Nutrition News: Don’t lose that muscle mass
Have you ever heard of sarcopenia?
It is the gradual loss of muscle mass that can occur with age. About 15% of people over 65 and 50% of people over 80 have it.
But you or your loved ones don’t need to be included in this group. Here’s what happens: As we lose muscle mass, we lose strength. If we lose too much, our legs and arms weaken and we can no longer hoist that suitcase into the overhead compartment of an airplane or walk as before.
The key to keeping your muscles strong is to use those muscles and to eat enough protein. The body’s ability to build muscle from protein declines a bit with age, so increasing dietary protein – along with muscle building exercises – can help maintain muscle mass and strength.
Paul Jacques, professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and principal scientist in the nutritional epidemiology team at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, and his colleagues found that higher protein intake can translate into less frailty, disability or physical dysfunction.
“We found that a higher protein intake was associated with a 30% lower risk of loss of functional integrity over time,” writes Jacques in Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter. “This is observational data, but it clearly demonstrates the potential importance of a higher protein diet.”
The problem is that many older people find it difficult to chew meat (a good source of protein) due to problems with their teeth or dentures. Older people also produce less hydrochloric acid in their stomachs, which breaks down protein, another reason to consume extra protein later in life. It’s best to include protein foods with every meal to distribute protein intake evenly throughout the day. Consider including non-meaty sources of protein – protein shakes or supplements, milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, beans, fish, eggs, and soy.
The recommended daily protein intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (or 0.36 grams per pound) for most Americans.
This works out to about 58 grams for a person weighing 160 pounds or 68 grams for a person weighing 190 pounds.
The main thing is to distribute the protein throughout your day and take that walk. Exercise and protein work hand in hand to build and maintain muscle.
Questions and answers
Q: I have a toddler and I’m worried that he is not getting all the nutrients he needs. What are the key elements for him?
A: There are four key nutrients that children need that are essential for their overall health and development. Calcium plays an essential role in the development of bones and teeth. The main sources are milk, yogurt and cheese.
Vitamin D works to build healthy, strong bones and supports the immune system. It’s in fish, egg yolks and grains. Potassium maintains healthy muscles and nerves and promotes normal blood pressure. Bananas, spinach, and peas are good sources.
Fiber is another essential nutrient that nourishes the gut and helps with digestive health and regularity. Foods high in fiber include whole grains, avocados, and strawberries.
When I need a quick meal, I often turn to my wok for inspiration. Here’s a recipe for a shrimp and asparagus stir-fry that gives your veggie intake a boost and gets a flavor boost from the fresh ginger and basil. It’s from Cooking Light.
Shrimp and asparagus stir-fry
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pound of peeled and deveined medium raw shrimp
1 tablespoon minced and peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups of fresh asparagus, sliced diagonally
1 cup chopped red onion
3/4 cup unsalted chicken broth
4 cups cooked long grain brown rice
Chopped basil (optional)
Whisk together soy sauce, cornstarch and crushed red pepper in a small bowl until smooth; put aside. Heat a 12-inch wok or non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and shake to coat. Add the shrimp, ginger and garlic; cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp mixture and cover to keep warm. Return the pan (do not wipe out) to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil. Add the asparagus and onion; cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
Add broth and soy sauce mixture; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Stir in the shrimp mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute. Divide the cooked rice between bowls and top with the shrimp mixture. Garnish with basil, if desired. Use immediately. For 6 people (serving: 2/3 cup of rice and 2/3 cup of shrimp mixture).
Per serving: 294 calories; 16 grams of protein; 37 grams of carbohydrates; 9 grams of fat (1 gram saturated); 4 grams of fiber; 2 grams of sugars (0 grams added); 419 milligrams of sodium.
Charlyn Fargo is a Registered Dietitian with Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., And a media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For comments or questions, contact her at [email protected]
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