Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Health
Some nutrients are especially important for senior citizens
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist in Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
It has been said that if individuals remained as able throughout life to handle physiologic stress and resist disease as they could at age 10, half the population would have a life expectancy of 700 years. While the statement may be a bit exaggerated, the point is well taken. As we age, our bodies just don’t function like they used to. One thing that many people may not be aware of is as we age, we don’t absorb nutrients as readily as we did when we were younger.
After age 50, there are some nutrients that we need to give extra attention to when planning meals and snacks. Those nutrients include protein, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and zinc. As we age, we have decreased secretion of gastric juices which help to assure nutrients are absorbed.
With age, we start losing muscle. That’s because we don’t do enough activity to maintain the muscle mass we had. Exercise can help re-build lost muscles but protein is needed to assure that it happens.
Milk is not just for babies. Calcium and vitamin D, both found in milk are important nutrients for seniors. Bones start to weaken in our mid thirties and for women, bone loss accelerates for three to seven years following menopause. Calcium helps to build bones and vitamin D helps calcium do its job.
Vitamin C helps you to absorb iron from non-meat sources. As an antioxidant, may help prevent some types of cancer and help lower the risk for cataracts. Citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, cantaloupe, and broccoli are good sources of vitamin C.
Deficiency in vitamin B6 has been linked to memory loss. Good sources of B6 include chicken fish and pork. Vitamin B6 is also found in whole grains, nuts and legumes.
Vitamin B12 works with folate to make red blood cells. Low levels can lead to memory loss, age-related hearing loss and anemia. Meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy foods are good sources of vitamin B12.
Zinc helps to fight infection and repair body tissue. It can also help to revive fading taste buds. Good sources of zinc include meats, liver, eggs, shellfish and milk.
The good news is that by choosing a good variety of healthful foods from each of the five food groups, it is possible to get a get a good dose of each of these vitamins.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009