Eat well as we age
There are many challenges to getting older. Certainly there are mental, physical, and social changes that can make it difficult to stay in good health. University nutrition researchers evaluated the diets of over 5,700 older women to determine if they were deficient in any particular nutrients. The average age of the women in the study was 79 years. The study obtained data from the Women’s Health Initiative Long Life Study, with a comparison to the Dietary Reference Intakes for nutrients.
The researchers evaluated these components of the diet:
- Energy or calories
- Minerals potassium, sodium and calcium
- Vitamins D, E, K, B-12 and folate
The key nutrients that were insufficient included:
- Fiber, averaging only 19 grams; the recommendation is 25-40 grams per day
- Potassium - this mineral is important for blood pressure control
- Calcium – this bone-building mineral helps maintain bone strength and control blood pressure
- Vitamins D & E to reduce body inflammation
As we age there are natural changes to the body that result in:
- Decreased digestion of food and reduced absorption of nutrients
- Changes in the way the body metabolizes nutrients
- Absorption changes because of the addition of medications for different health issues
Because there are negative changes in the way we are able to utilize the nutrients in the foods that we eat, it makes sense that we eat well as we age to obtain all of our essential nutrients.
- Protein intake can include animal products such as fish, dairy, skinless poultry, and lean red meats, but also vegetarian options such as legumes, soy (tofu and tempeh) and nuts/nut butters.
- Potassium is found in fruits like bananas and oranges, and vegetables such as greens, broccoli, potatoes, and legumes.
- You’ll find vitamin D in milk and yogurt.
- Vitamin E is in good supply in a variety of nuts and seeds.
- Less-processed plant foods will provide fiber to feed the healthy bacteria in your gut.
About the Author
Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.
By: Rita P. Smith, MS, RD, CDE, Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital