Eating Healthy Over 50
As we age, the definition of what makes a food "healthy" or "unhealthy" changes. If you're 50 and over, you should be adjusting your diet to take in those extra vitamins and minerals your changing body needs.
Don't rely on multivitamins to fill the gap. In 2006 the National Institutes of Health in their State-of-the-Science Statement concluded that, "the present evidence is insufficient to recommend either for or against the use of MVMs (multivitamins) by the American public to prevent chronic disease." In many cases, multivitamins provided no benefit for the people taking them. In several large disturbing studies, multivitamins actually increased the number of heart attacks, cancers and accelerated the rate of death.
Your body needs the vitamins, but it should come from food sources. To make it easier, I've put together the vitamins those in the 50 plus age category should get a little more of, what foods you'll find them in and what conditions they may help with.
Vitamin B6 requirements increase from around 1.3 milligrams per day to 1.7 milligrams. It helps your body make red blood cells, contributes to immunity and nervous system function. It's also used to metabolize fats and proteins. You can find B6 in meat, poultry, seafood and fruit; but it's especially high in vegetables like spinach, peppers and cabbage. To make sure you get enough, toss a salad with spinach, cook up green peppers with an omelet or steam some cabbage for dinner.
Calcium requirements increase for women (from around 1,000 mg a day to about 1,200) but decrease for men (from 1,000 mg a day to 200). The reason it goes down in men is because in clinical trials, men who took in more than 1,500 mg a day were at greater risk of getting prostate cancer.
Calcium helps with immunity, muscle contraction, blood clotting and blood pressure. Eating foods high in calcium also has other benefits. Low-sugar yogurts with "live active cultures" are a good example. A 6 oz. container of yogurt has most of the calcium a man needs but also those active cultures that help with digestive health. For the extra calcium a woman needs, eat a low-sugar breakfast cereal with 2 cups of fat free milk. The milk provides 2/3 of the calcium required plus a healthy dose of muscle building protein.
The antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E are believed to affect cataract formation and reduce age-related macular degeneration. People who don't get enough may also have problems with wound healing. But taking them in pill form can cause diarrhea, increase the risk of hip fractures, liver abnormalities and even lung cancer.
Get your antioxidants daily by putting some blueberries on top of your cereal. Eat a slice of cantaloupe for a mid-morning pick-me-up, bring along carrots for an afternoon snack or eat a handful of nuts before you work out. For lunch make a whole-grain sandwich and stuff it with a couple thick slices of fresh tomato.
Vitamin K is essential for bone density. Low levels may increase the risk of osteopenia, the forerunner of osteoporosis, a common disease that weakens the bones. This is one vitamin you shouldn't wait until you're older to get more of. In fact, the recommendation for men age 25 or older is 80 mcg and women age 25 or older is 65 mcg.
You can get more Vitamin K by eating leafy green vegetables. Put lettuce on your sandwiches, serve cabbage with dinner and make it a goal to eat one green salad a day.
For those of you who are too busy to deal with all the fresh food, there are alternatives. Canned fruit and vegetables are acceptable, just choose the ones with "no salt or sugar added." Frozen food with no additives are good too, as long as you've got the time to thaw them out. You get nearly all the nutritional value without worrying about spoilage. As a bonus, many canned or frozen foods are cheaper than fresh.
Compare the foods above with what you normally eat. Are you getting enough of what you need?
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