For most of us, losing a bit of weight is one way that we can get healthier and strive toward living a longer life. However, after a certain age, all weight loss diets aren’t necessarily safe. Many of them can exacerbate problems like muscle and bone density loss, which are already issues for older folks. Luckily, science tells us that a diet high in protein and low in calories is probably the safest — and most effective — eating plan to adopt if you’re getting older and want to drop some pounds.
A High-Protein Diet for People Over 65
For one study published in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, 96 obese adults over age 65 were divided into one of two groups: one group that would adopt a six-month low-calorie meal plan that included more than one gram of protein per two pounds of body weight each day, plus adequate calcium and vitamin D, and one “weight stability” control group that was instructed to eat .8 grams of protein per two pounds of body weight each day.
After the six month trial, results showed that the group eating the high-protein, low-calorie diet lost an average of 18 pounds, with 87 percent of that weight being body fat. Specifically, the weight came off of the midsection, hips, thighs, and buttocks — areas that are important when it comes to reducing the risks of metabolic diseases, like diabetes and heart disease. The control group, on the other hand, lost an average of half a pound. What was perhaps most interesting was that the group eating the high-protein diet also maintained muscle mass and bone density, even while losing weight. In fact, some of their measures for bone health even improved! The control group did not see the same benefits.
These findings suggest that eating a diet that’s low in calories and high in protein (that is, you’re consuming about a gram of protein per two pounds of your own body weight) may be the safest diet for older people. Not only could it help you lose body fat in areas that are hard to target, but it could also help you live longer by improving the health of your muscles and bones! To add more protein to your diet, eat foods like lean meat and poultry, eggs, pulses like lentils, and high-protein grains like quinoa. For more inspiration, check out our list of high-protein dinners that are easy to make!
It’s also important to note that the group in the study who ate more protein also ate a diet that was considered “nutritionally complete,” meaning that adequate amounts of nutrients like calcium and vitamin D were consumed. These nutrients are super important for bone and muscle health over time, and the vitamins and minerals in fruits, vegetables, and unrefined whole grains can also help you ward off disease as you age.
Here’s to a longer, healthier life!