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A balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein and fats is essential for good health throughout our entire lifetime.  Proteins are particularly integral in our diet because our body uses the protein to build and repair tissue, to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemical.  Protein is crucial in the building of muscle, bone, cartilage, skin, hair, nails and blood.  Protein also aids in the transport of certain substances in our blood as well as needed to manufacture antibodies – a key member of our immune system response.   Protein often becomes neglected in the senior population for a number of reasons including:

*Protein requires cooking (in most cases) which can become increasingly challenging with age
*Protein becomes more difficult to digest as we age
*Our tastes change and we don’t feel like eating protein foods
*If we are preparing food for only ourselves – protein requires more time, effort and creativity than catbohydates and fats.
 Needless to say, proteins are of particular importance in the aging years and can have significant impact on health.  There is a gradual loss of muscle mass as we age which is due to the unavoidable age related process as well as sedentary lifestyles.   Physical activity and an adequate amount of protein impedes this muscle loss.  Bone mineral density also decreases with age.  Protein is important for optimal absorption of calcium and therefore bone calcification.  Studies have shown that adequate protein can reduce bone fractures.  Adequate protein intake and regular physical activity enhances bone and muscle mass which assists in prevention of falls, or bouncing back from falls quicker and therefore sustaining a greater degree of independence.
Examples of proteins are:
Beef, chicken, fish, pork, lamb, fish, dairy including cheese and yogurt, legumes including chick peas, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds.  If you have concerns about your protein intake and/ or dietary intake, please contact a Dietitian.