Grain foods are an essential part of the journey to a healthier you at any age. Active aging requires carbohydrates to fuel muscles and grains can deliver the necessary carbs. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for carbohydrate is 130 grams/day for adults; carbohydrate-rich foods, like grains, provide energy to all cells of the body and especially to the brain. The brain relies on carbohydrate for fuel.
Emerging research in adults 35-55 years-old suggests that dietary patterns that are low in whole grains and high in red meat, processed meat and fried foods are linked to higher inflammatory markers and cognitive decline at older ages; another good reason to include whole grains in your meals. Meeting these recommendations for energy, carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals for specific age groups, in addition to regular exercise, can help keep muscles healthy and strong.
By eating sufficient carbohydrate, you provide your body with the energy it needs and allows protein to be used for important body functions – maintaining and building muscle, making blood cells, making cells in the immune system, and making needed enzymes and hormones – instead of being broken down to provide energy.
If you don’t consume the recommended amount of carbohydrates, your body can start drawing on protein for energy, making the protein less available for keeping muscles healthy and strong. Choosing a variety of high fiber grains as part of a healthy eating plan helps to maintain a healthy gut and gastrointestinal function as a person ages.
When cutting calories, carbs may be one of the first items people cut from their diets. Yet, only 15% of calories in the U.S. diet come from grains so no need to pass on the bread basket when watching your weight. In addition, in a study with older adults aged 60-80 years, whole grain and cereal fiber intake, were associated with lower total percent body fat and lower abdomen fat mass (“belly fat”).