Why a healthy midlife diet is important for Hong Kongers

Weight has a way of sneaking onto the middle-aged frame. And it’s not only weight that sneaks up but diseases as well. There has never been more talk about the importance of a proper diet plan. And by diet we don’t mean those yo-yo effect diets that seem to work less and less with age.  A diet, as defined by the Oxford dictionary, refers to the kinds of food that a person habitually eats. No matter what age group you belong to, a healthy diet (and therefore healthy eating habits)is crucial for a healthy life. Although the quick lifestyle of Hong Kong has many of us making up excuses, it is not impossible to make better food choices. It is only a question of will.

Once we reach middle age, our bodies start to change. Quick diets and usual weight loss routines don’t seem to work anymore.  Sure, you lose some weight but before you know it, it’s back. Nearly two thirds of middle aged adults struggle with weight. But that’s not the biggest issue - 66% of adults diagnosed with arthritis are overweight, 75% of hypertension are related to being overweight, over 80% of middle agers with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

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We’ve already talked about age related sarcopenia. At some point after you hit the 30ies your body begins to lose muscle mass and function. Loss of muscle means loss of strength and mobility. But it also means a slower metabolism rate. Part of it is also to blame on genetics. The spreading hip and waistlines are a result of evolution and are nature’s idea of protecting older people in the wild. With each decade after 30 the metabolism slows down by 5%. This means that at age 35 the body burns 100 calories less than at age 25. And if we don’t adjust our diet to account for the slower metabolism rate, by the time we hit our 40ies and 50ies, we easily start gaining up to 5kg a year.

Numerous studies have continually shown that proper nutrition and exercise are crucial for a longer and healthier life. Age related diseases and weight gain are not inevitable. As we already mentioned, midlife fitness is the best investment you can make for your future self even if you previously never had a fitness routine. You can read more about it here. Living in Aberdeen, or in any area of Hong Kong for that matter, makes finding excuses so easy. Exercise and proper nutrition are very rarely on top of the priority list of any middle aged person. But with just a little effort, big changes in the quality of life can be achieved. A study has shown that people who had a healthy diet plan during their middle age had a much better chance of reaching 70 without any of the major illnesses.

A lot has been said about ‘fit foods’ and ‘super foods’. A number of studies have shown that they fight off diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc. And middle age is just the right time to incorporate them into your daily eating habits. So, what are those fit and super foods we should be eating? As described by the authors of the above mentioned study, healthy diets “generally focus on greater intakes of plant foods, whole grains, and fish or long-chain ω-3 PUFAs; moderate intake of alcohol; and lower intake of red and processed meats.”

Here are some foods that should be on your menu:

· Nuts are a great way to get extra protein into your body. As we lose lean muscle, we need to increase our protein intake. They are a cholesterol-free protein source and high in vitamin E. Almonds, walnuts and pecans are a great snack or you can evean add them to your salad or other meals.

· Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. When it comes to fruits and veggies you can hardly go wrong. Remember that old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.

· Legumes help stabilize blood glucose and insulin levels. They are a great source of cholesterol-free protein, antioxidants and they are full of fiber and complex carbohydrates that your body needs. Try incorporating more tofu, soy beans, black beans and chick peas into your diet.

· Whole grains like wild rice, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, whole grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, Quinoa and whole grain cereals are full of fiber, vitamins B and E and are again packed full of antioxidants.

· Low-fat dairy helps boost the immune system and supplies protein and calcium that strengthen bones and muscle.

· Fish like salmon or sardines are a great source of much needed omega-3 fats which help to reduce the plaque build-up in your arteries, help lower blood pressure and decrease triglyceride levels. It’s high in protein and low in saturated fats.

· Olive oil is considered high in fat but it’s the healthy dietary fat the body needs. Use extra virgin olive oil, but in moderation.

Now that we listed a few foods to spark your imagination and get you on the right track to a healthier and happier golden age it is important to remember that although all these foods are healthy and good for the body, the calorie intake should be monitored.

Calories for women over 40 (31-50)

  • Physically active women should intake 2,200 calories per day.
  • Moderately active women should intake 2000 calories per day and
  • Inactive (sedentary) women should intake 1800 calories per day.

Calories for men over 40 (31-50)

  • Physically active men should intake 2800 – 3000 calories per day.
  • Moderately active men should intake 2400 – 2600 calories per day and
  • Inactive (sedentary) men should intake 2200 calories per day.

Calories for women over 50

  • Physically active women should intake 2000 - 2,200 calories per day;

  • Moderately active women should intake 1800 calories per day and

  • Inactive (sedentary) women should intake 1600 calories per day.

Calories for men over 50

  • Physically active men should intake 2400 – 2800 calories per day;

  • Moderately active men should intake 2200 – 2400 calories per day and

  • Inactive (sedentary) men should intake 2000 calories per day.

Some things are easier said than done, especially when we are trying to change a lifetime of unhealthy habits. Some may succeed with self-discipline alone but other may need professional guidance. If you find yourself in need of advice regarding proper midlife nutrition and exercise, visit us in our studio in Aberdeen, Southside Hong Kong. Our experts will be more than happy to help and guide you.