04 Jan 7 Essential Nutrients for Healthy Aging
Nutrition plays an important role in healthy aging. As we age, our bodies will become more susceptible to chronic diseases and other adverse medical conditions. Fortunately, certain nutrients can fend off these diseases and conditions. Below are seven essential nutrients for healthy aging.
Calcium is an essential nutrient for healthy aging. It’s used in the production of new bone tissue. Regardless of age, everyone needs calcium to promote strong bones. For seniors, however, calcium is particularly important because of its ability to protect against osteoporosis.
Research shows that roughly one in 10 seniors suffer from osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a degenerative bone disease that involves the loss of bone tissue. Calcium protects against osteoporosis by facilitating the production of new bone tissue.
While calcium promotes strong bones, it’s only effective when consumed in conjunction with potassium. Potassium is equally important because it allows for the absorption of calcium. Seniors won’t who are deficient in potassium may fail to absorb a sufficient amount of calcium. They may consume plenty of calcium in their diet, but they won’t absorb it. Potassium and calcium work together to build new bone tissue and protect against osteoporosis.
Potassium is found in many vegetables and fruits. Bananas, for example, contain over 400 milligrams of potassium. Spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes and even mushrooms also contain large amounts of potassium.
Another essential nutrient for healthy aging is omega-3s. Omega-3s are fatty acids. According to a study conducted by researchers at Cambridge University, omega-3s lower the risk of age-related pathological conditions. Omega-3s aren’t the same as omega-6s. Omega-3s reduce inflammation in the body, whereas omega-6s cause inflammation. Combined with its anti-inflammatory effects, omega-3s are an essential nutrient for healthy aging.
Common sources of omega-3s include:
- Olive oil
- Leafy green vegetables
Seniors should include plenty of fiber in their diet. Most experts recommend consuming about 25 to 48 grams of fiber per day. Unfortunately, only about 5% of all adults, including seniors, meet these recommendations.
Fiber is considered an essential nutrient for healthy aging because of the role it plays in digestion. By definition, fiber is plant-based matter that can’t be fully broken down by digestive enzymes. When consumed, it helps to move waste through the digestive tract while simultaneously promoting a balanced gut biome.
Fiber is found in all plants, including grains and vegetables. Meat, on the other hand, is devoid of this essential nutrient. Whether it’s beef, pork, chicken or fish, there’s no fiber in meat. Meat is still an excellent source of protein, but it doesn’t contain any fiber. Seniors must include plant-based foods in their diet to protect against fiber deficiency.
#5) Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient for healthy aging. Also known as pyridoxine, it’s used for many metabolic processes in the body. Among other things, vitamin B6 facilitates the use and storage of calories from both protein and carbohydrates. Without vitamin B6 or with low levels of vitamin B6, seniors may experience fatigue and low energy.
With that said, vitamin B6 also protects against eye diseases. Research shows that over half of all seniors aged 80 and older suffer from cataracts. Of course, there are other eye diseases from which seniors suffer, including agre-related macular generation (AMD). Vitamin B6 is an essential nutrient that can protect against many eye diseases.
#6) Vitamin B12
Along with vitamin B6, vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for healthy aging. It’s a water-soluble vitamin that, like vitamin B6, is used for metabolic processes. Vitamin B12, for example, facilitates the production of red blood cells. The most common type of blood cell, red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to tissue. Vitamin B12 helps produce red blood cells so that tissue remains healthy.
Vitamin B12 can’t be produced by the body. Rather, it must be obtained through food sources. Vitamin B12 is found in most meats and dairy products. There’s not a significant amount of B12, however, in plants.
That’s not a typo. Water is considered a nutrient. Water, in fact, one of the most important nutrients for healthy aging. It lubricates the joints to ease the symptoms of arthritis and other joint conditions. At the same time, water works together with fiber to promote a healthy digestive system.
It’s estimated that approximately 40% of seniors are chronically dehydrated. How much water should seniors drink to prevent dehydration? Being that no two seniors have the same exact dietary needs, there’s no definitive answer to this question. Rather, seniors should talk to their practitioners to determine whether they are at risk for dehydration, and if so, how much water they should be drinking.
Calcium, potassium, omega-3s, fiber, vitamin B2, vitamin 12 and water are some of the most important nutrients for healthy aging. They can protect seniors from many chronic diseases and adverse medical conditions.