As we age, we all notice changes in our bodies. Whether they are slight or significant, our bodies are adapting to our needs over time. But did you know that your nutritional needs change over time as well? In fact, as you age, your diet may actually need to change. Adults who want to focus on healthy aging will need to adjust their nutrition and consume more nutrient-dense foods to keep the body as healthy as possible.
When you get older, you don’t need to eat as many calories as you did before. Your metabolism is slower, you likely get less physical activity and you don’t have as much muscle mass to support.
Though your caloric needs decrease, your nutrient needs do not. Even though you are eating less food, you still need to eat foods rich in important vitamins and minerals like Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and calcium.
Importance of Nutrient-Dense Foods
To maintain good health and a healthy weight, you need to eat nutrient-dense food. Nutrient-dense foods have high levels of vitamins and minerals compared to a lower number of calories. Examples of nutrient-dense foods include:
- Lean cuts of meat
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
Nutrient-dense foods become even more important as you age and try to maintain your health. By eating these foods, you are more likely to get the nutrients you need without eating too many calories.
Nutrients To Eat As You Age
You may actually have some nutritional deficiencies or inadequacies as you get older, meaning you don’t have enough of these nutrients in your body. If you think you have a nutrient deficiency, you should see a physician. Blood tests can identify any problems and help you create a personalized plan for healthy eating.
Strive to eat foods that contain healthy amounts of:
Vitamin B12 is absorbed through your stomach and intestines. As you get older, you have less stomach acid, which lowers your ability to absorb Vitamin B12. People with low levels of Vitamin B12 may feel fatigued or tired all the time, have poor balance or even experience memory problems.
If your blood work shows you have low levels of Vitamin B12, you can eat the following foods to help increase your B12 levels:
- Fortified soy products, such as tofu
- Red meat
- Low-fat dairy
- Fortified cereals with little to no sugar
Your body is actually capable of creating Vitamin D with only sun exposure. However, anyone living north of Atlanta does not see enough sunshine year-round to maintain healthy Vitamin D levels from the sun alone. Especially as you age, your skin is less able to create the Vitamin D you need. Vitamin D deficiencies can cause symptoms like bone pain or muscle weakness, depression, a weakened immune system or even bone loss.
You can increase your vitamin D levels by increasing your intake of foods like salmon, mushroom, fish, egg yolks and yogurt.
Calcium is a crucial mineral for your body, as it is used for several different functions. Consuming Vitamin D while consuming calcium increases your body’s absorption of calcium.
This combination of Vitamin D and calcium can help you reduce your risk for osteoporosis and bone loss. Maintaining adequate levels of calcium as you age is also important because some medications may interfere with your body’s absorption of calcium. You can ensure you are getting the right amounts of calcium by eating foods such as:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables
How to Increase Your Nutrient Intake
The healthiest way to increase your intake of nutrients is to eat nutrient-dense, whole foods that are low in saturated fats and sugar. Before making any dietary changes, you should always talk to your physician and undergo blood tests to determine what nutrients you may be missing.
Though many people take supplements for vitamin deficiencies, you should only take supplements if your physician recommends them. Because supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, you may not know exactly what is in each pill. Supplements may also interact negatively with your prescribed medicines, and in general aren’t absorbed by your body as well as whole foods.
At PartnerMD, we can help you make positive, long-lasting changes to your health. Our physicians and health coaches work together to identify your health needs and partner with you to support these lifestyle changes as you age. We offer specialized nutrition services to help you lose weight, if necessary, and ensure you get the nutrients you need for a healthy life.