We tend to think of our body as requiring the same basic nutrients no matter how old we are. Some people eat the very same foods throughout their entire adult life. We stuck in our ways and see little reason to change.
But there might actually be some very good reasons to change things up as you get older.
A Few Broad Changes to Our Nutritional Needs
As we grow older there are a few changes that we need to address.
First of all, in general our body requires fewer calories. While we can do things to boost our metabolism, it does tend to slow down with age. Similarly, we typically lose some muscle mass, despite our best efforts. Plus, we’re generally less active. All those factors combine to mean that our body needs less energy.
A second thing that happens, however, is that our body needs more nutrients. In particular, vitamin D and vitamin B12 are important. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, while vitamin B12 is critical for your heart health, memory, and central nervous system. Low levels are associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
A third change that occurs is our body loses some of its ability to absorb these nutrients properly, which can make matters even worse. Lower stomach acid levels mean that our body is unable to digest vitamin B12 properly. Similarly, as we grow older our skin loses some of its ability to turn sunlight into vitamin D.
As a result of all of these changes, vitamin deficiencies are quite common in older adults. Our need for vitamin B12 and D increase, while our ability to absorb the nutrients declines.
A Few Broad Solutions to Our Changing Needs
The main solution to this problem is to focus on eating more nutrient dense foods. That means empty calories are to be avoided at all costs, like those from soda, cookies, and other simple carbs.
Instead your diet should consist almost entirely of fruits, vegetables, lean meat, nuts and seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
In particular, because vitamin B12 is largely found in animal products, it’s important to eat plenty of seafood, eggs, Greek yogurt, and other lean kinds of meat. Luckily, foods that are high in vitamin B12 tend also to be high in vitamin D, especially fish, eggs, and liver.
In general, is also important to remember that eating a variety of foods is the best way to ensure your body gets the nutrients that it needs. You should try to include multiple colors and textures into every meal and be adventurous once in a while.
If diet isn’t enough, you can always talk to your doctor about taking supplements.
A Few Final Thoughts on Aging
Another interesting thing that happens with age, is your body can become less sensitive to thirst. As a result, many older adults don’t drink enough water because they don’t feel all that thirsty throughout the day.
Yet, your body’s need for water remains relatively constant. So you have to be more conscious about drinking enough water throughout the day.
Getting older can be tough, but focusing on a diet containing nutrient dense foods, high in vitamin B12 and D, can hopefully make the transition a little easier.