As we age we lose vitamin D and calcium, hence bone loss accelerates especially among women. Our estrogen helps maintain bone mass, and after menopause we become more vulnerable to bone loss. Most doctors recommend at least 1,200 milligrams (mg) of vitamin D plus calcium for women, taken twice daily. Omega-3 fatty acids which include omega-3s help prevent irregular heartbeats, reduce plaque buildup in the arteries, inhibit inflammation and keep blood sugar levels in check. Good food sources include tuna, mackerel, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, cheese, yogurt, milk and figs. Though you can see by these items not everyone should be eating these kinds of foods.
Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent irregular heartbeats, reduce plaque buildup in the arteries, inhibit inflammation and keep blood sugar levels in check. “Omega-3s are important for reducing inflammation wherever it comes up, whether as heart disease, cancer or Alzheimer’s,” says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., author of Doctor’s Detox Diet. Recommended dose: 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA omega-3s per day. Good food sources include flaxseed oil, salmon, walnuts, and edamame. All very healthy and not filled with unhealthy cholesterol. Omega-3: DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain’s cell membranes. Over the past decade, studies have linked omega-3 fatty acids to brain benefits ranging from better blood flow and increased growth of brain cells to improved mood and enhanced memory. Unfortunately, as you age, your brain cells gradually lose the ability to absorb DHA, starving your mind and compromising both brain function and memory retention. Recommended dose: 1,000 milligrams of DHA and EPA per day. Good food sources: Flaxseed oil, salmon, walnuts, and edamame
Probiotics: The older you are, the more vulnerable your system is to unhealthy bacteria. “If your gut isn’t healthy, your body can’t absorb nutrients, so it doesn’t matter what supplements you take,” says nutritionist Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Probiotics help by reintroducing good bacteria. Recommended dose: 1 billion to 10 billion CFUs a few days a week. Good sources of probiotics are found in yogurt, kefir, kimchi and dark chocolate. Our dietary requirements change as you get older, and while experts recommend getting most of your nutrients from food, sometimes that isn’t possible. “Our guts become less efficient as we age, particularly when we reach our 60s and 70s, and that limits our ability to get sufficient nutrients from food,” says Tufts University’s McKay. Supplementing your diet with these key nutrients should help you stay on top of your game. Vitamin B12: Even a mild vitamin B12 deficiency may put older adults at risk for dementia, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. But stomach acid, which is required for the body to absorb vitamin B12 from food, begins to decline during your 50s, so the Institute of Medicine recommends getting your B12 levels checked and supplementing if necessary. Recommended dose: 2.4 micrograms daily. Good food sources: Clams, beef liver, trout, cheeseburger, and sirloin.
Vitamin D: For years, scientists thought vitamin D’s only role was to enhance the absorption of calcium from food. Now research shows that vitamin D can reduce chronic pain, guard against heart disease, even ward off cancer. The ideal source of this critical nutrient is sunlight. Unfortunately, your body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight declines as you age. Recommended dose: 600 international units daily. Look for supplements that contain vitamin D3, an active form that’s more effective than its vitamin D2 counterpart. Good food sources: Tuna, mackerel, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is essential during your 70s, to protect against illness and infection. The ideal source of this critical nutrient is sunlight. Unfortunately, your body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight decreases with age. Recommended dose: 800 international units daily. Look for supplements that contain vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), an active form that’s more effective than its vitamin D2 counterpart. Good food source: Tuna, mackerel, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Protein: When you hit your 70s, your ability to build muscle mass deteriorates. Plus, your protein needs grow even as your intake and appetite may wane. “Once you lose more than 10 percent of your muscle mass, your immune system doesn’t function properly,” says Randall J. Urban, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. The good news: Supplementing with protein powders or pills can increase lean body mass and muscle. Recommended dose: 20 to 30 grams of whey protein powder mixed into a daily shake. Good food source: Beef, chicken, beans, and almonds.
Foods in it’s most natural state, plant based diets are best as we age. Most older Americans should be taking supplements, but knowing which ones exactly is tricky with the bombardment of advertisements and TV doctors. Even if you eat a wide variety of foods, how can you be sure that you are getting all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need as you get older? If you are over 50, your nutritional needs may change. Informed food choices are the first place to start, making sure you get a variety of foods while watching your calorie intake. Supplements and fortified foods may also help you get appropriate amounts of nutrients. To help you make informed decisions, talk to your doctor and/or registered dietitian. They can work together with you to determine if your intake of a specific nutrient might be too low or too high and then decide how you can achieve a balance between the foods and nutrients you personally need.
Today’s dietary supplements are not only vitamins and minerals. They also include other less-familiar substances, such as herbals, botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, and animal extracts. Some dietary supplements are well understood and established, but others need further study. Whatever your choice, supplements should not replace the variety of foods important to a healthful diet. Unlike drugs, dietary supplements are not pre-approved by the government for safety or effectiveness before marketing. Also, unlike drugs, supplements are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases. But some supplements can help assure that you get an adequate dietary intake of essential nutrients; others may help you reduce your risk of disease. Some older people, for example, are tired due to low iron levels. In that case, their doctor may recommend an iron supplement. At times, it can be confusing to tell the difference between a dietary supplement, a food, or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. This is because supplements, by law, come in a variety of forms that resemble these products, such as tablets, capsules, powders, energy bars, or drinks. One way to know if a product is a dietary supplement is to look for the Supplement Facts label on the+ product.