As we get older, things change. Our skin gets thinner and wrinkles start to form. We lose lean muscle (if we don’t actively work on it) and our belly fat starts to shift to our midsection. We also produce less stomach acid, making it harder for our bodies to efficiently absorb vital nutrients.
Did you know that studies have estimated that 20% of aging people have “atrophic gastritis”, a condition in which chronic inflammation has damaged the cells that produce stomach acid?
This is a real problem! If your stomach acid is low and can not absorb the nutrients you need to stay healthy, it is easy to fall into a lot of health problems. And, when this is coupled with the fact that we need less calories as we age, hormonal changes begin to run wild, and we are more likely to be prone to dehydration, absorbing the nutrients to keep you healthy is even more challenging. There are specific nutrients that you may need to be consciously aware of getting more of —
6 Nutrients You May Need As You Age
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Heart disease is a big deal and it is even bigger as you age. Changes in your diet, stress levels, and your hormones can all play a role in how well your cardiovascular system operates. And that all can catch up to you as you get older. Omega-3 fatty acids can lower heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and triglycerides. They can also increase HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol. Get your Omega-3’s by eating foods like walnuts, wild-caught salmon, mackerel, cod liver oil, herring, avocados, flax seeds, and chia seeds. You can also take a fish oil supplement. Incorporate a bit of these every day!
As you age, your body produces less collagen, leading to dry skin and wrinkles. Collagen is a major component of your skin and it plays a role in strengthening skin with benefits of elasticity and hydration. Adequate collagen has been linked to improving your skin health, relieving joint pain, preventing bone loss, boosting muscle mass, promoting heart health, improving gut health, balancing out moods, and supporting a healthy metabolism. Where can you find collagen? Collagen is found in the connective tissue of animals. Foods such as chicken skin, pork skin, beef and fish are sources of collagen. You can also find collagen in gelatin, such as bone broth, or you can add a collagen powder to your smoothie or liquid drink. This is my favorite. These foods are abundant, but their absorption is not as efficient as that of hydrolyzed collagen.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Calcium and vitamin D are two of the most important nutrients for bone health. As you age, vitamin D levels decrease, making it challenging for calcium to be efficiently absorbed. This can set you up for bone weakness and potential fractures, including osteoporosis and osteopenia. You can get vitamin D through sun exposure, but if you are quite deficient or not in the sun enough, you may not be getting enough vitamin D. You can naturally increase your vitamin D levels by eating egg yolks, a variety of fishes, mushrooms, and fortified foods. You can also take a cod liver supplement. As for calcium, you can find 15 calcium-rich foods right here to get you started!
The loss of muscle mass is called sarcopenia and it is a major source of weakness, fractures, and health issues as we get older. The average adult loses 3–8% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Aiming to consume a moderate amount of 25-30 grams of high quality protein with each meal will help you get your protein needs. It is also being shown that increasing protein and resistance exercise will help to decrease your risk of sarcopenia. Get more protein by topping organic greek yogurt with chopped almonds, snacking on organic cheese sticks, starting your morning off with a protein shake, or adding a protein rich food to your salad.
Magnesium is a super important mineral in the body. As you age, you are at risk for a deficiency because of poor intake, medication use and changes in your gut functioning (I.e., low stomach acid). According to MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, “Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.” Magnesium helps with maintaining a healthy immune system and stabilizes nerve and muscle functioning. It helps to keep your bones strong and your heart beating healthfully. It also helps to regulate your blood sugar levels, creating a more consistent energy level. Magnesium is also a super aid to calming the nervous system and allowing you to relax and fall asleep at night.
Aging increases the risk of a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Unfortunately, studies estimate that 10–30% of people over age 50 have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B-12 from their diet. Again, it is all about the low stomach acid! With time, this can cause a major deficiency. Why is this important? B-12 is essential for making red blood cells and maintaining healthy brain function. Vitamin B-12 is found naturally only in animal source foods such as dairy products, meat, eggs, fish, and shellfish. Vegan or Vegetarian? People who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet do not get adequate sources of B-12, so they can benefit from taking a vitamin B-12 supplement or consuming foods fortified with vitamin B-12.
Why wait? These may be nutrients that you need to support you as you age, but why wait to start? All of these nutrients are important at any age. Start to pay attention to how they play a role in your diet now so that you can set yourself up for a healthier, more supportive future!