Ageing is a natural process, and it brings in its wake myriad physical and physiological changes to the body.
Appropriate diet and exercise can reduce age-related illnesses and extend the life of an individual. (source)
The functional capacities of the heart and the lungs and the absorption capacity of the gastrointestinal tract get affected with age. The chances of having diabetes and high blood pressure increase. Loss of bone mass is one of the most noticed conditions among the elderly. Metabolic changes also alter the body’s response to medicines. Apart from other conditions, enlargement and cancer of the prostate gland are among the most prevalent age-related illnesses in men (source).
Happiest Health spoke with Colonel A.S. Chandhoke, (retired) of the Indian Army, who leads an active and healthy life in Panchkula.
Back in 2018, the diagnosis of prostate cancer when he was 58 gave him a jolt and he scrambled to find out what he could do to ease his new problem. On medical advice, he got the tumour removed surgically. Tremendous lifestyle changes followed the surgery as advised by his doctor – all of which, he says, keep him going.
Seeds, salads & cereals
Col. Chandhoke gives us a peek into his power-filled daily diet regimen which is credited with much of his quality of life for the past four years.
At dawn, he drinks some warm water with a mix of seeds soaked overnight. They are a combination of seeds of fenugreek, pumpkin, flax, chia, sunflower, and cumin.
Round 9 a.m., before breakfast, he eats five different fruits. For breakfast, he adds a lot of vegetables to his cereal-based fare: it could be poha/beaten rice, vermicelli, sabudana khichdi /sago porridge, oats, or similar options.
An hour before lunch, there would be a bowl of vegetable soup. Lunch translates to salad, roti or Indian flat wheat bread, a sabzi or curry, all rounded off with a bowl of curd. After lunch, he eats one boiled bitter gourd.
In the evening, he consumes some fruit followed by a light supper. Post-supper is again the time for a boiled bitter gourd. At bedtime, he drinks a glass of warm milk with a pinch of turmeric in it.
During winters, he adds half a teaspoon each of fennel seed, fox nuts, sesame seeds, and khus khus (poppy seeds) to his milk.
Col. Chandoke says that apart from dietary changes, his doctor has advised him physical exercise, so he sweats out twice a day.
Minding the muscle mass
Pune-based clinical nutritionist Shraddha Sawant says, “As men progress towards their 50s, the level of testosterone falls – which negatively affects the lean tissue growth i.e., low muscle-skeletal mass.”
The reduced muscle mass, skeletal mass, and an increase in fat percentage eventually lead to metabolic disorders like obesity, diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, osteoporosis, and digestive disorders such as hyperacidity and constipation.
“A diet rich in proteins like pulses, toned milk, leafy vegetables such as amaranth and drumstick leaves; ragi, dal, fish, eggs, soy, nuts, and oilseeds along with an appropriate exercise regime will help to improve these conditions,” says Sawant.
Caring for gut health
Digestive disorders of ageing men are associated with slow absorption of nutrients which affects gut health. Probiotic and prebiotic foods play an important role in maintaining a healthy gut.
Dr. Aishwarya Jaiswal, research associate, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, says care should be taken while incorporating two foods together; one type of food should support the absorption of the other. “In cases of calcium deficiency, a diet rich in calcium should be supplemented with Vitamin D3, plenty of fruits and vegetables or Vitamin C is a must for the absorption of iron.”
“The protein is absorbed well when there is an increase in aerobic exercise which in turn reduces insulin resistance.
I have been able to convince anyone who got in touch with me regarding cancer to immediately commence with the recommended diet. But I suppose besides the diet, remaining positive and happy is also very important.”
Army veteran Col. A.S.Chandhoke (retd), who credits his active life after a cancer surgery to a focussed diet and exercise
An eye on potassium & sodium
For an age group that is transiting from mid-life to senior status, an ideal diet should be high in potassium to curb hypertension which may develop from an excess sodium intake. “A protein-rich diet helps in maintaining muscle mass and tackling diabetes as well. The diet should contain plenty of fruits and vegetables to reduce inflammation in the body and promote gut health,” explains Jaiswal.
Controlled portion size with a variety of foods is the key to balancing the nutrients and ensuring their optimum absorption. Water intake should be optimum for the kidneys to function and maintain electrolyte balance. Calcium from low-fat sources should be included to maintain bone and oral health.
Two persons in their 50s will not have similar health conditions and strengths. Therefore, although eating principles may be comparable, everyone needs a diet tailored to one’s own health condition.
Sawant advises people in their 50s that “home-cooked meals in place of processed and packaged food along with reduced consumption of animal fat and red meat in the diet will maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Also, reducing stress, and increasing exercise, meditation, and yoga will keep the mind and body healthy.”
|A nutritionist’s model mid-life menu|
|Breakfast||Any one item from eggs, dal dhokla, cheela (one is a fermented and steamed lentil cake; the other a savoury lentil pancake);
Cooked sprouts, sabja (sweet basil seeds) in almond/ soya/cow’s milk with a plate of fruits (pick from apple, guava, pomegranate, papaya, and pear); and a mix of nuts and oilseeds: for example – almonds, walnut, pumpkin, melon or sesame seeds
|Lunch||Salads, a small portion of chapati (flat wheat bread) or rice taken with vegetables like bhindi (okra), tinda (Indian squash), or any beans or gourds; and a bowl of cooked dal or lentils. Non-vegetarians can include chicken, fish, or prawns.|
|Early supper||Millets like ragi (finger millet), barnyard millet, kodo/Indian cow grass, jowar/sorghum, or bajra/pearl millet may be used in place of wheat or rice.
Some four years on since the cancer surgery, Col. Chandhoke says his energy level has been good and the body has not shown any symptoms of tumour.
“I have been able to convince anyone who got in touch with me regarding [dealing with] cancer to immediately commence with the recommended diet. But I suppose besides the diet, remaining positive and happy is also very important,” he says.