It’s a common Catch-22 of aging: just as our calorie needs start to slow down, our nutrient needs begin to increase. Declining appetites, coupled with bodies that don’t absorb nutrients as well as they once did, leave many older adults short on the very nutrients we need to fortify us for the challenges of aging.
To think, move, feel and function at your best from your 50s through your 80s and beyond, pay special attention to these essential nutrients:
Pump up your protein to stay strong
Protein helps rebuild some of the muscle mass that your aging body loses each year, which has a direct effect on your ability to stay active and independent as you age. It also helps you control blood sugar, resist infections and heal better after injuries or surgery. For healthy aging, protein is hugely important, but more than a third of older adults don’t eat enough of it to benefit.
To pump up your protein, aim for about 20-30 grams (3 to 4 ounces) at every meal (you’ll benefit more when you spread it across the day). Try eggs or Greek yogurt for breakfast; bean burritos or soup for lunch; nuts and seeds as snacks or salad toppers; and lean meat or fish for dinner.
Feed your brain more B12
B12 plays a big role in brain function, and getting too little of it can cause symptoms of dementia. This nutrient is abundant in animal proteins (fish, meat, eggs, milk, cheese), but about 10 to 30 percent of people over 50 can’t produce enough stomach acid to unlock B12 from food. That’s why the National Academy of Medicine recommends supplements or fortified foods for older adults.
Crank up your calcium and vitamin D
As you age, you absorb less calcium, a mineral that is critical in preventing fractures and disability. Dairy foods and dark green, leafy vegetables can help you crank up your calcium.
Many folks over 50 also can benefit from a calcium-plus-D supplement. Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium better, but you may not be getting enough of it; age-related skin changes make it harder to synthesize D from sunlight. It’s also hard to get enough D from food. Work with your doctor to find the right supplement levels.
Focus your fats on omega-3s
Omega-3 fats — the kind found in fish — are the heroes of the fat kingdom. They protect against heart disease, and possibly Alzheimer’s. They also reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and protect your eyes. Dish up fish at least twice a week.