For those of us carrying a few extra pounds, losing weight is one way to get healthy and live longer. However, after a certain age, not all weight loss diets are safe. Many of them exacerbate problems like muscle and bone density loss, which are issues that arise for most of us as we age. Luckily, science shows that a diet high in protein and low in calories is probably the safest — and most effective — eating plan to adopt as we get older.
A High-Protein Diet for People Over 65
A study published in Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences divided 96 obese adults over age 65 into one of two groups: a group that adopted 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. Most interesting was the fact 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 improved. The control group did not see the same benefits.
These findings suggest that eating a diet low in calories and high in protein (that is, consuming about one gram of protein for every two pounds of body weight) may be the safest diet for those over 65. Not only does it help to reduce body fat in areas that are hard to target, but it could also mean living a longer life (because it improves the health of 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 extremely important for bone and muscle health over time, and the vitamins and minerals in fruits, vegetables, and unrefined whole grains also help to ward off disease as you age.
Here’s to a longer, healthier life.