Growing older doesn’t mean you have to feel older as well. You can age gracefully and stay healthy well into your old age by ensuring that you are getting the proper nutrients. After all, you are what you eat.
Nutritional deficiencies become common as we age. It could be because we don’t absorb nutrients the same way as before, variety in diet decreases, or our bodies simply demand more nutrients because of age-related changes.
Since the metabolism slows down with age, many people also tend to eat and move less—the deadly combination that leads to a gain in weight and other health problems. The key to managing weight and staying healthy despite the age is to focus on eating nutrient-rich foods.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin naturally present in dairy products, like milk, and in eggs. Fish, poultry, and lean meat are also good sources. Vitamin B12 is also added to some foods and is available as a dietary supplement. However, you must always consult your dietician before taking any supplements.
As we age, our bodies may not absorb vitamin B12 as well as they used to. It can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can cause fatigue, memory loss, and other problems.
Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the function of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. It also helps make DNA, the genetic material present in all cells, which is necessary for cell division. Vitamin B12 is essential for a healthy brain, and it may help prevent dementia.
Another water-soluble B vitamin you’ll need more of as you age is folate, also known as folic acid. Folic acid helps the body make new cells, and women need to take it to help with their health recovery after delivery.
Since nurses primarily tend to the needs of women post-delivery, they can help them with dietary selections. Courses teaching nurses are geared toward giving them real-world experiences during their clinical practice, exposing them to different kinds of patients requiring different treatment procedures.
As folate is one of the primary food recommendations during prenatal and postnatal care, your doctors or nurse will advise to take at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of this nutrient.
For older adults, folate is vital for cell repair and growth. Since aging bodies don’t repair and grow cells as quickly as younger bodies do, we need more of this nutrient. Folate can also help reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.
Moreover, folate also helps prevent cognitive decline and age-related hearing loss. Good sources of this nutrient include leafy green vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fortified foods. You can also take a supplement but always check with your doctor first.
Weak and brittle bones—a condition known as osteoporosis—are a common age-related problem. Osteoporosis happens when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, faster than the body can replace. This loss of minerals makes the bones brittle and susceptible to breaking.
You can help prevent osteoporosis by getting enough calcium, a mineral essential for strong bones and teeth. Calcium also helps with muscle contraction, blood clotting, and nerve function.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for calcium is 1000 mg per day for adults aged 19-50 and 1200 mg per day for adults 51 and older. There is no shortage of calcium-rich foods. You can increase the use of calcium by including milk, yogurt, cheese, dark-green leafy vegetables, and calcium-fortified foods in your diet.
If you fail to maintain the daily recommended amount of calcium, you may need to take supplements under the guidance and supervision of your doctor.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin naturally present in few foods. It is also added to some foods, and you can get it from dietary supplements and sun exposure.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus—two minerals essential for strong bones. It also plays a role in muscle function, maintaining bone density, improving the function of the immune system, and facilitating cell growth.
As mentioned, exposing your skin to sunlight is a great way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Still, as we age, our skin becomes less efficient at producing vitamin D. Older adults tend to spend more time indoors, and are also more likely to use sunscreens when they do venture outside, both of which further decrease the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D.
When it comes to food, fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are excellent sources of vitamin D. You can include these in your diet a couple of times each week. You can also get small amounts of vitamin D from beef liver, cheese, and egg yolk.
Potassium plays a vital role in keeping our bodies functioning properly. It helps with muscle contraction, heart function, and digesting carbohydrates. Potassium is also necessary for the body to make protein.
Aging can cause a decline in potassium levels, leading to problems such as muscle weakness and an irregular heartbeat. To help prevent these problems, it’s essential to get enough potassium in your diet.
Good sources of potassium include potatoes, tomatoes, beans, bananas, and yogurt. Since adults need at least 4700 mg of potassium per day, it’s crucial to regularly include these foods in your diet. Potassium supplements should only be taken at your doctor’s discretion.
If you’re dealing with pesky kidney stones or have constant high blood pressure, you’ll need to ensure you’re taking enough potassium.
None of us are ever going to think much of magnesium until we realize its importance for our health. This mineral is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including helping to maintain normal nerve and muscle function, keeping a healthy immune system, and keeping our bones strong.
As we age, magnesium levels can decline, leading to problems such as muscle cramps, weakness, irregular heartbeat, and a high blood pressure.
The reason for magnesium deficiency is that the body does not absorb it as easily. Increasing the intake of magnesium can help the body absorb it more efficiently.
Some of the best sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. If you’re facing heart problems, have difficulty fighting infections, or deal with anxiety or depression, you may need to increase your magnesium intake.
Aging takes its toll on the metabolism and can result in weight gain and gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, and hemorrhoids. Fiber is an important nutrient that helps to keep our digestive system healthy and can also help with weight management.
There are two types of fibers: soluble and insoluble. Both are important, but most adults need more of the soluble kind, which dissolves in water and helps to regulate cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
Soluble fiber is found in oats, barley, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Insoluble fiber is found in wheat bran, whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables.
Aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day. You can increase your daily intake by eating more high-fiber foods or taking a fiber supplement. You should also increase your fluid intake along with fiber.
Age brings with it various physical and mental challenges. One way to combat those is through dietary improvements. The above article highlighted the key nutrients that we need more of as we age. From vitamin B12 and D to calcium, potassium, magnesium, and fiber, our nutrient requirements increase with age.