Apr 13, 2023

9 Essential Nutrients You Need More of As You Age

"Calcium helps promote bone health, nerve function and muscle movements," Levine explains. "It can help slow down the process of osteopenia and osteoporosis, age-related bone loss, which is higher in postmenopausal women due to the fact that they cannot absorb sufficient calcium."

How to get enough: Adults should strive for 1,200 mg a day, she says, and you can obtain this through dairy products, leafy greens and canned fish with soft bones. One cup of skim milk and 1 cup of yogurt each have 300 mg; 1 cup of greens can contain anywhere from 40 to 100 mg. Studies are still mixed as to whether taking calcium supplements is a good idea, with some linking it to a potentially increased risk of calcium build-up in arteries.

"My feeling with supplementation in general is that it really should be a second line of defense," Sesso says. "If you’re getting calcium through your diet, that's always the preference, the best way to go." If you are going to take a supplement, a lower dose is better so that, ideally, you’re getting some daily calcium through dietary sources.

And check your multivitamin, if you’re taking one, to make sure you don't overdo it. "A lot of supplements will go up to 1,000 or more milligrams," says Sesso. "That, to me, is probably too high. Most typical multivitamins might have 400 to 600 milligrams, and that's usually more than adequate."

Protein can help build muscle and slow down the process of sarcopenia, a gradual loss of muscle, which kicks in as early as our 40s and continues each year beyond that. "Studies show that older adults need more dietary protein than younger adults to preserve muscle mass, promote recovery from illness and maintain a certain quality of life," Moore says. Protein, she adds, provides the essential amino acids our body needs to support cell growth and repair.

Adequate protein also helps to keep blood sugars stable and plays a role in building and retaining muscle. And the timing of your protein consumption matters, according to research. Studies have found that eating protein in the morning and about the same amount at lunch and dinner helps people maintain muscle mass, according to AARP's The Whole Body Reset.

How to get enough: Levine says to aim for as much as 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. You can get this much through a variety of animal and plant-based products. A 3.5-ounce boneless chicken breast contains 30 grams of protein, 6 ounces of Greek yogurt has 17 grams, a half-cup of tofu contains 10 grams, and a half-cup of cooked legumes contains 6 to 10 grams.

Our bodies are about 60 percent water. But as we age, we may tend to drink less. "With older people, sometimes the sensation of thirst goes down," says Shafipour. This, he says, tends to occur in your 70s and beyond. With age also comes an increased risk of being more prone to dehydration, he adds. "That is something we see a lot, that older people get dehydrated; they get dizzy, more prone to falls and things like that."

How to get enough: Shafipour recommends that adults divide their weight in pounds by 2 and consume that many ounces of water daily. Therefore, a 120-pound person would need about 60 ounces per day. "And make sure to drink it throughout the day and not just in one sitting." Consuming water-based fruits and vegetables, like watermelon and cucumbers, as well as soup can help contribute to this number.

Recommendations for how much water to consume per day can vary. For more information, see "Do You Really Need 8 Glasses of Water a Day?"

Amy Fox's One-Pan Salmon and Vegetables

Salmon is a wonderful food for aging adults because it includes antioxidant elements like selenium; other minerals, including phosphorus, zinc and potassium; and the vitamin B group — riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, B6, folate and B12.

This recipe is easy and versatile. Change it up with other flaky fish, such as tilapia or trout, or swap out the vegetables for whatever's available in your refrigerator or at the store. Consider adding thinly sliced sweet potatoes to the baking sheet for a heartier meal.



Amy Fox's Hearty Lentil or Bean Soup

This soup is nutrient-dense, containing protein and large amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals. The recipe comes together quickly with mostly pantry ingredients. If lentils aren't your thing, you can substitute any bean, such as black, navy or pinto beans or chickpeas. This soup is excellent the next day too. It also freezes and defrosts well.



Nicole Pajer writes about health for The New York Times, Woman's Day and other publications.

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