Older Adults’ and Proteins

A healthy diet includes a balance of carbohydrates, protein and “good” fats such as olive oil. But one of those macronutrients, protein, is especially important for the elderly. Protein helps us maintain and even add muscle. This is very important, as we lose 30-50% of our body mass between the ages of 40 and 80, said Marta Lonnie, a lecturer and research assistant at the University of Aberdeen in the UK. Getting enough protein can help reduce the risk of falls. . Protein also plays a role in making hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters, which your body uses in many ways.

But how much protein is enough and where can you get it? The answer to both questions has gotten a little more complicated over the years. But how much protein is enough, and where should you get it?

Why Older Adults Need More

Nearly half of adults eat less than the protein recommended by the National Academy of Medicine, according to a 2019 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. The recommended dietary allowance is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight per day. Or 54 grams for a 150-pound person. (You can get about 50 grams with 5.5 ounces of Greek yogurt, 3 ounces of chicken breast, and half a cup of white beans.)

But older people who follow these recommendations may still have a protein deficiency. While you may be eating the same protein you ate in your youth, your body may not be able to use it anymore. Another reason is inflammation due to infections and other health problems, which increases the need for protein. You’re more likely to have other problems, injuries, chronic illnesses, or surgeries later in life, Lonnie said. In addition, the elderly often have chronic systemic inflammation, which increases the body’s need for protein.

Certain medications, such as steroids, can also increase protein levels. And if you don’t get enough of it in your diet, the body will get it through your muscles, says Mary Marian, RDN, director of the Didactic Dietetics Program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. This can lead to further loss of muscle mass and strength.

What is the right amount?

Elderly foods

For the above reasons, research supports increasing the recommended protein intake for adults by up to 50%. This means that people over 65 should aim to eat 0.45 to 0.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, or about 68 to 83 grams for a 150-pound person. If you are trying to lose weight or exercise regularly, especially if you do strength training, you should stick to the higher end of this range to help maintain and add muscle and increase satiety. Seniors with chronic conditions should eat more protein — 0.68 grams per pound. Or 102 grams for a 150-pound person — according to a 2013 paper from the PROT-AGE study group. Your body chooses to spread your protein throughout the day. In fact, Lonnie says that eating too much protein at dinner, which is common in the American diet, won’t help you build muscle. So, depending on your weight, you’ll need about 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal, he says.

Note that although protein is very filling, increasing your intake is helpful if you are trying to lose weight. It is confusing whether this can cause an underweight person is satisfied and eats even less. In this case, it is advisable to work with a nutritionist, who can review your health history, weight, appetite, current diet and medications. , and help you decide how to get enough nutrition to stay healthy. And note that while most adults will be able to tolerate adding protein to their diet, it can make chronic kidney disease worse, Marian says.

What to eat?

Meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products provide protein, as you know. But you can also get a lot of plant sources like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, soy, and whole grains. The main difference between animal and plant proteins is the type of amino acids they contain. Animal sources are considered “complete,” meaning they contain the nine amino acids that the body needs to get from food. Some plant foods, including quinoa and soy, are also considered whole foods. Some others, such as grains and beans, form a complete protein when eaten in one meal or throughout the day. For example, rice and beans or peanut butter on whole wheat toast. If your protein source is plant-based, it’s a good idea to include a variety of grains. Also beans and lentils to get all nine essential amino acids.

A potential downside to getting protein only from plants is that you may need to eat too much to get the amount of protein you would get from animal sources. This can be difficult, Lonnie says. Especially for seniors whose appetites may be weaker than usual or who have trouble chewing.

Therefore, consider a vegetarian diet, which does not eliminate meat but instead brings it back with less activity. This is the one most people use. In 2020, the organic food market grew by more than 25%, twice as much as the commercial food market, according to a report from the Good Food Institute.

These foods can help you reach your protein goals:

  • Beef, grilled, 3 ounces: 24 grams
  • Chicken breast, cooked, 3 ounces: 24 grams
  • Salmon, cooked, 3 ounces: 23 grams
  • Tuna, 3.5 ounces: 19 grams
  • Tempeh, ½ cup: 17 grams
  • Greek yogurt, plain, nonfat, 5.5 ounces: 16 grams
  • Tofu, ½ cup: 10 grams
  • Beans, canned, white, ½ cup: 9.5 grams
  • Edamame, shelled, ½ cup: 9 grams
  • Hemp seeds, 3 Tbsp.: 9 grams
  • Lentils, cooked, ½ cup: 9 grams
  • Quinoa, cooked, 1 cup: 8 grams
  • Whole-wheat pasta, cooked, 1 cup: 8 grams
  • Almonds, raw, 1 ounce: 6 grams
  • Buckwheat, cooked, 1 cup: 6 grams
  • Egg, one: 6 grams

Added Protein in Foods

In addition to protein shakes and powders that have been on the market for many years, we see other things that are made or fortified with protein. Including pastas, mix mixes and cereals.

Can they help you meet your needs? “While these foods may be high in protein, someone eating a predominantly plant-based diet would still need to be sure they were balancing protein sources to not be deficient in single amino acids that are considered essential” says Cary Kreutzer, RD, associate professor. of Clinical gerontology and pediatrics at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology in Los Angeles.

For example, some high-protein pastas, such as those made with chickpeas or black beans, are good. “But I have to avoid breakfast cereals that are high in sugar and low in fiber and labeled as ‘high protein,'” says Marian.

If you choose a product with protein, remember that “high protein” on the label means that something must have 10 grams or more per serving. To qualify as a “good” source, it must contain 5 to 9.5 grams per serving.

Source CR