While some seniors complain of the toll that the years have taken on them, others enthusiastically claim that they feel even more healthy and alive than they ever did in their forties. One way to turn your senior years into your golden ones is to make sure that you continue to meet the unique and changing nutritional needs that develop as you age. Aside from ensuring that your diet is based on minimally processed, natural and healthy foods, here are five key nutrients that people aged 55 or older need to make sure they are getting every day, to pave the way towards a thriving, healthy, happy and active lifestyle.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for healthy red blood cells, a healthy immune system and a healthy nervous system. Unfortunately, as we age, it becomes harder for our bodies to absorb B12 from food, and this can increase the risk for heart disease and result in a condition called B12 deficiency anemia. Some of the most common symptoms of B12 anemia include fatigue, trouble concentrating, tingling in the fingers and toes, nervousness, and pale skin. If you experience these symptoms have your doctor check your B12 levels, because if B12 anemia is left untreated it can mimic symptoms of dementia and cause irreversible nerve damage. Some of the best healthy food sources for B12 include fish, beef, dairy, pork and organ meats such as liver and kidney.
Calcium plays numerous roles in the body, the most well-known and arguably most important of which is maintaining healthy bones. When you don’t consume enough calcium your body will leach it out of your bones resulting in brittle bones. Unfortunately as we age, we tend to consume less calcium rich foods and inadvertently increase our chances for osteoporosis and bone fractures. In order to reduce your risk make sure to consume plenty of calcium rich foods including dairy, dark leafy greens, almonds, tofu and calcium-fortified orange juice.
Although magnesium doesn’t get as much attention, your bones need magnesium just as much as they need calcium, in order to stay strong and healthy. Actually, every organ in your body needs magnesium and this important mineral helps to reduce the risk for high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, depression, asthma, fibromyalgia, tooth decay, noise related hearing loss, restless leg syndrome, heart arrhythmia and heart failure. Magnesium also promotes a healthy nervous system, and if you take it before bed, it may help you get a good night’s sleep. Some great healthy food sources of magnesium include tofu, leafy green vegetables, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, fish, whole grains, avocado, bananas, dried fig, low fat dairy and dark (low sugar) chocolate.
Vitamin D works alongside calcium and magnesium in order to maintain healthy bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D also helps to boost the immune system and protect against numerous chronic disease including cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune disorders. If you do not spend at least 15 minutes per day in the sun, there is a good chance you may be deficient in this all important nutrient. In addition to getting some sun time (when possible) you can also boost your vitamin D levels by eating salmon, tuna and eggs, as well as foods that are enriched with vitamin D. Look on the label of milks, yoghurts, cereals and juice products and choose the ones that have vitamin D added.
Last but certainly not least on the nutrition for seniors list is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help to reduce the risk for heart disease by lowering blood pressure and triglyceride levels, and boosting the hearth healthy HDL cholesterol levels. Omega-3s also help reduce the risk for sudden death caused by abnormal heart rhythms, lower the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis, maintain healthy bone density, and may reduce the risk for cancer. There not just good for your body either; omega-3s help to support healthy brain function and may help prevent depression, cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Some great healthy food sources of omega-3s include cold-water fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring); as well as soy, flax seeds, walnuts and pumpkin seeds and the oils made from these foods.