I just turned 64, and my stiff joints have finally convinced me that the health concerns of “older” people are now my concerns.
In order to make sure I keep on living the healthy, vigorous life I’ve enjoyed up until now, I’m looking to make some improvements to my diet.
I want the foods I eat to be nutrient-dense. I want them to have plenty of the right vitamins and minerals, without having too many calories.
As we get older, some vitamins and minerals become especially important. Without them, our “golden years” won’t be so golden. These are nutrients that give us the edge against stroke, blindness, hearing loss and cancer, to name a few.
So, here’s a rundown of six of the vitamins and nutrients I’ll be looking at as I adjust my diet to support my health in my 60s and beyond, and why you should, too — because it’s never too early to take care of you.
6 vitamins and minerals you don’t want to be short on
Vitamin D and calcium. These two work hand in hand. Without vitamin D, your body won’t absorb and process calcium in the best ways your body needs it. And, as we age, the chance of developing osteoporosis is greater, and calcium is more important than ever.
But calcium can be a double-edged sword. Unless your doctor recommends supplementing calcium, it’s better to get it from food sources. Rogue calcium is a contributor to arterial plaque… and that’s one reason why vitamin D is important to help your body properly utilize it.
Vitamin D also keeps your muscles, nerves and immune system working. But don’t think you’re getting all the vitamin D you need just from being out in the sun.
The older you get, the less of this “sunshine vitamin” you absorb in this way. You’ll need to include foods like salmon, fortified milk (or soy milk if you don’t do dairy) and fortified cereals in your diet, and even a good D3 supplement.
Vitamin B12. This B vitamin helps make blood and nerve cells. It is also essential for healthy brain function. Since the body cannot make its own, we need to get it from animal foods like meat, fish, eggs and dairy, as well as from “B12 fortified” foods like breakfast cereal.
More than 30 percent of people over the age of 50 have a condition known as atrophic gastritis, which makes it harder for the body to absorb B12 from food. Long-term use of antacids, as well as many antibiotics, can also cause malabsorption of B12.
Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 regulates brain function and may also contribute to the reduction of anxiety and depression, as well as helps boost energy levels. Chickpeas, liver, fatty fish and fortified breakfast cereal are good sources.
Magnesium. It could be argued that this little-discussed nutrient keeps your body running. It is part of more than 600 metabolic reactions.
These include converting food to energy, contraction and relaxation of muscles, and sending messages through your nervous system and to your brain.
Muscle twitches or cramps, frequent fatigue and an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) could all be signs of insufficient magnesium.
Nuts, seeds and leafy greens are great sources of magnesium. So are dark chocolate, avocados and pumpkin seeds.
Potassium. Like magnesium, potassium is vital to so many bodily functions. It helps regulate blood pressure, and without enough potassium, the nerves that keep your heart beating can’t do their job.
Getting enough potassium is more important than ever right now. Science has discovered that the coronavirus robs the body of potassium in several different ways, leaving a person vulnerable to COVID 19-related heart dysfunction.
There are many good food sources of potassium, including bananas, broccoli, dark leafy greens and avocados.
2 more nutrients that make a difference
Here’s a shortlist of other nutrients you don’t want to be short on.
Zinc — Getting enough zinc can help boost your immune system to help keep colds, flu and pneumonia at bay. With the addition of COVID-19 into the mix, this coming cold and flu season will be especially challenging.
Selenium — Just two Brazil nuts a day will give you all you need. Selenium is a trace mineral that plays a role in thyroid health, and may also help to protect against cognitive decline.
A well-balanced diet of fresh foods and no processed foods will give you control over how you look and feel as you get older, and will help you continue to do the things that make life meaningful.
Vitamins You Need as You Age — WebMD
What are the symptoms of atrophic gastritis? — Healthline