even into their later years.
Another benefit of protein is helping both recovery and health maintenance when dealing with an injury or surgery that impacts mobility. Stuart Phillips, director of McMaster University’s Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Health Research in Canada said:
“Protein becomes much more important during events in an older adult’s life that force them into a situation of muscle disuse — a hip or knee replacement, for instance.”
While it might be easy to simply eat whatever’s convenient without considering it’s nutritional value, finding strategies that make protein-rich food accessible will help lead active and healthy senior years.
Consider Real Meals for Protein Instead of Shakes and Supplements
When it comes to taking meal replacements, supplements or shakes, it’s always best to take your doctor’s recommendation. If they feel it’s best for you to get a nutritional boost with a supplement, make sure you take their advice! But for planning our own nutritional journey, it’s important not to overly rely on shakes and supplements, which lack much of the benefits real meals provide.
Meals, when prepared properly, contain a variety of macro and micronutrients that combine harmoniously to provide you with readily-available health boosts. With supplements and shakes, you might have access to a lot of one type of nutrient (like protein), but sacrifice your access to others. This is especially notable if you have a reduced appetite, where every real meal provides you complex nutrition instead of just making you feel full.
Sometimes it’s “easier said than done” when it comes to eating real meals, however. You might not have the time, energy or inclination to cook a whole meal for yourself every time -- even if you understand the health benefits. Luckily, Heart to Home Meals provides the convenience of a shake with all the benefits of a home cooked meal.
Heart to Home Meals offers a number of delicious meals, that are full of protein. The ProteinAssist Diet Code makes finind nutritious, high protein meals, easy to find. Try our:
Homestyle Meatloaf - This delicious meatloaf comes in a mushroom gravy with a hint of of red wine, served with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables. Contains 22g of protein.
Hunter's Chicken - A classic dish that pairs chicken breast with mushrooms & bacon in a tomato and wine-flavoured sauce. Served with mashed potatoes and French cut green beans. Contains 27g of protein.
Our frozen meals are designed to be delicious, convenient, and tailored for your health -- including a line of high-protein options for those who want to maximize this nutrient’s benefits. And, delivered right to your door, stored in your freezer and prepared in your oven, Heart to Home Meals make it easy to get the health benefits real meals provide.
We’d love to hear which ProteinAssist meals are your favourites. Please share your storeis with us on Facebook. And don’t forget to “Like” and “Follow” us!