Our nutritional needs change as we age, and our bodies work hard to tell us so. Ignoring these signs can lead to nutritional deficiencies which can have negative affects on our physical, social and mental health. Here, we list out how our nutritional needs develop as we age, so that you can know what to look out for.
Less Able to Absorb Vitamins and Minerals
Our digestive systems tend to slow down as we age, leading to us producing less stomach acid and saliva. We are then less able to absorb certain vitamins and minerals such as Folic acid, Vitamin B12 and B6. These vitamins and minerals are key to helping us maintain a healthy metabolism and immune system, good bone health and circulation, as well as keeping us alert. Certain medications can also decrease our body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Discuss a nutritional plan with your doctor to figure out how you can best get the nutrients you need.
We Exercise Less
As we age, we tend to exercise less. While we should change the way we exercise as we age, we still need to maintain a regular exercise schedule to help us keep lean and healthy. Adults who exercise less as they age, but keep a similar diet to when they were younger, are at a high risk for obesity. To combat this, keep up an exercise routine and adjust your caloric intake accordingly. Here’s our guide to physical activity in your 50s.
Losing Muscle and Strength
We begin losing 5% of our muscle mass with each passing decade once we hit 30. This can cause fractures and fragility. While some loss of muscle and strength is inevitable as we age, hormonal changes, a low calcium intake, low exposure to Vitamin D and kidney problems can also contribute to calcium deficiency, so make sure you stock up on calcium rich foods, and spend time in the sun (and remember your sun protection)!
Decreased Feelings of Hunger and Thirst
As we age, we also tend to be less prone to feelings of hunger and thirst. Relying on these senses to keep us hydrated and fed may not always be the best guide. Instead, try to keep to a daily schedule for meals and snacks to ensure that you are getting an adequate amount of calories and nutrients throughout the day. If 3 large meals a day seem overwhelming, you can shoot for 5 smaller portions throughout the day instead.
You can also keep a water bottle with you and set yourself reminders on your phone to drink up. Even mild dehydration can affect mental health and cause a decline in physical and mental performance, so it’s important to remember to keep hydrated!
Salt and Fat
Age may blunt our taste buds, making it harder for us to pick up on subtle flavors. This can lead to us increasing the amount of salt and fat in our foods. Unfortunately, a diet high in salt can lead to hypertension and inflammation. There are healthy alternatives to salt and harmful fat, as we detail in this article on anti-inflammatory foods to help you age well. A good diet also encompasses plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, wholegrain and healthy fats.