Aging will inevitably create changes in the way our bodies operate. The digestive system is no exception. This article will examine how to adjust our diets to help compensate for the changes.
Cynthia Sass, Health.com
updated 7:12 AM EDT, Tue May 20, 2014
Health Magazine Editor’s note: Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health, and the author of “S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.”
(CNN) — As you get older, it’s important to make small changes to your diet to protect your long-term health. Here are seven nutrients to zero in on after turning 50.
Why you need it: Scientific journals have been bursting at the seams in recent years with new research about the importance of vitamin D, and according the data, the vast majority of women aren’t getting enough.
One recent study found that adults with the lowest blood vitamin D levels were about twice as likely to die from any cause compared to those with the highest levels. Other studies have linked adequate intakes to lower rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, certain cancers, and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
This key nutrient is also tied to enhanced immunity, muscle functioning, and injury prevention (pretty impressive, huh?). Vitamin D’s nickname is the “sunshine vitamin” because exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays triggers its production in the body, but you can’t rely on the sun as your sole source. Your location, cloud cover, smog, time of day and year, and sunscreen use all affect your UV exposure and vitamin D production.
How to get it: Some of the best natural food sources include wild salmon, whole eggs (the D is in the yolk), and mushrooms, and it’s in fortified foods like dairy, but it can be difficult to eat enough of these foods to meet your needs, so a supplement may be your best bet
How much is safe: To identify the right amount to take, get your blood level tested. Based on the results, your doctor can recommend the proper daily dose.
Why you need it: Bone density declines more rapidly after 50, and one in three women over this age will experience a bone fracture. Research shows that in the first years after menopause, women may lose 3 to 5% of their bone mass annually, and increases in calcium intakes generally don’t offset the losses.
Calcium is also required for muscle contractions, so this mineral allows you to get the most from every workout. It’s also needed for nerve function, and helps maintain your body’s acid/base balance, so there are plenty of reasons to strive to hit the suggested mark.
How to get it: While dairy may be your first thought, there are also several plant-based sources, including dark leafy greens, beans and lentils, nuts, and dried figs.
How much is safe: If you choose to use a supplement, just be sure not to go overboard. The recommended daily calcium intake for women over 50 is 1,200 mg per day, but the maximum advised limit, from both food and supplements combined, from age 51 on is 2,000 mg per day.
I’ve seen plenty of women exceed that amount (sometimes unknowingly, sometimes because they mistakenly believe more is better), and getting too much can be risky, with potential side effects including kidney problems, kidney stones, and calcium deposits in soft tissues.
High calcium intakes can also lead to constipation, and interfere with the absorption of iron and zinc, and recently, excess calcium has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Talk to your doctor or dietitian to be sure you’re striking the right balance.
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