There’s no simple way to put this: your nutritional needs change with age. The change comes from a bunch of reasons. You might not have the same appetite, food doesn’t taste as good, you have trouble chewing, or it gives you a bout of indigestion. And even if you’re still eating the way you always have, there’s a high probability that you’re not absorbing nutrients at nearly the same rate as you once were.
Nutritional deficiencies can occur at any age, but they are far more likely in adults 65 and older. This is precisely the age group that’s affected by a growing list of chronic health conditions. If you’re not getting enough of the nutrients you need to stay healthy, the result is surely clear.
And even if you are eating nutrient-dense calories with every food consumed, you still might be coming up short on some. Increased need and poor absorption can play a trick on you. Here are the nutrients you should be paying the closest attention to if you are 65 or older.
- Vitamin B12: Absorption rates for B12 drop substantially with age, and it plays a major role in a variety of bodily processes. You need it to create blood cells, DNA, and to maintain healthy nerve function. It’s tricky because even if you think you’re getting enough of it, there is a decent chance you are not. Trying to eat a source of animal protein with every meal can help protect deficiencies, with ideal sources being fish, poultry, meat, eggs, milk, and milk products like yogurt.
- Folate/Folic Acid: Also known as vitamin B9, a deficiency in folic acid can lead to anemia in older adults. Folic acid contributes to red blood cell production, which will limit the amount of oxygen circulating in your body. Without it, your organs and cells cannot function properly. You can get more folate by consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as fortified cereals.
- Calcium: Calcium is another nutrient that takes on added importance with age. If you’re not getting enough, which most people 65+ do not, it seeps out of your bones to meet the body’s needs. The result is weaker, more brittle bones that are at high risk of fractures. In addition to calcium, adequate vitamin D, potassium, and magnesium are required because they all work together to make sure calcium can is absorbed and effective. Eat a variety of dairy foods, seafood, fruit, vegetables, and nuts to help boost the intake of these nutrients.
Eating a nutrient-dense diet can help ensure you get the nutrients you need. Thankfully, many of these foods are rather easily digestible and are unlikely to infringe on your appetite. In some cases, it is worthwhile to talk to your doctor about supplementation.