Whether we’re 8 or 80, a healthy diet is a key to a healthy life. Maintaining the proper balance of all the food groups keeps our bodies functioning at peak efficiency. As we age, our nutritional needs change. Luckily, we can keep our bodies fine-tuned and continue our healthy lives by modifying our diets in small ways such as:
- Make sure to eat enough fiber: Fiber helps lower our risk for heart disease, control our weight and prevent Type 2 diabetes. Whole grain bread and cereals, beans, peas, fruits, and vegetables are all fiber-rich foods that should be included in our diet every day.
- Get enough Vitamin B12: Most of us do not get enough B12 in our diets. B12 is a nutrient that helps keep our nerves and blood cells healthy. Many foods, especially cereals, are fortified with B12. You can also find it in fish, meats, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy products. Aim to get at least 2.6mcg a day.
- Up the Omega 3 Fatty Acids each day: Omega 3 Fatty Acids are proven to reduce inflammation that can cause heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. Great sources of Omega 3s include flaxseed, flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil and various types of fish. If adding these foods into our daily routine is too much, there are great supplements on the market.
- Calcium is a huge plus: Though primarily to help preserve our bone health, calcium is also vital to maintaining lower blood pressure. People over the age of 50 need at least 1200 milligrams of calcium per day. That equals about four cups of fortified orange juice, dairy milk or fortified non-dairy milk such as almond or soy. Leafy greens (such as kale and turnip greens) are also great sources of absorbable calcium. Again, if consuming that much calcium each day is a challenge, supplements are a great alternative.
- Keep the sodium in check: Diets high in sodium can exacerbate high blood pressure. Most people are surprised to find that table salt accounts for only a small percent of the sodium content in our food. The majority comes from frozen, processed and restaurant foods. Eliminate or greatly restrict them in your normal diets and replace with fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, dry beans, unsalted nuts, and nut butter and grains like brown rice and oats.
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: As we age, we tend to not be as thirsty as we used to be, even though our bodies still need the same amount of liquids.