Nutrition and Aging

Your nutritional needs change as your body ages. Physiological changes occur slowly, over time, constantly altering your body systems and their nutritional requirements. Life’s events, illness and injuries, genetics, lifestyle choices and socioeconomic events influence these physical changes to speed the aging process even more. Even though your body has changed over the years, chances are good that your eating habits have remained the same.

As you age, you lose lean muscle and gain body fat. Physical activity usually decreases with age, and this means you need to take in fewer calories each day. The challenge is to meet the nutritional needs you had when you were younger, while consuming fewer calories.

One way to do this is to cut down on your fat intake: fat contains more calories than does protein or carbohydrates. High fat diets are also associated with many chronic and serious diseases, such as heart problems and obesity.

You should try to get 60 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, preferably complex carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables contain complex carbohydrates, are low in calories, and contain no fat. Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber for digestive health. Grain products, cereals, seeds, nuts, and beans are also good low-calorie, no fat sources of fiber.

Iron, calcium, and zinc levels can drop as you age. Eat vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables to improve absorption of iron. Tomatoes and cheese are good sources of calcium. Eat low-fat meat, eggs, and seafood for zinc.

Vitamin E may play a role in slowing the development of Alzheimer’s disease, while low levels of vitamin B12 are associated with memory loss and age-related hearing loss. Whole grains, peanuts, nuts, vegetable oils, and seeds are rich in vitamin E, while meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy foods increase vitamin B12 levels.

As you age, it becomes increasingly important that you take in more calcium, fiber, iron and protein, and vitamins A, C, and folic acid, which is a form of vitamin B9.

Supplements can improve your nutrition as you age. Consult with a professional with experience in nutrition and aging to learn how to slow the aging process in your body today.

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