Making healthy food choices is important at any age, but as you get older, it becomes critical to keep up with how your body’s nutritional needs change.
Nutrition becomes much more than just watching calories.
During National Nutrition Month, Michelle Cole, R.D., LDN, CDE, the director of FirstHealth’s Diabetes & Nutrition Center located in Pinehurst, N.C., is sharing some tips for how to approach food after 50.
“Calorie needs often decrease as we age, but our nutrient needs stay the same, and some even increase,” she said. “It’s important to keep this in mind and get the maximum nutrition from your diet.”
Fuel Up on Fiber
A diet rich in fiber promotes stable blood sugar levels, reduces the risk of heart and digestive diseases, feeds beneficial “good bug” bacteria and keeps you fuller longer, which serves as a smart weight-control strategy. The average adult should try to get 25 grams of fiber every day, Cole says.
“Eat foods that are naturally rich in fiber like fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, and small portions of nuts and whole grains, including oats, quinoa and barley,” she said.
Get More Magnesium
Most U.S. adults don’t get enough magnesium, which helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function. Magnesium also supports your immune system, preserves strong bones, helps regulate blood sugar and reduces your risk of stroke and heart disease risk. Greens, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains are the best way to get magnesium from food.
“If you are going the supplement route, the best forms include magnesium citrate, malate, glycinate or taurate,” Cole said. “These forms are easier to absorb than the magnesium oxide found in most multivitamins. To ensure good quality, make sure any supplements you take are NSF-certified.”
Don’t Skimp on Vitamin D
Aging skin has a diminished ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D in the body. Low levels of vitamin D reduce your ability to absorb calcium, and that can contribute to osteoporosis, fatigue, and muscle pain and weakness.
Bump up your Vitamin D intake by incorporating fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), fortified dairy products and juice. Your best bet is to have your blood levels checked and talk to your doctor about supplements if your levels are below normal.
Pump Up the Protein
Protein builds and maintains muscles, bones and skin. It is also vital to our immune system and it’s the building block of all our enzymes and hormones.
Cole said the need for protein increases with age.
“If you are under 70, try to get at least 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight, which translates to 60 grams of protein for a 150-pound person. If you are over 70, increase to at least .46 grams protein per pound, or about 70 grams for a 150-pound person,” she said.
Find it in natural sources: Animal foods such as meat, chicken, turkey, eggs and dairy are good sources of protein. Vegetable sources include beans, nuts, seeds and soy. You can also add protein shakes or protein bars to get more protein.
Build Up B12
After age 50, your body’s ability to absorb B12 is often reduced due to lower levels of stomach acid, which is needed to break down B12 from food sources. B12 deficiency can cause numbness, tingling, depression, memory loss, joint pain and a diminished sense of taste and smell. Don’t ignore these symptoms; a simple vitamin fix could reverse your symptoms.
Boost your B12: Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products all contain B12. Get your B12 levels tested and talk to your doctor about whether you should take a B12 supplement.
Ready to learn more? FirstHealth’s Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center offers counseling for individuals with specific medical needs as well as those who wish to maintain optimal health.
WRAL Aging Well partners with FirstHealth providers and subject matter experts.