There is so much information about what to eat and when to eat it, it’s all so overwhelming. Should you eat more protein and less carbs? Eat less meat and more carbs? More fat? No fat? While I’m not a fan of trendy diets, I am a fan of eating the right foods to give us the fuel we need to stay healthy.
As we get older, our bodies’ needs change. So, it’s important to make sure we’re getting the right balance of nutrients. Here are my top recommendations for the essential nutrients you need as you get older.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Drink your milk. Surely, you’ve heard this some point in your life. As you age, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D to keep your bones strong. This could include drinking milk, but it also could include dark green, leafy vegetables, fish (even canned fish with soft bones), fruit juices high in calcium and low in sugar, and fortified cereals, such as Total, Wheaties, Raisin Bran and Special K.
Another way to get vitamin D is to get some sun. Not all sun is bad, and 15 minutes of sunshine a day can help boost your vitamin D and your mood. If you choose to take a calcium supplement or multivitamin, make sure it also contains vitamin D.
A lot of older adults don’t have enough vitamin B12 – and may not even know what it is. B12 helps make red blood cells, and a lack of it can lead to a variety of issues including fatigue, anemia, numbness, lack of balance, memory loss and weakness.
The best source of vitamin B12 is meat, some fish and seafood, eggs, poultry, dairy and fortified cereal.
If you think you may have a deficiency, ask your doctor or nutritionist if you should add a supplement to your diet.
Most of us know we need fiber-rich foods to stay regular. What you might not know is that fiber also can help lower your risk for heart disease and prevent Type 2 diabetes. Eat whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, peas and plenty of fruits of vegetables – at least three servings a day of each.
Increasing potassium, along with reducing sodium (salt), may lower your risk of high blood pressure.
The best way to increase your potassium is to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and beans. Foods with the highest amount of potassium include asparagus, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, bananas, melons, apricots, strawberries and nectarines.
And, instead of reaching for the salt shaker to flavor foods, reach for herbs and spices.
The right fat is good for you
Not all fat is bad. Fat is a major source of energy, and it also helps us absorb all those other vitamins and nutrients we need.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats found in seeds, nuts, avocados, olive oil and fish are good for you and should be included in your diet daily.
You should limit the amount of saturated fats you eat. This would include red meat, whole milk and other whole-milk dairy foods, cheese, coconut oil, and a lot of packaged baked goods.
We all know that trans fats are no good in any amount. There’s a reason we call fries, pizza and potato chips junk food.
This may seem like a lot to consume, but several types of foods can give you multiple nutrients. Spinach has potassium, fiber and vitamin D; most fish have vitamin D, B12 and good fats. When you focus on the foods packed with key nutrients, you’re likely to feel better and stay healthy longer.
Looking for more tips like this to make sure you and your loved one are getting the right nutrition as you age? Download our ebook, “Secrets to Making Mealtimes Easier for People with Dementia and Family Caregivers!”