Nutritional Needs Change as We Age

by Valerie Demetros

You may have followed a healthy diet when you were younger, but experts agree that your dietary needs change as you grow older. It takes a concentrated effort to get the right nutrition and exercise as we age, but the rewards are plenty.

Eat less

We need fewer calories as we get older simply because we move around less, have less muscle and our metabolic rate goes down. For active older adults, that may not be as substantial a change, but if you find you are gaining weight without changing your diet, it could mean you just need to cut calories.

Eat nutrient-rich foods

Of course, if you need fewer calories as you age, you still need just as many nutrients as before. To get these nutrients in less food, you need nutrient-dense foods like leafy green veggies packed with vitamin D and plenty of fruits with vitamin C. Consider eating more whole grains, vegetables, beans, fish and lean meat.

Supplements can help

As you age, vitamins and minerals like B12, vitamin D, magnesium and calcium are even more important. Your body may not break down and absorb B12 from foods as easily, so you may need to take supplements. And stocking up on vitamin D and calcium are important to prevent bone loss, a common problem among older adults. Talk to your doctor for the correct supplements.

Eat brain-healthy foods

Studies shows that foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain healthy brain function. And as we age that’s even more important. Add cold-water fish like salmon, tuna and trout as well as flaxseed and walnuts.

Stay hydrated

A major issue with older adults is dehydration. Not everyone drinks enough water to stay hydrated. Experts recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces, meaning if you weigh 150 pounds you need 75 ounces of water daily. Set a timer to remind you or keep a water bottle near you.

You can also get your hydration from seltzer, noncaffeinated herbal teas or infused plain water with fruit. Foods with high-water content include watermelon, lettuce and berries.

Eat your protein

Eating enough protein helps prevent the loss of lean muscle mass. Along with meats, poultry and eggs, additional sources include seafood, dairy, fortified soy alternatives, beans, peas and lentils. These protein sources also provide calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and fiber.

Take a walk

Staying healthy means getting exercise at any age, but as you age it becomes even more important to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. If you can’t get a trainer and head out to the gym consider weight-bearing exercises at home and cardio at least a few times a week.

This means walking every day and grabbing some free weights for a quick work out. And don’t forget to stretch. Exercise leads to a healthy body in many ways including adding to cardiovascular health, a better state of mind and increased bone density.

It takes discipline to take care of yourself as you get older, but it’s worth the benefits to your health, giving you more energy and fewer aches and pains.