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A good diet is important at any stage of life, but healthy eating is essential as we age. Aging comes with a variety of bodily changes, including deficiencies in certain nutrients. Lack of adequate nutrition leads to poor health outcomes and a decrease in quality of life. This article explores our nutritional needs as we grow older.

We Need Fewer Calories

Daily calorie requirements depend on our height, weight, muscle mass, and activity level. As we age, we carry less muscle and may exercise less – fewer calories are necessary to maintain our weight. Therefore, if we continue to eat the same amount of calories as when we were younger, we accumulate extra body fat.

We Need Higher Nutrition

Even though we need fewer calories, our nutritional needs may go up. So, healthy eating means a diet based on nutrient-rich whole foods – meat, fish, vegetables, fruits. Healthy food staples can keep nutrient deficiencies at bay without expanding our waistline.

We Can Benefit From More Protein

It’s common to lose muscle mass as we age and this is a major cause of weakness and fractures. Eating more protein or taking protein supplements will help to maintain muscle mass. Combining a protein-rich diet with resistance exercise is even more beneficial.

  • Click here to see how to increase protein intake.

We May Benefit From More Fiber

Constipation can be troublesome when we grow older. It’s common in people over 65, and more likely to affect women. As we age, we tend to move less and are more likely to take medications with constipation side effects. Eating more fiber may help with constipation. A high-fiber diet may also prevent diverticular disease – small pouches form along the colon wall and become infected.

  • Click here to see how to increase the intake of fiber.

We Need More Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is important for building and maintaining bones, while vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium. Aging means we may absorb less calcium from our diet and aging also causes less production of vitamin D. Our bodies make vitamin D from cholesterol in the skin when exposed to sunlight. However, aging tends to thin the skin, cutting down on its ability to make this important vitamin.

  • Healthy eating – click here for a list of calcium-rich foods and here for good sources of vitamin D.

We May Need More Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for maintaining healthy brain function and making red blood cells. Unfortunately, 10–30% of people over age 50 have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12 from their diet. Stomach acid separates this vitamin from food proteins, but as we age, we tend to produce less stomach acid.

  • Vitamin B12 is abundant in animal foods – meat, fish, eggs, dairy. Other foods are vitamin B12 fortified, and supplements are also available. Fortified foods contain vitamin B12 in a crystalline form not bonded to proteins. This means that people with low stomach acid can absorb it.
  • We may benefit from higher levels of several other nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Aging and Healthy Eating – The Bottom Line

If you are an older person or you have an aging loved one, you can make successful dietary changes to prevent nutritional deficiencies. If you need help with healthy eating and you live in or near Columbia, SC, Caring Healthcare can assist you. Talk to us, and we can work on a nutritional plan based on your needs.