Healthy eating is a lifelong journey. And while your body never stops needing a balanced diet, there are certain nutrients that it requires more of as you age. Here are five big ones to focus on:
1. Calcium and vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are important for women and men at every stage, but safeguarding your bone health as you age makes them both an even bigger priority.
How much? Women ages 19 to 50 should aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, and 1,200 after age 50. Men ages 19 to 70 should aim for 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day, increasing intake to 1,200 milligrams after age 70. For vitamin D, it’s 600 IU a day for adults ages 19 to 70.
Where to get it: Good news! You can often get calcium and vitamin D from the same sources, including fortified foods like milk, orange juice or cereal, and canned fish such as salmon and tuna (the kind with bones adds extra calcium). And don’t forget your greens. Broccoli, kale, collard greens and spinach are great sources of calcium.
Fiber is a jack of all trades, nutrition-wise. It helps you feel satisfied so that you’re less likely to overeat, and it promotes regularity. Fiber also helps safeguard against heart disease and certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer.
How much? Women under age 50 should get 25 grams a day; women over age 50 should get 21 grams a day. Men under age 50 should aim for 38 grams; men over age 50 should get 31 grams a day.
Where to get it: Fruits and veggies are a great source of fiber as well as other nutrients. Other good sources of fiber are whole-grain breads and cereals, oatmeal, popcorn, nuts and seeds.
Potassium helps your body run better, playing a role in nerve and muscle functioning. It also keeps your heart from skipping a beat. Boosting your potassium intake and cutting back on salt as you get older may even help lower your risk of high blood pressure.
How much? Approximately 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day is recommended for adults.
Where to get it: Potassium-rich foods like avocados, sweet potatoes (with skin), bananas, cantaloupe and white beans can help you up your intake.
4. Healthy fats
Healthy fats are essential for healthy aging. They can help lower bad cholesterol, which decreases the risk of stroke and heart disease. They can also reduce inflammation in the body. Focus on swapping saturated fats for healthier unsaturated fats in your diet.
How much? Aim to keep your fat consumption between 20% to 35% of your total diet.
Where to get it: Sources of healthy, unsaturated fats include olive oil, avocados, walnuts and almonds.
NOTE: Trans fats (also known as partially hydrogenated oil) increase the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and lower the amount of good cholesterol (HDL). Try to avoid it. Trans fats often hide in packaged cookies, crackers, doughnuts, pies and cakes. So be sure to check food labels.
Protein helps maintain muscle, and it may enhance bone health as well.
How much? The amount you need will vary based on your calorie intake. Most adults should aim for a diet with 10% to 35% of total calories coming from lean proteins.
Where to get it: Poultry, lean beef, eggs, beans, tofu and nuts.
Let’s eat (better)
Find healthy recipes to boost your intake of these important nutrients (and plenty more). Log in to Healthy Lifestyles and search for ideas, or check out our Healthy Recipes page on Pinterest.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – eatright.org
- Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health – ods.od.nih.gov