It doesn’t matter what age you are; it is important to eat healthy. Eating healthy will help you acquire the necessary nutrients to lower your risk of disease, increase longevity, promote good mental health and physical well-being. You need to have a balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals whether you are young or old.
Calcium is one of the minerals needed for building healthy bones, healthy muscles, nerves and heart. From age 19 to 60 both women and men need 1000 milligrams per day of calcium. Healthy sources of calcium include low-fat or fat-free dairy products, calcium fortified foods such as soy or almond milk, 100% juices and cereals. Other sources of calcium include beans, leafy greens, almonds and canned salmon with soft bones.
Folic acid or folate is especially important for women who are planning to become pregnant or are pregnant. The recommended allowance for women of child-bearing age is 400 to 800 micrograms. Many breads, cereals and grain products are fortified with folic acid and there are many fruits and vegetables that are good sources of folate. Adults in the 30 to 40 age group need 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ to 3 cups of vegetables a day for women and men respectively.
Another important nutrient for healthy eating is fiber. Fiber can help control blood sugars and lower cholesterol. It can also help you feel full at mealtime. Women 31 to 50 need about 25 grams of fiber per day and men about 31 grams.
Adequate amounts of Vitamin D are essential for maintaining bone and building muscle strength. It is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Vitamin D also regulates many other cellular functions in your body. Its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and neuroprotective properties support immune health, muscle function and brain cell activity. It is not naturally found in many foods, but you can get it from fortified milk, fortified cereal, and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines. It is also absorbed through the skin from the sun, but the amount absorbed depends on the pigment of your skin and the darker your skin pigment the less Vitamin D absorbed. Use of sunscreen also decreases absorption. Recommended intake for men and women 1 to 70 is 600 IU per day and over 70, 800 IU per day.
Another important vitamin is B12 which helps your body make red blood cells and keeps your brain and nervous system healthy. Sources of B12 include meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and fortified foods.
As we age, we tend to lose muscle and therefore, it is important to continue to have good sources of protein in our diet daily to meet our needs of 5 ounces for women and 5.5 ounces for men aged 60 and beyond. Good sources of protein include beef, poultry, fish, pork and lamb. Don’t care for any of those, try egg, beans, cheese, nuts, tofu and some of the plant-based sources of protein.
Other tips for healthy eating–
- Read food labels
- Cook more meals at home
- Use healthier cooking techniques
- Snack on fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds
- Eat more whole grains
- Avoid processed foods which can be high in sodium(salt) content and low in nutrients which may affect your overall health.
- Use more herbs and spices to flavor your food.
- Avoid a lot of sweetened beverages such as energy drinks, sodas, sweetened coffees and teas.
- Drink more water. If you have difficulty drinking plain water, try adding lemon, lime, orange slices, mint or cucumbers.
- Be mindful of what you are eating and drinking.
More information on daily nutritional needs can be found in the 2020 -2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.