As we get older, many things change. For sure we get wiser and more experienced; we gather knowledge and insight and useful skills. Our bodies change, too, in ways we may enjoy less. Aches and pains and limitations start to arise, and it can take more work to maintain the health we took for granted when we were a little younger.
Even so, ageing is not what it use to be. Most people in their 70s don’t consider themselves ‘old’ and are active and vibrant. The baby boomer generation is taking on ageing in a whole new way, and as we live longer, we’re seeking to stay healthier longer too. We not only want to have a long life expectancy; we want a long health expectancy.
To achieve that, we need to work harder on nourishing our bodies.
As we get older our metabolism slows and we need fewer calories. But at the same time, we need to pack in more nutrition to the food we do eat – to get more bank for our food buck and get more of some important nutrients. Our food needs to be more nutrient-dense. And there’s a healthy whole food that should be part of our nutrient-dense ingredient list: eggs. Here’s why.
We all know we need protein; it’s an essential building block of the body, helping us maintain muscles, hair, nails, skin and organs. As we age we need more protein to keep that growth and repair going, particularly in our muscles, which we tend to lose, if we don’t use them, as we get older. At its most sever this muscle loss is known as sarcopenia. The Ministry of Health says anywhere from 6 to 40 percent of older people are sarcopenic, with a greater prevalence in those aged 75-80.
To combat this, there’s emerging evidence older people need more protein than was previously recommended. A recent Finnish study found ‘adequate intake’ of protein was associated with a reduced risk of facility in older women. This was defined as at least 1.1 gram of protein per kilo of body weight – in line with the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (and a little more than NZ’s Ministry of Health guidelines for older people). That would equate to 77 grams of protein for a 70-kilo person. Two large eggs give us around 13 grams, so they’re a great start to your day’s quota. And try spreading out your protein intake through that day, too, with eggs and other protein foods as snacks and lunches. In a 2017 Canadian study, people who consumed protein in a balanced way during the day had more muscle strength than those who consumed more during the evening meal and less at breakfast.
Older people are at increased risk of developing osteoporosis and experiencing fractures as they age. Calcium absorption decreases with age in both genders: for women, it’s particularly drastic post-menopause. In the five years after menopause women lose about half of the total skeletal calcium they’ll lose over their lifetime.
We need to keep our calcium and Vitamin D levels up to minimise this bone loss and prevent fractures. Vitamin D helps us absorb the calcium from foods, and eggs are one of a handful of foods that contain this important vitamin, so are well worth including in our daily diets.
Another essential for health is vitamin B12. We need this for the healthy functioning of the nervous system and blood and brain function. Eggs are a good source of B12; two large eggs have close to half your recommended daily intake.
Lutein is an important carotenoid antioxidant that’s especially protective for eyes; it’s a natural vision saver ad may help prevent the sight robbing disease, macular degeneration. Eggs are a good source of lutein, and evidence looks promising that eating foods rich in lutein (and another antioxidant, zeaxanthin) is protective against the development of macular degeneration.
Its easy to overlook the simple, staple ingredients we always have on hand. But eggs are a quiet nutrition achiever we’re well worth including in our day, every day.
*Niki Bezzant is a writer, journalist and speaker specialising in food, science and health.
Last modified: January 26, 2022