As we get older, the needs of our body changes. For older adults there are key nutrients that are considered primarily important for optimal health. Keep in mind, dietary recommendations should be individualized to personal goals, disease states and functional capacity so please reach out to a registered dietitian nutritionist for more individualized recommendations.
Sodium and Potassium
Reducing sodium in your diet may help lower your risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and overall risk of heart disease. Our bodies only need about 500 mg of sodium to function and we can get this from whole foods on their own. Try to select and prepare foods with little to no added salt and consider adding flavor with herbs and spices. Mrs. Dash spices are a great, no-salt added option and are available in all grocery stores.
Depending on medication interactions, you may want to increase the overall potassium in your diet through fruits, vegetables and beans as this may also lower your blood pressure.
Calcium and Vitamin D
Older adults need more calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone health. The general recommendation is to have at least 3 servings of calcium rich foods and beverages each day such as milk and fortified plant-based alternatives, fortified cereals, and fruit juices, dark leafy vegetables, and canned fish. It doesn't hurt to get out for a walk if possible to get some sunlight! If you take a calcium supplement or multivitamin, choose one that contains vitamin D.
It is quite common for many older adults to not get enough vitamin B12. If you are vegan or vegetarian, this is more common. Examples of foods with B12 included lean meat, fish and seafood, and fortified cereals. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian nutritionist if you should take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Fiber is key to making sure you stay regular. The term "an apple a day will keep the doctor away" isn't far from the truth when it comes to fiber! Fiber has been shown to be preventive when it comes to heart disease and type II diabetes risk. Consuming foods like whole grains, beans, peas, fruits and vegetables will all provide both soluble and insoluble fiber.
As a general recommendation, it is advised to avoid foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fats to help with heart disease risk and disease maintenance. However, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are parts of a healthy diet and these can be found in nuts, avocados, olive oil, seeds and fish.
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